School librarians in California are being forced to defend the continued viability of their trade, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the piece, the California Department of Education recently documented that there are now 900 school librarians in the state—down from 1,100 two years ago. And only one out of four schools in California has a credentialed librarian.
In light of budget cuts and impending educator layoffs, some officials question the continued need for librarians now that technology has put a wealth of resources and research options at students’ fingertips. “You have to make choices sometimes, and the importance of librarians is a bit less than it used to be,” Ze’ev Wurman, who served as a policy adviser for the U.S. Department of Education, told the Chronicle. “In the elementary grades especially, librarians are essentially teacher’s aides, doing a variety of things that have little to do with books or literacy, per se.”
Conversely, Barbara Jeffus, school librarian consultant for the Department, said there’s a growing body of research showing that “if you have a teacher-librarian working with classroom teachers, student achievement is higher.” And Diane Alexander, president of the California School Library Association, argues that librarians are uniquely positioned to inspire students to read. “We’re the ones who know the current books,” she said. “It can make a huge difference if you can hook a kid onto reading.”
What are your thoughts?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.