To the Editor:
When people try too hard to find reasons to maintain something, there’s probably little reason to maintain it, a fact evident in your article “School Libraries Seek Relevance Through Virtual Access” (Feb. 10, 2010).
Secondary school libraries, and librarians to a large extent, are becoming an anachronism. Though some can reasonably argue that certain materials cannot adequately be duplicated online (such as art or rare texts), the vast majority of the matter contained in books is now available electronically. Moreover, librarians are not the only school professionals who can, or should, assist students in conducting online searches for the information they need for their assignments.
For years, we have struggled with providing classrooms with adequate and current technology so that it can be integrated into daily instruction, for both motivational and pedagogical reasons. To this end, we have endeavored to limit the relegation of computers to separate labs and have provided extensive professional development to all teachers on the use of technology and, more important, the use of targeted applications that focus on their subjects. Teachers have thus become more knowledgeable about their subjects, and are able to more fully differentiate instruction.
Can school librarians be a wonderful resource to teachers in identifying Web sites and research methods? Most definitely. Can we afford these additional resource professionals? In some schools, the answer is yes, but in others, it probably begins, “We’d like to, but …”
As President Barack Obama’s administration has often said, financially hard times can be an opportunity to review long-standing practices and unchallenged conventional wisdoms. The roles of the secondary school library and librarians are among those that should be re-evaluated.
Marc F. Bernstein
Valley Stream Central High School District
Valley Stream, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the March 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as School Libraries: An Anachronism?