Make Noise: School Libraries are Critical

Last week, I did a blog post about the continued drop in the number of media specialists in Central MN schools. Quite honestly, there is no library issue that bothers me more. I became a librarian because I am passionate about equitable access to information.  I am sick about what I am seeing in our region around school libraries. In school year 2013-2014, 41% of Central MN schools had no licensed media center staff. And, here is a shocker, 69% of secondary schools have no licensed staff! Without well-stocked, well-staffed school libraries, how are the academic needs of students being met? Certainly, we can do better, we must do better!

Part of what bothers me is that I hear no outcry. Are parents, grandparents, and community members aware of this issue? Why do I only hear deafening silence? Every time the cuts happen with no outcry, it becomes more acceptable! I know for a fact that some of the  school media programs that were cut or eliminated, were the very best! So, the cuts did not happen as a result of a weak program. Take note media specialists, your great program could be cut too if you don’t engage in raising awareness of this issue. These cuts happened quietly, and even when a few people figured it out, there was only deafening silence.

A few years back, some districts would employ one media specialist to cover several schools, to at least put a good face on the situation. Not any more! In last week’s blog post, I listed the school districts who have become so bold as to not employ a single media specialist in any of their schools. People, they are counting on your silence. Certainly, in this information age, this is an atrocity. Yet, where is the noise? Public libraries and college libraries should be concerned, as they often have to pick up the work of remediation of students with no school media program.

What can we do?

We can roar, we can make noise, and help others make noise!  Find out how your county or school district fares on this issue (bullet 2 below). Show the research that demonstrates the impact that school libraries have on academic achievement (bullet 3 below). Consider who in your school can work with your PTO, to ask parents and grandparents to write letters to the editor or the school board (bullet 2 below). Worried about your job? Consider writing an anonymous letter to the editor.

Basically, we want kids to be readers. We need to have systems in place to help them find books that help them grow, think, and enjoy reading and learning. Minnesota is dedicated to ensuring that all children be proficient readers by third grade. With 37% of our elementary schools with no licensed staff, are we supporting that statewide goal?  As kids move along, we want them to be competent researchers by sixth grade, and fluent critical thinkers about information sources by high school. And don’t we all want high school graduates to feel equipped to be successful in either their college career or as information-literate, high functioning  members of society?  Effective school libraries are hubs of learning, they include great books but so much more! Now is the time to make noise! Are you with me?

Resources to Help You Take Action!

  1. Where have the Media Specialists Gone in 2014? (current staffing data for Central MN)
  2. Want help writing your letter or fact sheet? Contact us if you want a specific data set for your district or county to beef up your communications on this issue. We are ready to help!
  3. School Library Impact Studies (the research to support the need for licensed media staff)
  4. School Libraries Transform Learning (The American Library Association’s advocacy doc with different ideas for action)
  5. Los Angeles students need better libraries, not iPads (Read about how after a 19-month investigation, LA believes this school library situation is actually a violation of the educational civil rights of students!)

Send comments, ideas, or solutions to me, Patricia Post, Director of CMLE, at

Note: The CMLE region includes Aitkin, Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd and Wright counties in Minnesota