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Letters 1-24-14

January 23, 2014 - 4:50pm

School librarians are an important resource

The recently published article and letters about the Konawaena High School’s library cuts shows the lack of understanding for what a professional librarian offers a school. If one does not know what a librarian does, it is easy to say that a school does not need one, thereby justifying cutting or reducing the position.

However, an important role for a school librarian entails recognizing students without strong family resources and who may not have their needs met because they do not either know their needs or their options. That is an important role for a school librarian, and Woody Plaut, the current librarian, serves this role very well. Of course, the school does not substitute for a lack of family resources. However, a caring librarian, such as Plaut, encourages these students to complete academic requirements leading to graduation and even to aspire to higher education. An observant librarian, such as Plaut, constitutes important additional instructional support that provides adult mentorship, as well as encouragement for this type of students.

Plaut is a model for what librarians do, and he is to be commended for his stance on the broad range of services he provides his school. One should not be fooled, however, by the principal’s statement in the article “The library will remain open and the library media specialist may be reduced to a part-time position.” The plan will curtail library services, plain and simple. These are the services provided by Plaut and other librarians in public schools. The curtailment of services means less access to the trained professional that a library media specialist is. It has nothing to do with whether the library is “open” or not.

At a time when the use of the Internet pervades all aspects of our lives, it is the trained library media specialist, a school’s “information” specialist, who is there to help students navigate the morass. There is no other teaching position in any school that has this responsibility, and, in these times of easy information access, is possibly the single most important educational learning that takes place in our schools. It begs the question that if you have no teacher responsible for teaching information evaluation, it will not be taught.

It is important to make clear-headed decisions when dealing with tough budget issues, and the wisdom of many heads has always been stronger than that of one. The community has supported Plaut for the last 10 years and he has produced tremendous results for the school and the greater community. Is this really the time to withdraw that support?

I urge school officials to reconsider their decision to cut Plaut’s position to part-time.

Duane D. Erway