As teachers all across the country are aware, politicians like to play fast and loose with their ability to get the job done. If you’re a teacher today and aren’t aware of the games that have been played with teachers and schools in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Newark, and so many other locations, it’s time to get informed fast.
Today, however, I want to bring to light an issue that’s more recently crossed my radar in my own state of Massachusetts.
“But Dan,” you might say, “isn’t Massachusetts some sort of Libertopia where everything is awesome and test scores are amazing?”
Yes, we do have many things going for us, it’s true. But still…
As we’re all aware, every time there are budget cuts, it seems like certain kinds of teachers are always the first to be cut. One of those is the school librarian.
School librarians are amazing. Tons of them are not only experts in literature and research skills for their chosen grade levels, but they’re really pushing the envelope of their chosen profession. They don’t just stay in their libraries, because they’re also master teachers and technology ninjas. A good library should be the hub of a school, where all learning is somehow related to the work students can do there.
When budget cut time comes, though, school districts will often ax nearly every librarian in the entire district save 1. A district that I used to teach in has 1 librarian for more than 10,000 students across a gigantic high school, two large middle schools, and numerous neighborhood elementary schools. It didn’t used to be that way. When I taught there, every school had its own librarian.
When budgets start to turn around, though, a lot of schools think they really don’t need those librarians back, so they don’t bring the positions back.
Now, imagine you’re a young teacher, or interested in becoming a teacher, and you think that you’d really like to become a librarian. You can have a real impact on the lives of every student in a school! You can help teachers make their lessons even more amazing! You can be the first one out the door when budget cuts come!
I’m pretty sure that last point is stopping a lot of good people from becoming librarians, and who can blame them?
I found out that in Massachusetts right now, there are thirty unfilled librarian positions across the state. That’s schools that actually want to have a librarian and can’t find any qualified candidates, because people have responded rationally to the cuts to libraries by not becoming librarians. Simmons, one of the few library programs left in the state, graduated just seven new librarians this year. Word has it they may consider eliminating the program because of lack of enrollment.
So thanks, politicians. Because you’ve refused to make supporting school libraries a priority over the past decade, now people have decided to stop becoming librarians. If everybody turned around and made it a priority tomorrow, it would take years just to fill positions in the schools that want them now, let alone in the more than 200 other schools in Massachusetts that don’t have librarians and aren’t looking to fill the position.
Anybody else tired of our country’s penchant for short-term planning with long-term consequences?