ALA and AASL Respond to Houston Independent School District’s Decision to Eliminate 28 School Libraries and Respective School Librarians in Houston
For Immediate Release
Communications and Marketing Office
CHICAGO — On Monday, the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) sent the following letter to the superintendent and school board members of the Houston Independent School District and the Texas Education Commissioner in response to their decision to eliminate school librarians and convert 28 school libraries to detention centers, predominantly in Houston’s underserved communities.
Dear Superintendent Miles, President Momanaee, and Board Members:
As educators, librarians, and as presidents of the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of ALA, we understand the crucial role school libraries and librarians play in educational outcomes for all students. We write to share our great concern about HISD’s plan to remove school librarians and school libraries from many of the most disadvantaged schools in the district. Such action will create inequitable access for learners in the Houston community. We implore you to support the learning needs of all HISD students by reinstating school libraries and school librarians for all learners in the Houston Independent School District so that “every child shall have equitable opportunities and equal access to an effective and personalized education.”
School librarians are first and foremost teachers—highly qualified, certified educators, who do much more than “just check out books.” School librarians play an instrumental role in instruction for learners, faculty, and administrators. As teachers, school librarians draw upon deep training and expertise in order to curate resources that meet curricular and personal information needs in schools. They provide personalized learning environments and offer equitable access to resources to ensure a well-rounded education for every student.
Without a school librarian, a library is just a room full of books. The certified school librarian is what makes that room a center for both formal and informal learning. Grounded in standards and professional best practice, school libraries are an integral component of the educational landscape, providing access to a wide array of resources and an environment in which teaching and learning are the primary emphasis. The school library provides a space and place for personalized learner success, where learners are encouraged to explore questions of personal and academic relevance. Every learner deserves the best chance to reach their full potential, and certified school librarians are key to their academic success.
To consider using the library space in HISD campuses as a discipline center rather than as a site for learning and literacy demonstrates a concerning disregard for the education of HISD’s children. Under the direction of a qualified school librarian, school libraries are instrumental in fostering literacy and teaching inquiry skills to support student achievement and lifelong learning.
Studies from across the country show that appropriately staffed school libraries have a positive impact on student achievement. In fact, strong school libraries led by certified school librarians have the greatest impact on the very students who would be affected by the changes instituted by HISD, “the most vulnerable and at-risk learners, including students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities.”
In order for every student to succeed academically, each school in Houston, Texas and across the country should employ a certified school librarian and provide support for their essential instructional role.
We respectfully request that you reconsider your decision. Please ensure all HISD learners will benefit from having school libraries with school librarians who can engage them in literacy, reading, and equitable opportunities to learn.
Courtney Pentland, President Emily Drabinski, President
On behalf of the American Association On behalf of the American Library Association
of School Librarians Board of Directors Executive Board
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit www.ala.org.
About the American Association of School Librarians
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is the only national professional membership organization focused on school librarians and the school library community. AASL has more than 7,000 members and serves school librarians in the United States, Canada, and around the world.