by Dorcas Hand
This excerpt from a recent speech I gave concerns the gaps in library services in my district – perhaps it will offer ideas how other districts can improve their own school library staffing patterns.
Too many campuses in this ISD have no library, or only a room full of books with no librarian. In some neighborhoods, it is possible to go from Kindergarten through high school graduation without access to an open and staffed school library in any zoned school. How can the district let this happen? Students in these schools are left with only the books available in their classrooms- that’s little choice, much less among appealing options; and little incentive to become stronger readers or high achievers. What a waste. Houston schools are full of students with high potential if given a chance. Every student deserves a trained, certified librarian to build a school library program that fits the specific school community: a collection suited to the reading levels and interests of those specific students; a collection that takes teacher and curricular needs and translates them into titles and digital resources that will inspire students to WANT to grow skill and understanding. Schools with teachers standing in for librarians have certainly understood part of the message: access to the library matters, and libraries are teachers. It would be relatively easy to encourage these teachers to become certified through an online program. This coursework would fill in the gaps in understanding of library services so that the campus would get a more complete program in support of campus needs. Professional development is always a good thing, but even better when focused to the benefit of improved student achievement. Campuses with clerks on the job only understand that the collection of books needs to be supervised and open to students; these campuses lose out on the teaching aspects a school library should offer. Clearly there is a spectrum of possibility from no library available at all to a fully staffed and supported campus library program; clearly, students benefit most from the latter.