Dear Spokane Washington,

As I read the decision to remove school librarians at the end of this year in your great town, thanks to a colleague of DASL (Delaware Association of School Libraries) – I had a mini scenario carry out in my head – 

“What a grand school!  High ceilings, high windows, this will be great for renovation? “This is a fairly new school, no renovations needed.”

“Well that idea of grand design and elaborate spacing is going by the wayside.  Functional!  That is the wave of new thought. It is great we have schools, but is that really functional? Are we getting the most out of our building by it not being used in the evening?  All this space just here and not being used.  If we moved people into these areas, made this now school into town houses, this hall divided up into a residence wing, these columns an entry wing to a grand staircase, much more use- who has time for sitting down, taking up space and time when money is the issue, and money not being earned is money wasted.  Remove any unnecessary needs, and revenue ! Revenue for technology, revenue from automation, revenue from busy transactions, faster, better, modern that is what we need to promote the best area ever – attractions and modernity!””

Now this sounds awfully eccentric, yes.  However, in graduating high school in 1990 (YES, 1990) and graduating with my FIRST college degree in 1998, then in 2003, then in 2014, and soon to be again around 2023, I could get 20 degrees and it would not mean anything different when it comes to what school libraries and librarians, when allowed and hired for a school hub positions, ACTUALLY do.  To rid any school of the potential of the following – it is similar to simply saying – Education?  Yeah, it is a necessary evil, nice to have but not essential.  Yes, there is plenty of that argument still there, but EDUCATION and being educated comes in a variety of forms, being vocational in nature, being a contractor, finishing a technical degree and applying that expertise to the community you are from, driving all over the country after obtaining a DSL license, some do go onto college, some individuals raise a farm that provides food for the communities we make up – you get the idea.  

In the same line of discussion, a Library Media Specialist, a librarian today – configures labs, networks of people and technology, archives histories of communities, arranges and organizes local and international events, creates a haven for students of ALL interests and talents an d encourages that diversity, does not shy away from the use of technology but also does not ignore the vocational aspects of what makes a country a country as well.  If a school believes in the students of their school, then positions that allow every student to be the center of their school – which librarians are trained for, bring up the success of the school, AS A WHOLE.  

Since 1998 and my involvement with the education field, I have seen school gut entire libraries because books were in the way of additional space, only to find the cost of databases and online was MUCH more expensive than the cost of technology alone.  It boggles my mind individuals think one direction is more powerful than a blended combination, I mean, didn’t those individual go to college to learn that?  As a certified librarian I did.

I have seen individuals take out a whole library and provide a stage and small hall, sometimes even an old closet and state this is the library.  Really?  That is the statement you want to send to the staff and students, and families of your school, while trying to raise state test scores but pushing literacy of all kinds (agricultural, technological, vocational into a closet?)

I have seen colleagues inspired of how to combine resources for every teacher in the school and provide those resources to help reduce the amount of standard matching, unit planning, and objective and form submitting to HALF, only to find they are the only librarian in their DISTRICT.  What incentive is there to be an Information Specialist when the Science of Information is deemed not as valuable as a space anymore but more valuable as a study hall with no direction?

How many times a day would be influential if students had someone/somewhere that they could go to and simply talk to about how their day is going, alongside the comments needed on a paper due later in the day, alongside being able to find a reads that will help focus or unwind and simply feel better about all the things needed done in a single day (not to mention the hardships most students have just to GET to school for the day?)

It is difficult to understand that the old regime and idea of what a librarian did and what a modern-day librarian does is the Tucker of the car industry compared to the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid or Tesla of today. Not even recognizable, but to bring out the best in your school – you need to be able to RECOGNIZE the assets you could have versus deciding literacy in all its forms is not valuable in another form.  Letting the students and educators decide what lets them get along further in the day is where the path and voices of success are.  Keeping and encouraging empowering librarians to make that change and pushing individuals that like to retain the stereotype of sitting quietly behind a desk, occasionally coming out from behind the desk when necessary, expecting every individual that comes through the door of the library to be a ghost of volume, almost transparent as to their presence, PLLLLLease.  Get real.  Seriously. GET REAL.

The REAL DEAL is that Library Media Specialists, also known as librarians are SPECIALISTS that actually go to college to take the world, combine it with MEDIA, and roll up your and their sleeves, and make things happen with jumping right in.  Period.  Anyone that is not willing to do that in the AM, in the PM, on the weekends, and to jump into the middle and help make things happen, (warning, it is noisy) well, I would have a hard time saying they are a Specialist at all. Maybe a Specialist in padding their retirement path, but that is not the place or occupation to do so, because yes, being a Library Media Specialist should make you EXHAUSTED if you are doing it correctly and maybe occasionally, you do get to distribute a vast knowledge of genres, authors, and plots.  That is a slow day.  So Spokane, I would advise you to rethink your decision about what type of education you want to represent in your schools and if you truly want an educational program that enhances the future for all your students, this is not the step you want to take.  Ask any of the Library Media Specialists in any of the 50 states, any  supervisor that understands what the Science of Information field provides for hungry populations of students, every single day.  If you want to make education the center of your educational model, then you will understand removing School Librarians is taking ten steps backwards in one move.  

I also finally realize not many individuals “get” the day in a school library that knows the heartbeat of their school.  Heck, I am not even sure I do after years of working in this field, because it changes every day.  But I do know, the colleagues, instructors, students, professors, parents, and communities CONTINUE to teach me that in order for me to be appreciated by them, I need to show them how I appreciate what they do everyday.  Period.  I hope you decide the same for your community when it comes to the role your school librarians will play for your great city and state.




About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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