This is a straightforward, how-to set of instructions for squelching all remnants of library service in a school community. It’s been a painful set of rants and raves to record, and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it. However, what I see worries me so much that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.
1. Fire your librarians. If you really want to get rid of library programs and services, start at the top. Ship them off to traditional classrooms or Timbuktu—just get rid of them. Some are rabble-rousers and troublemakers, and others just won’t get off their soapbox about all the great things libraries can do for kids. Once they’re out of the picture, it’ll be easier to do what you want with the library.
2. Tell staff, parents, and students that the library doesn’t offer flexible access anymore. All they do is come in and ask pesky questions at all hours of the day. If the librarian is gone, and the doors are locked half the time, it won’t be long before those annoying patrons start finding their answers elsewhere.
3. Hire clerks for next to nothing and make them do whatever you want. Need help covering the cafeteria? Ask the library clerk. Want someone to open car doors? The library assistant can do that. Is the sub for the absent classroom teacher a no-show? Call the library assistant. The library’s closed half the time anyway—she needs something to do.
4. Keep kids confused about how a library works. If they’ve never heard of a library catalog, they won’t ask how to use one. If kids don’t come in to the library to do research, you can use the space for baby showers and book fairs. Do they really need library books? Get the library assistant to pull a bunch from the stacks. If she’s not in the library, check the cafeteria or study hall. Be sure she includes a variety of titles, because who knows what kids really want to read.
5. Rush kids in and out of the library. You don’t want them in there too long. They’ll get curious about those banned books and genre displays, and we know what will happen next. We’re familiar with what follows when you give a mouse a cookie.
6. Remove interesting signage and timely displays. Don’t draw any special attention to national Children’s Book Week, Poetry Month, Battle of the Books, or Dr. Seuss. Any special events need to disappear from the school calendar. Once you start celebrating literacy, all those kids are going to want back in the library doors, and you‘ll have to repeat steps two through five all over again.
7. Don’t invite public library staff to visit your school and promote summer reading programs or special events. This will draw attention to all the wonderful things that don’t happen at your school any more. Keep all public library references to ebooks and resources on the down-low. If your students think a library has a real function and role in their learning, they’re just going to want those school library doors open longer.
8. Tell authors who want to visit your school that you don’t have time for them. You’re too busy working on the Common Core State Standards to devote time to frivolous pursuits, and they can be damn sure no child is going to get left behind at your school!
9. If teachers need lesson planning assistance or resources, tell them to put on their big girl panties and find it themselves. Surely they’ve heard of Pinterest?
10. Convince parents that early literacy has nothing to do with the library. Don’t send flyers or pamphlets home telling them how to read with their children, and don’t offer special seminars on building strong readers. A kid who loves reading at home is just going to knock on those library doors, and we’ve made it pretty clear: The lights are off and there’s no one there.
Robin Overby Cox is an elementary library supervisor in central Texas.