Dear Superintendent Cortines,
As communities across the nation face budget deficits we understand that many school administrators will have to make difficult decisions, but depriving Los Angeles Unified School District students of crucial 21st century educational resources such as certified school librarians is not the answer.
As technologies and information gathering continue to change, students are finding themselves left behind. This is happening not because they lack access to technology or informational resources but because they have lost access to one of the most valuable resources a school can offer its students—a certificated teacher librarian.
School libraries play a significant role in the lives of our children, but this move will have an even greater negative impact on students who live in poverty. According to a recent survey for the Scholastic Corporation, 83% of students get books for their independent reading through the school library. For many students, school libraries are the only source of free access to computers and the Internet , but without the expertise and guidance of a certificated school librarian, students will be left to fend for themselves and struggle to avoid the misinformation pitfalls of the Internet.
In an era filled with tweets, YouTube videos and Facebook, how often have you heard from a student that “It's true, I saw it online,” or “I found the information via Google?” It's not enough for kids to know how to read: too often students lack the ability to analyze the information found online and are left guessing what Web content can be trusted. School libraries provide access to the tools and resources necessary to gain 21st century learning skills. Certificated teacher librarians provide the crucial link between the library and students, teaching them how to evaluate and use information both traditional and digital information: skills critical for success in a 21st century economy.
Since 1965, more than 60 education and library studies have produced clear evidence that students with access to school libraries staffed by highly qualified, certificated school librarians have the highest academic achievement.
We must remember that a good school library is essential to a good education and that it takes the skills of a certificated school librarian to fuel successful school library programs. We hope you reconsider this drastic action, which will surely impact the quality of education the Los Angeles Unified School District will be able to offer its students, and ultimately, the lives of its students.
Dr. Camila Alire
American Library Association
American Association of School Librarians