November 18, 2017

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School Librarian Jobs At Risk In Ohio

OHIO_idea1The 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.

“A lot of school districts are not even filling the position,” says Angela Wojtecki, current president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA) and the district librarian for the Nordonia Hill (OH) City School District since 2011. “They’re just having classified aides running the library, and that’s another problem we’re running into.”

The end of a state education mandate, colloquially referred to as “5 of 8,” is one reason for the decline in school librarians. The mandate required schools to have a minimum of five out of eight positions in place for every 1,000 students. School librarians were included in the eight, along with art, music, and physical-education teachers; nurses; counselors; visiting teachers; and social workers.

But in April, the Ohio Board of Education voted 11–7 to abolish the rule for the 2015–16 school year, and districts began to cut certified school librarian spots once they were no longer required, librarians say, adding to the more than 700 school librarians lost over the past 10 years.

“There’s no question that with this ruling of the 5 of 8 being eliminated, districts have made further cuts of [school librarians],” says Deb Logan, media specialist with the Mount Gilead School District. She is also cochair of this year’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference, from November 5–8 in Columbus, OH.

Today, more decisions over funding for school librarians rest with local school districts, which often are tied by limited budgets, note both Logan and Wojtecki. In addition, some school district board members may not see the value of a building-based librarian, or even a library, Wojtecki says.

“I heard one school board member say this summer, ‘We don’t need a school library because the public library is right across the street,’” she says. “We were in an uproar, and shocked.”

Logan believes parents must make demands of their school districts, pushing for more funding for school librarians. Without their voice alongside those of media specialists, she says districts are unlikely to sustain these positions, particularly when budgets are tight.

“I believe, and want to believe, that people who run for positions on the boards of education don’t want to cut services to kids,” says Logan. “But you legally can’t operate in the red. You can’t spend money you don’t have.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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  1. Terry Young says:

    One way to get the public’s attention to school libraries and school librarians is to have the public library board of directors, etc. fight for the school librarians/librarians by noting how important they are to educating students who will eventually leave the education system and depend on public libraries. You don’t see public libraries closing…….hmmmmm….they must be doing something right…dedicated tax mileages, etc. get them on our side. Public/school partnerships are vital to the survival of school libraries staffed by certified school librarians. BTW, the new 2016 edition of School Libraries Work will be released at the AASL conference in Columbus.

  2. A. Mary Madalin says:

    It always amazes me how school districts/states cut librarians and school libraries, or feel just anyone can do a librarian’s job. I wonder, these same entities use “qualified” (certified, licensed) bus drivers, electricians, teachers, nurses, plumbers, etc.? It’s the state’s fault for not requiring “librarians” (school or public) to have MLS or MLIS degrees. Librarians (usually WOMEN, go figure) and their work are not taken seriously —-but certified electricians, plasterers, painters, plumbers (etc.) ARE? My home state’s “state librarian” is also Secretary of State. DMV is his biggest job—I guess the “librarian” part is so much “fluff”—NO, he does NOT have an MLS or MLIS—so is it any wonder that school districts feel that unqualified people can do librarian work? Do they know what reader’s advisory IS? Or how much “education” it takes to find what the public (who are taxpayers) DEMANDS? Can just anyone teach an 8 or 80 year old how to download audiobooks to their smart phone, Kindle, etc? Can anyone teach a 3rd grader how to find (discern) ACCURATE, RELIABLE information for a school project on the internet?

    I’ve worked in libraries for decades (no, I am NOT a librarian). I would suggest legislators, superintendents, senators, congressmen, etc., should volunteer a few hours in t heir local library or school library—they’d learn a LOT!

  3. A narrow focus in education creates narrowly educated students.