A decision that puts kids on the losing end

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This is in response to Monday’s article in the Free Lance about
school library budget cuts. I think I represent the majority of
librarians when I say we are not angry at the school board.
This is in response to Monday’s article in the Free Lance about school library budget cuts. I think I represent the majority of librarians when I say we are not angry at the school board.

That sounds incredibly petty and totally misses the focus of our frustration. We are an intelligent group of people who understand what lack of funding is. We know cuts have to be made.

We are, however, greatly upset over the loss of services to local students because of recent budget cuts. These losses are severe and in a state where literature-based programs are required, closing teacher and student access to the libraries during the school day does not seem to be a wise decision.

When one doesn’t understand the enormity of a job, it’s easy to misread how important certain aspects can be.

It’s a quaint, old-fashioned view to think librarians simply go around shushing children, reading stories and dusting shelves. In reality, we work with the very latest in technology.

With enough time allotted to do our jobs properly, today’s librarians work hard at getting students excited to read.

This is done by introducing classic authors, pure literature, as well as fun, can’t-wait-to-open-these books, by reading and giving book talks.

We also teach the life skill of library research. Using the latest in computer technology, we train each student on campus how to use the Dewy Decimal System.

Once the training is completed, these children can go to any library in the Western world and find a book.

These skills are a must later in high school and college. They will serve them the rest of their adult lives. Then there are research projects. Helping children learn to use encyclopedias, non-fiction books and cross-referencing is another use of our time.

Besides the hands-on teaching we do, there are the behind-the-scenes parts of our job.

This includes ordering new books (with state-funded monies), processing those books and inputting them in the computer, mending and weeding old books from the collection, attempting to retrieve overdue books and non-stop re-shelving. All of the above is done with an endless parade of classes.

As elementary school librarians, we provide service to every student at the school, each and every week.

We are not district trained to do our jobs. We learn from each other. We are paid clerks’ wages for doing the work of a certified person.

Yet, we do so willingly out of a real love for children and books.

To say we are able to provide most services we did in the past is politically correct.

Thanks to our wonderful principals and supportive teaching staffs, many schools have temporarily picked up some lost hours.

We librarians are also giving our all at the cost of our personal time, just to make sure our jobs are done. No one is asking us to do so. Nor can these hours be picked up by volunteers.

As wonderful and important as volunteers are, they should not replace professionals at school sites. Schools are supposed to be about students. Our children deserve the best.

Let’s hope future cuts won’t continue to take away from our students’ library time. There is no doubt, library services have been forced to change. The children are on the losing end.

Cindy Brown is a library media specialist with the Hollister School District and a weekly columnist for the Free Lance.

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