LA School Librarians: Endangered & Moving Towards Extinct

Last year, many New Jersey school districts sought to close their budget gaps by laying off school librarians. It was heartbreaking to hear about the layoffs as those school librarians were let go as a way to reduce “administrative overhead”. It’s one of my hindsight regrets of last year that I did not try to do more to bring their plight out into the open as part of the greater statewide advocacy efforts.

This morning, I got a link posted to my Facebook wall by a friend pointing to an article in the LA Times entitled, “The disgraceful interrogation of L.A. school librarians”. Here’s a snippet:

Some 85 credentialed teacher-librarians got layoff notices in March. If state education cuts end up being as bad as most think likely, their only chance to keep a paycheck is to prove that they’re qualified to be transferred into classroom teaching jobs.

Since all middle and high school librarians are required to have a state teaching credential in addition to a librarian credential, this should be an easy task — except for a school district rule that makes such transfers contingent on having taught students within the last five years.

To get the librarians off the payroll, the district’s attorneys need to prove to an administrative law judge that the librarians don’t have that recent teaching experience. To try to prove that they do teach, the librarians, in turn, come to their hearings with copies of lesson plans they’ve prepared and reading groups they’ve organized.

It’s when these teacher-librarians are under cross examination by the Los Angeles United School District attorneys that the real outrage commences. The strives that the lawyers take to attempt to prove that time spent teaching in the library does not qualify as classroom instruction is truly extraordinary and despicable. It is an affront to the proven role that school librarians play in the overall education process. If these attorneys can prove that teaching in the library does not count as classroom teaching, what sort of fate awaits other similarly situated school librarians around the country when the budget comes up?

Reading through the article, it makes me sad, frustrated, and angry. There is a myopic vision of education at work here that is absolutely maddening. It’s an emphasis on the rigid classroom format versus the more open ended exploration and curiosity of the school library. I’d go on about teaching towards tests and standards, but I think it might result in me tearing my keyboard in half like a phonebook. (Yes, I did consider how that might work and still thought it would be possible. I am a creative guy.) It’s just damned stupid.

There is also a first hand account of the proceedings by blogger Mizz Murphy entitled, “Settle in. It’s a Long One.” I won’t even quote it; you just have to read it. After I read the part labeled Scenario One, I thought I might just lose my mind. Really, go back up the paragraph and click on the link. It’s worth the read in its entirety.

After that, settle in. The fight for school librarians looks to be a long one.

6 thoughts on “LA School Librarians: Endangered & Moving Towards Extinct

  1. School librarians teach every school day! We teach the love of reading as well as finding and using information through other media. School administrations that seek to rid themselves of school librarians to ease their budgets are being “Penny-wise and pound-foolish”. In this fast-paced world of change, all of our students need school librarians more than ever to help them navigate the new information and technologies that they must learn in order to survive and succeed in this world.

  2. Unfortunately, your last sentence may turn out to be false. The fight may be a short one. ALA and AASL ignore us and most state associations are so feeble in funding and lobbying experience that they won’t be much help. I’m seriously considering not paying my ALA/AASL dues this year because those organizations should have been proactive and more vocal on the national level long before this; it’s not like this is a surprise, considering Wisconsin, New Jersey, and others. Instead, they take my dues and I get a couple of e-newsletters on a regular basis. I’m disgusted. There. I feel much better now.

  3. Thanks for addressing this Andy. I’m a TL in So. Cal. – – some of my best TL buddies are having to put up with this. Not only are the libraries they developed over the years being shuttered or changed into “kiosks,” but this “recency” clause targets only Teacher Librarians. Administrators and Counselors have return rights to the regular classroom regardless of recency, yet Teacher Librarians in the LAUSD do not (from what I’ve been told).

    Many of us in California are being eliminated or downsized. I went from one high school in 2009-2010 to three high schools this school year and I’m scheduled to teach (in the library) at SIX high schools next fall. It’s nuts and it’s the students who ultimately pay the price.

    However, *luckily*, most TL’s return to the regular classroom with no problem. I would be teaching Spanish if my district chose to shutter my libraries. And I’ve not taught Spanish since 2002. But the bigger issue is that School Libraries are ESSENTIAL to student academic achievement and yet we are being discarded like waste.

    It is in California State Ed Code that a “Teacher Librarian shall rank as a Teacher” and I’ve heard this “recency clause is from a 40 year-old ruling that’s never been enacted until now. So it really doesn’t make sense and HOPEFULLY LAUSD will be able to return these excellent TL’s into the regular classroom until this budget mess is over.

    Again, thanks!

    • Thanks for your comment, Marie, and for putting an immediate face on the issue as it relates to my post. It really feels like the issue is “yes, school libraries are good, but need to teach towards the standards since that control our funding more”. That, despite the research supporting the school library, the law outranks those positions. That’s just… ugh.

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