Janet Johnson Wells: Two librarians essential at each high school

March 6, 2014 

Janet Johnson Wells is president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians.

As president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians, I believe it is critical that parents, students and teachers realize the implications of Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton's plan to reduce all five high schools to only one librarian per school.

This will cause a direct impact on student achievement.

Numerous state studies have confirmed a direct correlation between fully staffed and stocked libraries and student achievement. The Kentucky Department of Education recommends two full-time librarians for any school with 1,600 to 2,000 students, just as the five high schools currently have in Fayette County.

By having two librarians, more than 150 students have access to the library in the morning at each school, and the other librarian serves another group of students after school. Many of these students need access to technology often not available at home, a safe supervised place and assistance for assignments, college applications and projects. This will not be available with only one librarian next year.

Where will these students go? How will they complete their assignments?

Librarians also work with teachers to provide teaching materials, credible websites and teaching research skills necessary for college readiness. With only one librarian, teachers would lose the assistance they have come to count on as they adapt to the requirements of core content.

Also, one of the high schools does not have a technology resource staff member, so the librarians also troubleshoot technology issues for a staff of 90 teachers. Who will these teachers turn to for assistance for both curriculum and technology?

Librarians are classified as teachers. By saying that students are at the forefront of budget consideration, it would seem logical to keep the five staff members who have daily teaching interaction with 10,000 high school students.

Compare this with five principals, 12 associate principals, seven deans and 34 counselors, who do not provide direct instruction to students, although all are important to the daily administrative function of the buildings. Cutting these five librarians (which would be less than $300,000 total) does not represent a significant amount of savings toward the current $20 million shortfall in the budget.

Combined with the loss of SACS accreditation and the drop in test scores and college readiness, is this really a savings plan?

I urge parents, students and teachers to contact their school board members and Shelton to make their opinions known. The high school students in Fayette County are counting on you to provide them a quality education that prepares them to compete for college and career opportunities with the best possible resources, including two school librarians at each high school.

Janet Johnson Wells is president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians.

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