Voice cover story: The hub of the school

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Libraries: The hub of the school

College-level research assignments for AP classes, resources for terms papers, learning credible sources on the internet, access to laptops and iPads for students who don’t have their own.

That is a short list of the key roles libraries play for high school students.

The libraries of their grandparents – card catalogs, shelves of encyclopedias – are long gone in the digital age of the early 21st century. “Shhh’’ is another relic. Collaboration and socialization are fine.

Libraries and librarians, it would seem, are indispensable. They are a top priority in some districts, but unfortunately that is far from the rule.

The following stories show the importance and the disparity of public school libraries in the state.

Chocolate, roller coasters, and... libraries

Not all visitors to Hershey come to see how some of the world’s best chocolate is made, or to seek thrills on the many roller coasters in its world-famous amusement park.

Some are representatives of school districts around Pennsylvania who visit Hershey High School to learn about one of the state’s top library systems.

21st century makeover in Fox Chapel

Walk into the main entrance of Fox Chapel Area High School, and the first thing you encounter is a caféstyle commons area that adjoins the library and the school’s technology center.

The library’s glass walls and ceiling provide plenty of natural light, and just outside are neatly landscaped courtyards with tables where students can go to study, eat lunch, or relax during nice weather. Much of the furniture is on wheels so students and teachers can move it around to accommodate their needs.

Needs greatest in urban districts; resources lowest

Regardless of a school district’s demographics, libraries are a key component to student learning and achievement.

But the need is perhaps most pronounced in urban districts, where many students don’t have access to resources and technology at home. Unfortunately, these districts with large student populations also tend to be the lowest staffed and lowest funded, and their resources are antiquated.

Bill calls for librarian in every school

Prisons are required to have a certified librarian in Pennsylvania; public schools are not.

That is an eye-popping talking point the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association notes in pushing for support for House Bill 740, a bipartisan bill that will require every public school in the state to have a certified school librarian.

A one-person show

Allison Burrell’s world as a librarian has changed drastically in the past seven years. Unfortunately, not for the better.

In 2009, she was the only high school librarian in the Southern Columbia School District. Today, she is the only librarian for the entire district.

Mifflin County time warp

Arica Monsell is a 21st century librarian trapped in 20th century thinking.

Leadership certainly doesn’t view libraries as the “hub’’ of the Mifflin County School District, which Monsell describes as a “rural poor’’ district of about 5,000 students located in the central mountains about 30 miles from State College.