By Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan
At the March 29 school board meeting, members voted to eliminate all school librarians. Because of the profound effect this cut will have on students, I hope the board will reconsider its recent vote. According to the Illinois Administrative Code, Section 1.630* (also confirmed by the ROE), paraprofessionals “shall be under the direct supervision and control of a fully certified teacher when assisting with instruction, whether this occurs in classrooms, laboratories, shops, playgrounds, libraries, or other educational settings…”
In addition, paraprofessionals “shall not be utilized as substitutes for or replacement of certificated teachers, and they shall not have equivalent responsibilities.” Consequently, at the secondary schools, both the hours and services would be significantly reduced if librarians were not retained.
The library would be closed a minimum of 1 hour per day (approximately 180 hours or over a week for the entire year) just during paraprofessional union-mandated breaks alone; when tasks such as shelving needed to be done, the library must close since supervision could not be guaranteed.
The library is a classroom that offers curricular support, one-on-one, in small groups, and to entire classrooms. Teacher-librarians have specialized training that enables us to instruct students on information literacy. Without this instruction, students will not be prepared for college or for the world of work. It is crucial that students learn how to think critically when conducting research of any kind. Moreover, the teacher-librarians support reading and writing across the curriculum, co-creating units with teachers and providing carefully-selected resources for existing lesson plans. While the paraprofessionals have been trained to carry out clerical tasks such as checking out books, they do not have the educational or experiential background to carry out the pedagogical tasks required to maintain a successful library classroom. Having a paraprofessional staff in the libraries alone would be analogous to having a licensed practical nurse staff an operating room alone.
If you were to visit a high school library throughout the day, you would find that the individuals most deeply hurt by these cuts would be the low-income students who need a safe, caring environment where they can achieve well-staffed Illinois school libraries and student achievement on standardized tests: http://www.islma.org/pdf/ILStudy2.pdf (summary on p. 4).
Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan is a teacher-librarian at Auburn High School in Rockford.
From the April 27-May 3, 2011 issue