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Spokane announces elimination of school librarian positions

April 14, 2019

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The Spokane school district is taking school librarians out of libraries and putting them in classrooms.

Spokane Public Schools superintendent Shelley Redinger on Thursday gave notice that the district would “change the library model district wide” and gave notice that school librarian jobs will be eliminated next year, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported .

“Students will still have access to library books and materials the same way they do now,” said district spokesman Brian Coddington, but will be overseen by classroom teachers.

Library hours will not change, he said. He did not know how much money the district will save by eliminating library positions.

The district is facing a projected $31 million deficit next year. Librarians with seniority could be offered classroom jobs. Newer hires could simply be laid off.

Other school districts also have targeted school librarians.

Full-time librarians and media specialists in Chicago dropped from 450 to fewer than 150 over four years ending in 2018. In Seattle, the school district is considering making all library positions part-time.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that from 2009 to 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions, about 15% nationwide, were eliminated.

Librarian Stephanie Oakes has worked at the Libby Center in Spokane for six years and has been placed in the “involuntary transfer pool,” meaning that she might be teaching in a classroom this fall.

She’s also an author of two novels, including “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly,” a Morris Award finalist and now a web television series. She said in a social media posting that she’s prouder of her library than almost anything else she’s achieved.

“I’m distraught for what this means for our district, for our students who will grow up without everything that a school librarian provides,” she said.

Librarians offer specialized help to students, help teachers with lesson plans and train faculty and students in technology, she said.

Oakes said the presence of professional librarians promotes “higher achievement, higher reading scores, better technology skills, greater readiness for college and careers.”

“We do a lot more than check books in and out,” she said.

Librarian advocates cite research showing a correlation between high-quality library programs and student achievement. In a Pennsylvania study, the difference in reading and writing scores was even greater for minorities.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com