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December 20, 2014

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Canadian School District to Cut More Than Half of its Library Staff

Canada’s school libraries continue to feel the pain, too. A Nova Scotia school system has proposed cutting 56 percent of its library personnel for the 2012-2013 academic year to help close a $6.4 million budget gap, says its superintendent of schools.

 Canadian School District to Cut More Than Half of its Library Staff

Students at Elmsdale District create a school-wide art project.

“It’s brutal,” says Chignecto-Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) superintendent Gary Clarke, who is still working with school board members and the union to determine how many of the 38.1 full-time school librarians and their support staff will be let go.

The library cuts were worse when the board proposed them in March, but the provincial government stepped in and asked them to reconsider. As a result, Clarke says, the board last week agreed to keep 16.9 library positions, which will be spread out among grades 7 to 12 in the district’s junior and senior high schools. Elementary schools won’t have any school librarians or library staffers.

The Canadian Library Association (CLA) says its “disturbed” by plans to cut the school librarians, explaining that by extension “hundreds of students in the region will no longer have access to qualified staff in their school libraries.” The organization, however, has yet to respond to having some of those jobs recently restored.

“Having a school library is not enough. The libraries need to be staffed by qualified teacher-librarians and technicians, who bring a dedicated skill set to coordinate and supplement the work of teachers,” said CLA President Karen Adams in a statement.

The CLA’s 2003 national study, “Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada,” says the library is the heart of learning and essential to student success. “Without trained and qualified library staff Nova Scotia will not be able to meet the acceptable standards outlined in this document,” says Linda Shantz-Keresztes, chair of the CLA School Library Issues Advisory Committee. “This should be a serious concern for Nova Scotia parents in advocating for the highest standards in their children’s education through effective school libraries.”

This is the second year the CCRSB has had to make cuts, but the first time it has affected the school library Canadian School District to Cut More Than Half of its Library Staffcommunity, explains Clarke. The area serves 16 elementary schools, 12 middle and junior high schools, and 15 high schools across four counties in Canada, including East Hants, Colchester, Cumberland and Pictou, according to its website.

More than 125 positions in total are expected to be lost for the coming school year, including 55 teachers, says Clarke. By keeping some library positions, more teachers and support staff jobs were let go, as well as plans for major maintenance projects shelved, he adds.

“Our board is trying to find the right balance,” says Clarke (right). “So it’s a situation where you’re picking apart the great programs you have, and library services is one of them. And we’re really disappointed with that.”

Just like in the U.S., school libraries in Canada have experienced deep budget cuts over the years. A recent report by the Canadian research group, People for Education, says the number of elementary schools with teacher-librarians in Ontario dropped to 56 percent in 2010-11, down from 80 percent in 1997-98. It found that 66 percent of secondary schools had teacher-librarians in 2010-11, down from 78 percent in 2000-01. The report says of those elementary schools in Ontario that had teacher-librarians in 2010-11, 80 percent were part-time.

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