News Tip

Ohio, speak up for school librarians by Melissa Martin

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Ohio, speak up for school librarians

Thinking about my high school librarian brings warmhearted memories. She was friendly and the library was inviting. Fast-forward and a lack of funding is ousting our school librarians.

A Dilemma in Education

How frustrating for an administrator to have to choose between a nurse, counselor, or librarian.

This means that while 91 percent of U.S. public and private schools have libraries, only 61 percent have a certified librarian, according to a 2019 article at americanlibrariesmagazine.org.

A 2021 report, “The School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution?” is a research project that found 20 percent of full-time school librarian positions were slashed between 2010 and 2019 in the U.S. The impact was felt mainly in large urban areas and small rural communities.

One in five school librarian jobs were eliminated between 2000 and 2016 across the country, where elementary and high school libraries are being defunded, repurposed or just abandoned.

Visit news.wosu.org.

The number of school librarians in Ohio dropped by half in the past 10 years despite studies showing students do better when librarians are in the building. What? Ohio lost more than 700 school library positions over a decade. How can that be?

The Ohio Department of Education data reported 923 school librarians in the 2013-2014 school year, down 43 percent from 1,628 in the 2004-05 school year, according to a 2015 article in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Ohio and certified school librarians - “The number of certified school librarians continues to shrink in Ohio’s K–12 schools, with positions being replaced by less-qualified staff members, or, as librarians retire, none at all,” reported a 2015 article in The School Library Journal.

Instead of hiring certified librarians, many school libraries are being staffed by untrained aids. Why? Lower salaries. So, follow the budget cuts and the defunding trail.

School Librarians Matter

School librarians are irreplaceable in the educational pie. Studies have long shown that strong school library programs are the top benefit for vulnerable students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. When it comes to a student’s reading, librarians play a crucial role. Several studies suggest a link between school librarians and improved reading scores, even when accounting for differences in school funding and student income. Visit news.wosu.org.

Read what the Ohio Department of Education wrote about libraries in 2021: “A strong school library program staffed by a certified library media specialist has a powerful effect on literacy and learning for all learners. The work of school librarians and the impact of school library programs directly support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future. Strong library programs support the four learning domains of digital literacy, foundations for lifelong learning and literacy, information literacy and media literacy.”

School librarians are becoming experts in digital literacy. Students will often make use of the library throughout their education for assistance with safely and effectively navigating the internet and learning new software. School librarians teach students where and how to access resources and connect them with information that is appropriate and reliable.

Advocate for Your School Librarian

Communicate with your child’s school librarian. Speak up about the benefit of school librarians in the educational system. Rally other parents and attend school board meetings. Contact local representatives and ask them to increase funding and support the library on behalf of the people they serve. Visit www.everylibrary.org.

“The mission of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA) is to be the responsive and forward-thinking hub of Ohio's school library profession, providing value to school librarians as they support the instructional needs and personal learning of all students and teachers.” Visit oelma.org.

SaveSchoolLibrarians.org continues to support school librarians in crisis and the advocacy platform engages parents and the public about school library budgets and school librarians.

Learn more about The American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Visit aasl@ala.org.

Every Ohio elementary, middle and high school benefits from a school library and a certified school librarian.

Melissa Martin lives in Ohio.

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