Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lorax speaks for the trees, the Lilly speaks for the librarians.

Unless you're living completely off the grid (in which case you probably won't be reading this), you know that these are some dark economic times. School districts are being asked to cut their budgets by millions of dollars and droves of faculty and staff are being laid off. I attended a school board meeting on Thursday and listened to dozens of residents speak in support of the district's nurse-teachers, music teachers, guidance counselors and the amazing dual language program offered at the Delaware Avenue Community School. Disturbingly enough, other than a group of Albany City School District librarians, no one spoke in defense of the elementary librarians who are slated to lose their jobs. Talk about invisible! Perhaps it has been a long time since you were in elementary school. Maybe you have forgotten the important role played by the person, probably a woman, who introduced you to libraries and taught you how to independently locate and use information. When I was in elementary student we moved frequently - I had been in 6 different buildings in 3 districts by the time I was in 5th grade. I met a lot of people and contended with being the new girl more often than I would have liked, but what I most remember about all of those different experiences, was which buildings had libraries. Pine Tree Elementary in Monroe, N.Y., had a library that was my favorite. The librarian was warm and welcoming and I remember feeling happy whenever I was in that space. I can't remember any specific lessons she taught other than how to competently select books, how to shelve materials in my role as student volunteer, and that the library was a place that was simultaneously safe and familiar yet absolutely boundless in opportunity for information and knowledge, but, my experiences in that library more than likely inspired me to eventually become a librarian.

Albany's children also move around a lot and it makes me sad to think of an already disadvantaged population being denied access to professional librarians. Without trained librarians, how will our children learn to access, evaluate and manipulate information in a world that has become information driven? Where will children learn how to navigate through the mountain of resources now available at the click of a button? And without librarians who will be providing Albany's children with a consistently safe and inviting place from which to explore, to absorb and to be inspired?

The text below is the statement I made to the board.

As a parent, school librarian and as a taxpayer, I'm here tonight as an advocate of elementary librarians and their libraries. I understand there is discussion about eliminating some, if not all, of the district's elementary librarians. You should know that I went to library school with one of these professional elementary librarians and I have tried to entice her to come to the suburban district where I work, on numerous occasions, to no avail. She was, and remains, committed to her students and her library. She wasn't tempted by the promise of clerical assistance or by a population seemingly less needy than the population she presently taught. I work in a district that families move to from Albany, often immediately following elementary school. I work with some terrific kids, however, our children attend Albany schools because we believe in providing our children with access. Access to diversity and opportunity and knowledge. No one in an elementary building knows more about teaching our children the 21st century skills necessary to access information and knowledge than their librarians. Diminishing librarians and library programs in this district, will perpetuate the disadvantages far too many of Albany's children already experience. Having a library without a librarian is akin to stocking a professional garage with expensive tools, parts and equipment and then leaving the doors open and allowing anyone to come in and fix your car. It doesn't work. Please think carefully before eliminating these vital positions.

Have you been to a school board meeting recently?

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