To the Editor:
In April, the American Library Association and the nation celebrated School Library Month. Libraries of all types work together as part of a library ecosystem to deliver learning opportunities for people of all ages. However, a threat to one part of the system stresses the entire system.
At this moment, we are facing a serious threat to school libraries.
Unfortunately, school library reductions are currently taking place in school districts in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and several other states.
Inadequate funding for school libraries can result in K-12 students’ not learning the essential skills to pursue their own investigations, critically evaluate digital and print information sources, gather evidence, and develop their own understandings. As a result, they are unprepared to handle the academic challenges of higher education.
The demise of K-12 libraries means that most first-year college students are entirely new to library research and have a limited understanding of what the research process entails and how librarians can assist them. Academic librarians and teaching faculty must devote extra time to teaching students the cognitive skills needed for scholarly inquiry.
School library closures have negative consequences for other parts of the library ecosystem as well. Closures result in pressure on the local public libraries to absorb the traffic. While public libraries already offer many programs for children and teens, there’s no doubt that an uptick in demand will have a strong negative impact on youths in our communities who are better served by the free resources and staff of school and public libraries.
To have a healthy, functioning society, the entire library ecosystem must be sustained with the level of financial investment necessary to support the learning needs of everyone in the community.
American Library Association
A version of this article appeared in the May 07, 2014 edition of Education Week as School Libraries are Essential to the ‘Library Ecosystem’