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Funding problems persist for school library media centers
Despite a growing body of research that links school libraries and student achievement, many school library media centers continued to face funding shortages in 2006, leading to elimination of trained school library media specialists, shortened hours, inadequate materials and even closures of school library media centers. This area of the funding landscape was littered with ominous reports.
California’s funding for school libraries, which had been dropping for years, became practically nonexistent. In the 1999-2000 school year, the state paid $29.16 per student to supply libraries; that dropped to just 41 cents per student in 2005-2006, said Kathy Shirley, of the Escondido Union School District. In Evansville, Ind., Bosse High School librarian Paula Boenigk said she had only $2,000 to spend on books in 2006-2007, of which $1,300 went to replace or repair materials that were old or lost; that left $700 for new materials. In Norton, Mass., a$2.67 million tax measure failed; libraries at four schools will be closed and three library assistants eliminated.
In Wisconsin, students had access to 70 fewer school library media specialists in the 2006-2007 school year than in the previous year, according to the Wisconsin Educational Media Association. In 2005-2006, 199 of Wisconsin’s 426 districts (47 percent) employed only one certified school library media specialist, and the number of districts in the state with only one certified librarian continues to increase due to tighter budgets and staffing cuts.In Milwaukee, 44 certified librarians served 157 schools, according to a June report from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. And in Monroe, the Monroe School District planned to eliminate four of the district’s five librarian positions; this follows the fall 2005 layoffs of all library support staff and would leave a single librarian to serve a district that has about 2,700 students and 390 staff.
A survey conducted in the fall by the American Association of School Librarians predicts that the top concerns for school library media specialists in the future will include having the financial resources to maintain the existing program and to support emerging technologies; having the appropriate staff to meet current demands; having adequate time to plan with teachers; and being viewed by the district as an equal partner in curriculum design and development. The ALAmaintains that school library media centers are the heart and hub of schools. Studies have shown that school library media centers staffed with library media specialist’s play a crucial role in increasing literacy for students and in boosting student achievement. Currently, there is a lack of information about funding of school libraries, but the ALAis working to collect reliable data on the status of this key educational resource.
Often the cuts in school libraries are being linked to the key requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation.
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