Bill calls for librarian in every school

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Bill calls for librarian in every school

Voice: July 2017

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.

Association President Allison Burrell, the only librarian for the Southern Columbia Area School District, Northumberland County, said staffing and resources for public school libraries have been steadily dwindling in recent years.

She cites stunning statistics showing that 28 of the state’s 500 districts have no librarian at all, and that another 100 have just one librarian for the entire district. Statewide, staffing of certified school librarians and library aides has been declining in recent years.

“How can we neglect the needs of so many students?’’ asks Burrell. “Even in communities where public libraries are available, the school library remains the best and most likely source for students’ day-to-day information gathering and independent reading needs.’’

The demand is so great in the digital and information age, and classroom assignments are so tied to library resources, that most adequately staffed libraries have pre-school and after-school hours to accommodate students.

“Our library opens at 7 a.m., about 40 minutes prior to the start of school, and we usually have more than 100 kids waiting at the door,’’ said Allison Mackley, librarian and instructional technology coach at Hershey High School, Dauphin County.

Similarly, she and other librarians report similar use during after-school hours.

House Bill 740 is getting strong bipartisan support.

Its prime sponsors are Reps. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, and Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery/Philadelphia, and there is a long list of co-sponsors from both parties.

“Research shows that students with a certified librarian do better on standardized tests,’’ Burrell said.

“But librarians are not just there for students. Libraries and librarians are great assets to teachers and school staff throughout a district. When these resources to support teaching are spread thin, students’ learning suffers.’’