I am going to pause from my usual tips and news about the Tech world to talk about the recent news from the Lester B. Pearson School Board concerning the cutting of 18 elementary librarian jobs. Of course, being a librarian, I am a tad biased about the news. But I still have to bemoan the short-sightedness of this measure.
Here is a quote from the article:
“A librarian is not just someone who sits behind a desk, shushing people. A librarian organizes the books, makes sure the books are appropriate, teaches the children how to research, teaches them about important things such as plagiarism and copyright.” -Suann Stein-Day, Board Chairman
Well…yes… but, librarians actually do much more.
Having a librarian in your school means that students can have access to books outside of library hours (though I am not sure that was the case in all elementary schools, as I think many of the LBPS shared librarians?) But if done, right, there should be a librarian who is accessible to students during recess and lunch as well as after school. The presence of a librarian in a school provides support to not only the students but the teachers. They are essential and passionate pushers of books. They get to know the kids and know which books will work for their audience. They are fearless promoters of reading.
In this digital age, it is even more important that our students learn how to use the equipment at their disposal. A lot of talk has been given to the idea of Digital natives, this generation who have never known a world without the internet. But that does not mean they know how to use it efficiently., Sure, they are great at posting stuff to Snapchat and instagram. But ask them something simple such as double spacing lines in an essay or how to evaluate a website and they are lost. Librarians are invaluable in teaching not only information literacy, but more and more, the different aspects of Digital citizenship, from knowing how to plug in effective search terms in Google to the mindful use of social media.
Librarians make the Space
Any school librarian will tell you that they not only provide necessary research support to staff and students, they also add value to the school with the various clubs and projects they lead. One of the librarians who is losing her job, Kathy Conroy, was instrumental in the highly successful Battle of the Books event our school has competed in for the last two years. Her dedication, commitment and passion, spending way more time than she was paid for to organize this amazing event, was awe-inspiring. And this is just one little thing she does during her day.
Most importantly, the librarian creates a safe space where those students who feel that they don’t fit in, who are shy and awkward and live inside their heads, can come and hang out. Whether they are using the computers or sinking in a corner with the newest paranormal romance, the librarian ensures their space is inclusive, inviting, safe and encouraging.
I think it is short-sighted to cut the spaces and resources in our education system where the student can finally take control of their own learning, where they can explore books and resources and information on their own, supported along the way by the librarian. If we want our students to graduate with a modicum of critical thinking, with empathy for their fellows, with an idea of who they are and what they are interested in, cutting libraries and librarians is the exact opposite way to go.
“How can you have a library without a librarian?” said Lester B. Pearson School Board chairman Suanne Stein-Day. “That’s a question I’d like to ask the education minister, François Blais.” Stein-Da…