Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wait, what? School libraries without librarians, but not for the reasons you'd think

When I started library school, eons ago, there was a pretty obvious need for media specialists around the state. The scuttlebutt was that you could pretty much get a job anywhere just by being enrolled in a library program, except in my own north Alabama, where certified bodies were thick on the ground. I've actually never worked in a building without someone else there certified to do my job, but the tide seems to have turned for school librarian supply and demand. 

This morning, I sent an email to an elist to learn almost everyone I'd known in one of the larger systems had left. There are CRAZY openings around here, and in systems which used to be considered aspirational, places from which to retire. I have some theories.

No aides. Many district stopped funding library aides last year. Without those library aides, the library is a less attractive place for teachers with the certification to be. As one teacher wondered, "why would I do that when I'd basically be working 33% more, since I'd have to give up a [block] planning period?" 

De-professionalization of all education. Some schools and systems have become appreciably terrible to work for. Believe me, you can fall into some huge Internet rabbit holes looking at the outrage resulting.

The district where I live has this rather impressive list of openings this, their second week of school:

Schools, with libraries, but no librarians? Before you pack your bags, there's a catch. You can't apply "to a school." You must apply "to the system." Because you obviously don't need to know the faculty and administrators you work with....or even the grade level. Oh, and they cut the salary schedule for new hires to the state minimum. So you sign up to work for ANY random school, for the LEAST possible pay? I don't think anyone with any options would do that, frankly.

Obviously, both of these factors I've identified have much to do with budgets and personnel issues I have no interest in working through whatsoever. But I bet if you properly staffed libraries, and ran schools as the community institutions they happen to be rather than remote outposts of a centralized empire, these systems would have more positions filled, and more kids would get the library services they need.

And it makes me grateful for my work, in a perfectly-sized, adequately-funded system.

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