Where Have the Media Specialists Gone in 2014?

This is the fourth year that CMLE has been pulling the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) data and studying the slow decline of school library media specialists in our CMLE twelve-county region. Sharing the data is our attempt to engage people in helping  think of solutions to this issue. If there is inadequate media specialist staffing in high schools, are students going to be prepared with the skills they need to be successful in college? Will middle schoolers be prepared to do high school work, and when students have no library program at school, are they simply going to the public library for assistance? Are the public libraries funded or staffed to absorb this work on a large scale? Everyone is stretched for resources, so it is critical that  K-12, public, and academic libraries all step up to do their part. Without further ado, here is data for Aitkin, Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd and Wright counties. In a nutshell, the grim news is…..

  • 79 individual schools (41%) in Central MN have no licensed media specialist. This compares with 53 individual schools in 2013, and 48 in 2012.
  • 52% of the schools without a media specialist are middle, secondary, or high schools. A whopping 69% of secondary schools are functioning without licensed staff!
  • 38 elementary schools have no media specialist (compared to 28 in 2013), yet as far as I know, we are still focused statewide on demonstrating reading proficiency by 3rd grade!
  • 16 out of 52 districts (31%) have no media specialist in any school in the district. This compares to 14 in 2013, and 9 in 2012!
  • Is there any good news? Yes. The great news is that 36% of CMLE schools have a full time media specialist. Let’s applaud those school administrators for understanding the value of maintaining a professionally staffed media center.

According to public 2013-2014 MDE data, here are the CMLE school districts with no licensed media specialists in any school: Annandale, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Bertha Hewitt, Browerville, Eagle Valley, East Central, Foley, Kimball, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Maple Lake, McGregor, Onamia, Royalton, Staples-Motley, Swanville, and Willow River. Are parents in these districts aware of this issue?

CMLE will use this data in its advocacy work, in targeting its programming, and in working statewide to bring attention to this growing problem. How can we change this trend?  All Minnesota students deserve a high quality, K-12 academic experience that prepares them for the next step in their life. We need students to be able to proficiently use  the research process and to think critically about competing sources of information. These are key lifelong skills needed by all high-functioning members of society.

If you have comments, solutions, or ideas, please email me at papost@stcloudstate.edu