Librarians pay the price of budget cuts

Lindsay Wargo

More than 200 librarian positions have been eliminated in the past two years in Ohio, according to the Ohio Educational Library Media Association.

Marc Crail, superintendent of Kent City Schools, said librarians are becoming more and more important. Crail used to be an elementary school teacher and principal. He said in the past, schools only had a book collection that could be organized and managed by anyone.

Now, libraries are media centers and the hub of the whole school, he said.

“With all of the technology we have, (the library) is the access to every library and every resource and every periodical in the world,” Crail said. “It’s absolutely critical that (the librarian) position be maintained.”

The Kent City School district has five certified librarians: one at the high school, one at the junior high school, two full-time librarians that cover four elementary schools and one part-time librarian that covers one elementary school. Each school also has a library aide.

Even though the district has a certified librarian available at each school, Crail said it isn’t enough. He said it really needs one full-time librarian at each elementary school.

“The love of literature develops early, and it’s important to have people in the building to help develop that love,” said SuzAnne Stutz, elementary school librarian in Kent.

Kent has not cut any librarian positions, but the district used to have two high school librarians. When one retired, the school combined her job duties with those of the current librarian, Marty Ward.

Ward said she knows not as much is getting done now, but the school is doing the best it can. She said she still is proud to be working for Kent City Schools.

“Kent is very fortunate because we are above the minimum requirements in library media services,” Ward said. “That’s what the kids deserve, and that’s what the tax payers deserve.”

Ward is a 1973 Kent State alumna and got her undergraduate minor in library science and her master’s degree in educational media from the university.

Ward said she thinks special programs like art, music, physical education and libraries are being cut from because of the poor financial situation for schools across the state.

Crail agreed.

“It’s a safe bet to say (the reason librarian positions are being eliminated) is not because they’re not important,” Crail said.

He said the librarian position may be seen as expendable because some positions, such as math teachers, are seen as more of a necessity.

“This is one symptom of the illegal system of funding and the state of Ohio’s refusal to do the right thing for the boys and girls of Ohio,” Crail said.

He also said it is the result of a three to four year economic downfall in the state.

Stutz also blamed budget cuts at all levels and added that she thinks librarian positions are being cut “because people aren’t knowledgeable about the potential of the position.”

Ward said if the financial situation does not turn around for Ohio schools, the kids will suffer.

“I think that students will not learn many of the valuable skills they need,” Ward said, adding that librarians can teach students everything from how to look up a tax return to where to find an online encyclopedia.

Crail said he wants a change in leadership in Columbus because “both the legislative and executive branches have been horrible in support of public schools.”

“They’ve really abandoned public schools,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Lindsay Wargo at [email protected].