Another suggestion is to have certified librarians distributed over several schools. That’s a trend that is happening elsewhere in the country, including Nevada.
“In Nevada, school media specialist positions have been consolidated to cover more schools,” said Robbie Nickel, school media specialist at Sage Elementary School in Spring Creek, Nev. “In some school districts, aides or staff without library certification cover elementary schools. In the Elko Country School District this year, one elementary school library position was not filled, and school media specialists from two nearby schools are reducing time at their own schools to provide service to the school without service.”
“This year, [owing] to budget restraints, we have lost our second media specialist position in our high schools, regardless of the number of students enrolled,” said Louis Greco, director of media services for St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla.
Though Arkansas mandates that every school must employ a state-certified school library media specialist, there are no requirements for library aides or clerical help, and there is no state-mandated minimum budget, said Fayetteville’s Barnett.
“What I have seen in my state is the cutting of aide time or eliminating an aide position altogether,” she said. “A few years ago, we went from two full-time aides to one aide. We had about 1,600 students then; we now have about 1,900 students. Library budgets in the state have been cut, frozen, or asked to absorb costs that used to be paid from other budgets.”
Barnett added: “My district has also eliminated its district library supervisor position. This has profoundly affected our library program. Building librarians have had to absorb district duties, which cut into the services provided at the building level. There is no one at the district level to help district administrators to see the big picture in terms of the library program. When we had a book challenge issue a few years ago, there was no one at the district level who knew the policy well enough to keep some pretty big mistakes from getting made.”
Martin, the AASL president, said cuts are happening sporadically for now–but as the economy becomes more of an issue, the threat of cuts to school library services will become even more widespread.
“The elimination of teacher-libraries seems to be a trend in states where school budget cuts force drastic measures, such as staff reduction and the elimination of critical programming,” she said.