Libraries and librarians are on the chopping block in some districts in Maryland.

This is personal for me.

I love libraries.

I always loved browsing the stacks and finding a new book, a new author, a new topic. For me, the library was a place of reverence, a place of quiet contemplation, a quiet place to read and think.

Yes, I know we have computers. But computers give you what you ask for. They may have all the information in the world, but you can’t browse a computer.

Please support school libraries and your public library.

This arrived in my email from a librarian I met last June at a conference in Annapolis:

Libraries Under Attack? Again?

“Why do the children need books? They will all have tablets…”

Here in one of Maryland’s largest school districts, our libraries may be on the chopping block and with them, more than 100 dedicated and hard-working teacher-librarians who are required to have certification in library media/instructional technology. According to current board policy librarians are considered teachers, and as such partner with classroom teachers to collaboratively teach information literacy and research strategies to students K-12. Our supervisor has been nationally recognized for her initiatives connecting librarians to curriculum and instruction. Parents are supportive of libraries because they see the relationship to increased student achievement. Does our new and quite young superintendent support libraries? Will he continue to support our roles?

First, let’s travel back in time. In the early 1990s a new superintendent, while cutting staffing, declared librarians optional and libraries soon fell into disrepair. Parent volunteers checked out books and the collections suffered without trained media specialists to maintain them. Students did not receive instruction in information literacy or literature. The district supervisor of Library Services lobbied hard to turn the trend around, successfully leading the movement to rebuild the sorely neglected collections and put trained librarians back into schools by influencing the district to set policy that mandated a librarian position in each school. Further, she worked tirelessly to secure 10.4 million dollars in funding to rebuild collections, and helped create an initiative with the local university that resulted in a “Library Media Cohort”, a partnership between the district and the local university that offered masters’ degrees in Library Media and Instructional Technology to teachers in the district. The commitment that the district made resulted in investing heavily in the rebuilding of our libraries. The cohort initiative is currently active and has produced to date more than 150 highly trained certificated library media specialists. In our rapidly urbanizing and large district, our library media specialists are trained to meet the needs of our diverse population of over 100,000 students.

When the funds were disbursed more than a decade ago, the county executive, who at the time saw the value of a quality library program, told the district administration, “Don’t let this happen again. Don’t come back asking for more money. Maintain the libraries.”

How quickly we forget our history. Once again, there is a new superintendent in town and libraries may be under attack. The BOE is about to strike language from the policy that defines the commitment to place libraries and media specialists’ roles as critical to student achievement. When this was presented at the February 19th BOE meeting no one from the Library Office was present because no one from that office was informed or invited. Since all BOE meetings are video recorded and archived on the public website, we were able to discover the proposed change by a BOE member who questioned the intent. The decision was tabled until the March 5th BOE meeting.

At an earlier BOE meeting, a reorganization was discussed which made clear that beginning next year libraries will fall under the auspices of the Technology department and no longer under Curriculum and Instruction. In the reorganization, the supervisor of the Library Office’s position has been eliminated. We will be losing our strongest advocate and most vocal supporter.

Saddest of all, rumor has it that someone very close to the top in the district’s administration made the comment, “Why do the children need books? They will all have tablets…”

Yes, the children need books and tablets too.