Librarians needed, not hired due to cuts

Natalie Pillsbury

Budget cuts concern library students

SuzAnne Stutz is one of five librarians in the Kent City School district. Over 200 library positions were cut in Ohio over the past two years.

Credit: Natalie Pillsbury

In a survey of 13,000 Ohio public school students, 99.44 percent indicated that school libraries and librarians have helped them in some way with their learning.

The study by the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, which concluded in December 2003, was the largest to date about how school libraries help students learn.

Even with this evidence of the value of school libraries and librarians, more than 200 school librarian positions have been eliminated in Ohio within the past two years.

“Budgets have a lot to do with many of these losses,” said Cassie Rogers, Ohio Educational Library Media Association Advocacy co-chair. “According to the state of Ohio, a credentialed library media specialist must supervise library aides. In some cases, the high school librarian is the only professional and is responsible for all buildings in the district.”

These job losses have raised concerns about job availability for students of the master’s in library and information science program whose focus is school libraries.

“Our school librarians are still obtaining employment, and we haven’t noticed that our students are not getting jobs,” said Sarah Meghan Harper, assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science. “However, some of our alumni have been affected by the jobs that have been cut throughout Ohio.”

Many school librarian positions once held by professionals with a master’s in library and information science are being replaced by library aides, who receive a lower salary.

“School librarians must have a teaching degree,” Rogers said. “If they work in a library without a degree, they are called library aides. Salary schedules are different in every district, but school librarians are teaching professionals and are paid the same as teachers.”

Library aides must have a high school diploma.

Students in school districts with none or only one professional librarian may lack the special training and expertise proven critical to student success.

“Our graduate students also have technology training that enables them to be a resource to their teaching staff and students,” Harper said. “School librarians have to have a teaching credential and then are trained to collaborate with teachers and work as an instructional partner to teach students about information literacy, selection and evaluation of information resources.”

Funding cuts are mainly responsible for school librarian job losses, and levies are failing across the state, according to a press release from the association.

The Ohio Department of Education recently adopted a set of standards-based library guidelines for effective school libraries.

According to these guidelines, a credentialed library media specialist must supervise library aides, but this has been stretched as far as having one professional in a district supervise all libraries and aides, Rogers said.

There is help offered to students of the master’s program looking for a job through the School of Library and Information Science.

“We are very active with our state and national professional organizations,” Harper said.

Even with recent cuts, there are still jobs out there in Ohio schools for library professionals, according to Rogers.

Contact Libraries and Information reporter Natalie Pillsbury at [email protected].