Already, state education agencies in Colorado and Indiana, as well as individual school districts in Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, and Virginia, have begun to adopt the new standards. AASL also says many database publishers are reworking their products to incorporate them.

The national school librarians association has three additional task forces working on documents and resources to accompany the new learning standards: one to develop a comprehensive, three- to five-year national implementation plan; one to develop indicators, benchmarks, examples, and assessments based on the standards; and a third to create new teaching guidelines to support them. All task forces are expected to complete their work by the end of the school year.

Cassandra Barnett, a National Board Certified Teacher and librarian at Fayetteville High School in Arkansas, said her school will “begin integrating the new standards into the lessons and units we teach in collaboration with classroom teachers.” She added: “These standards are way beyond what has gone before, and it is going to take a little time to get comfortable with them.”

Jobs in jeopardy

Adding to the challenge for many schools are budget cuts that are putting library media specialists’ jobs in jeopardy.

One high-profile example is in Mesa, Ariz., where the Mesa Public School District is on the verge of eliminating all of its library media specialist positions over the next three years.

The district’s plan is to move its librarians into the classroom to become teachers, replacing them with support staff. Of the district’s 78 school librarians, 47 retired or decided to return to classroom teaching this school year, reports the Arizona Republic.

Like many states, Arizona doesn’t have dedicated funds for school libraries, and it doesn’t require certified media specialists at any grade level. School libraries and library media specialists are controlled at the district level and not by the state education department.

Mesa officials say their plan comes in response to an estimated $20 million reduction in its 2008-09 operating budget–caused both by a decline in student enrollment and attempts to remedy the state’s $1.2 billion deficit.

According to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Susan DePrez, the libraries would be run by “resource center specialists”: full-time, 40-hour classified positions that must undergo specialized training but do not require a teaching certificate.

However, the district’s governing board says it’s open to other suggestions. As an alternative, some are proposing the creation of several regional librarian positions to oversee the new library aides who will replace Mesa’s exiting certified media specialists.

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