Librarians- Friends or Financial Foes?

The New York Times ran a "Room for Debate" feature today about school librarians and whether or not they are truly needed anymore. The six contributing panelists ranged from actual librarians to administrators to other "experts" in the field, each sharing their own opinion. As someone whose own school district originally sent lay off notices to nearly hundred teachers this year (it's a small district, compared to LA Unified, which sent notices to 5,000 of their 30,000+ teachers), I've seen the position called in to question. Are librarians, specifically school ones, necessary anymore?

There is a camp that says they are not. They claim that with so much available online, and with students becoming so technologically savvy, the position is not as critical as it once was when students needed to learn about card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal System (I loved card catalogs, for the record). They also point out that teachers could teach about technology and new ways of research in the classroom, and that funding a teacher's salary, rather than a librarian's, is money better spent. They also compare librarians to other professionals on campus, and claim that perhaps a guidance counselor or a school psychologist is more important.

And then there is the other side of the debate. Resear
ch has evolved and there are many teachers that have advanced with the times and are not equipped to teach students how to successfully obtain accurate information from the internet. Teachers don't necessarily have time to teach technological standards on top of the normal curriculum, or may not have the resources within their classrooms. Many view librarians as true lovers of literature, figures students desperately need in this day and age, where people read less.

I of course have mixed feelings, and think there should be a compromise. Funding is tight- I think librarians shouldn't be exempt from lay offs, although I think each school does need at least a part time one (this of course depends on the site's needs; a larger high school whose library also handles text books, like mine, needs a full time position, while a small elementary may get by with one that only works mornings). Perhaps, when needed, librarians could start running intervention or tutoring in the library as well (yes, I know, time is an issue). Personally, I think the main thing is that school libraries evolve while still holding on to some traditional aspects.... like books. School libraries needs compute
rs and software, but they also need enthusiastic librarians that will help kids learn to love reading. I think I'd rather see a library's budget get cut in the form of materials, not staff.

Thoughts? Teachers or librarians? What should librar
ians focus on?

I bet this is a high quality movie that does the field of library science justice. Although, if Noah Wyle was my librarian in high school I'd be checking out a thing or two, if you know what I'm saying (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).


  1. This is such a dilemma, and I understand that when budgets are cut things have to go from every best memories are of the librarians ay my schools. I remember their names, and they instilled a love of reading in me I won't forget!

  2. As a high school English teacher, I see this dilemma in a major way. Our "library" has truly become a media center. The books are rarely touched and while the ladies who work there try their hardest to display the newest y.a., the kids are simply more interested in playing on the computers than the books. Ah! Technology is such a double edge sword.

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