What happened to school librarians?

July 19, 2021 11:00 am
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Librarians play an important role in supporting individuals in learning how to access research databases and to become more literate in digital media. Yet according to recent statistics published by Antioch University Seattle in the School Librarian Investigation Decline of Evolution report, there were 20 percent fewer librarians in 2018-2019 compared to last decade.

This trend is much more pronounced in school districts with a higher proportion of English language learners, Hispanic students, and students from lower-income socioeconomic brackets. While Hispanic school districts were more likely to have no librarians, this was also true for other non-white majority districts as well.

The reduced number of librarians has been concerning, especially since it is the schools that need them the most that are being impacted, while other schools that are more well off (or whose students are more literate) can financially afford to let go of their librarians. Approximately three in ten schools had no librarians in 2018/2019. While the trend in librarians has been downward, there has been an upward trend in hires for school coordinators and administrators, though it is unclear if these new hires are taking on some of the responsibilities traditionally reserved for a librarian’s role.

When spending and finances are compared between schools that have stopped hiring and schools that have retained their librarians, statistics indicate that those who state they can’t afford to hire librarians are actually spending more money per-pupil compared to schools that spent the least per-pupil. The presupposition that lack of funding is to blame is now unsupported and unrelated to reasons declared for laying off library workers. This means that financial resources can’t be the factor that explains the discrepancy between schools with and schools without librarians.

In light of this trend, one factor that may encourage reform is legislation requiring schools to hire at least one full-time librarian. However, the challenge for many schools has been hiring a person who meets the qualified educational requirements for the job of a librarian. Additionally, the term librarian has become more vague and outdated as the world becomes increasingly more reliant on technology, computers and the internet.

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This post was written by Linda H