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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 28, 2009 at 3:12 PM

School librarians in Bellevue: Are they needed?

Principals know what’s best for students

Editor, The Times:

Professor Michael Eisenberg of the University of Washington’s Information School uses inflammatory rhetoric [“Librarians are not optional,” Opinion, guest column, June 25] to criticize the decisions of nine middle- and high-school principals in the Bellevue School District to reassign their school librarians to work in the classroom. Eisenberg calls this decision a “scorched-earth policy,” even though not one librarian will lose a job and every library will remain open and staffed with library assistants. Eisenberg claims these decisions will prevent the schools from preparing their students for success in the 21st century.

What is most significant to us at the Washington Policy Center is that the Bellevue School Board has decided to allow its principals to decide how to use their staff dollars. The key recommendation of our Center for Education’s reform plan is to let school leaders lead by giving them authority over their budget and staff.

Literacy and research skills are certainly important for students to acquire. But nine school principals have decided their students are best served by placing librarians in the classroom. We agree with School Board President Carol Marks, who observes that “building administrators are in touch with their student population and know what student needs are.”

— Liv Finne, Washington Policy Center director for education, Seattle

Ask my kids: Libraries are a waste of funds

Both of my daughters graduated from the International School in Bellevue, one of the schools about to lose its librarian. The library there was always regarded mostly as a joke and played a minimal role in the excellent education they received. Their reaction to this news is the same as mine — about time.

Paying a full-time teacher to manage the library was an egregious waste of money and seemed to serve mainly as paid retirement for a burned-out teacher.

— Alan Davidoff, Bellevue

Teachers can’t adequately cover for librarians

While I heartily agree that research skills must be taught and are important generally, the districts’ good teacher-scholars should be able to handle this. I admire the innovativeness of administrators in finding ways to cover bases in difficult budget times, but I think keeping the library expertise available, without asking librarians to teach the whole day in the different role of classroom instruction, is valuable.

Working with individual topics and students on their research is too time-consuming with everything else classroom teachers do. Also, the best research skills in the world are difficult to employ as effectively for learning if there is no one available to catalog and keep the library in order. If less librarians are available than previously, a larger group of library assistants and tutors may be needed to supplement the efforts of head librarians, though some benefits will be lost probably due to their less-relevant training.

It seems a shame to lose any librarians, and certainly there are large numbers of unemployed teachers and instructors to draw upon to cover classroom needs as well.

I do agree that in terms of priorities classroom instruction must come first, but I don’t think the library is the place to cut in order to maximize student learning. I think Michael Eisenberg is right — librarians are not optional.

— Robin Poling, Seattle

Comments | More in Bellevue, Education

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