The proposed cuts to education in Jamestown are alarming. Difficult decisions need to be made in such a tough economic climate. However, the district's library department was utterly destroyed by the cuts.
There are currently nine library media specialists in Jamestown's 10 schools. Three of the nine positions are slated to be cut. That would leave only two librarians to cover all six elementary schools.
Since these were classified as non-instructional positions, little attention was paid. However, the library media specialists are teachers first and librarians second. They spend their entire day working directly with students. They have the same number of "teaching minutes" in their day as any other teachers in the district. Although they are responsible for completing the day to day tasks required to run a library, their first priority is to provide curriculum support for the students and teachers in their schools.
Libraries are no longer just about reading stories and borrowing books. Library media specialists reinforce skills from English Language Arts and other core content areas. Dozens of studies have shown that a well-staffed library media center with a qualified librarian leads to improved reading and writing test scores.
Additionally, librarians teach information and technological literacy (how to find, evaluate, and use information via books, computers, and other devices). These are skills that are becoming more and more vital.
If we take these programs away from our students we are putting them at a serious disadvantage. By the time our students graduate, they will be years behind their peers in the ability to sift through the information jungle.
Beyond that, libraries are often the first place a child develops an enthusiasm for reading and learning, a trait that's importance cannot be stressed enough.
Two library media specialists cannot provide meaningful support in six schools. If these three positions are cut, the remaining two elementary librarians will barely have time to complete the tasks required to run six school libraries. They will no longer be "teachers first and librarians second."
This is a loss of three teaching positions that will impact every single one of our students while they are in elementary school with effects that will carry over into their adult lives.
I encourage the community to think about what we are taking away from our children by slashing the school library program so drastically.
Jason Baker lives in Jamestown.