Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creative or Catastrophe?

The Mayor of Nashville announced the merging of public and school libraries in Nashville a few weeks ago. Obviously this is a Big Story in the library world.
According to the mayor’s letter, the intention is to begin the merger with high school libraries, a move that Bengel says is intended to “strengthen the schools."

I suspect the library community at large sees this as the opening salvo in a plan to abolish school librarians altogether. Fortunately, for Nashville this is the school board's decision, not the Mayor's; nevertheless, that it's even being discussed shows, once again, how little the public understands the nature of school librarianship.

I was even talking to my Dad over the weekend about helping students with documentaries. He looked at me kind of puzzled and asked, "But aren't you the librarian? Are you doing this for fun after school?" AARRGHH!

Here are the questions that leap to mind regarding the Mayor's decision:

1) Is this merely a co-ordination of resources? Will the general public have access to the school collection? Public collections contain considerably more 'questionable" material than a school collection might. Are they now open to more frequent challenges, since they're part of the school library system? And will the general public mingle with students in the school library? How does that affect safety issues?

2) A supposed "benefit" is longer library hours during the day and in summer. Does this mean the school library will be open? Who will supervise? And aren't there increased costs in keeping the buildings open and staffed longer, defeating the original purpose? If it just means students have access to the public library, don't they already?

3) Assuming this is all a way of ultimately removing the school librarians, who will instruct? With all due respect to our public sisters and brothers, they are not trained (or certified) teachers. Of course, anyone who can conceive of this as a reasonable act, doesn't see school librarians as necessary to the instructional process, anyway.

4)How will libraries collaborate with teachers if they're not even in the same building? It's hard enough when you are!

Those are just the questions that leap to mind. I'm sure I'll think of others. This is definitely an issue to watch closely.


  1. I'm of the same opinion Jeri. Before I came to my present school library it was a community library shared by the public and the school. It was a disaster; no one was happy. There was limited space for the school librarian to teach classes. The public didn't like the noise level of a teaching library. It was difficult to supervise kids intermingled with members of the public. I could go on. I would hope that the 'powers that be' take the time to spend a week in their local high school library before deciding on any merge with public services. As you say, they clearly don't understand what a TEACHER librarian does.

  2. Wow, I didn't know this had actually been done before! It never ceases to amaze me how government is willing to "save" money on the back of the educational system.

    Given the nature of government--one city/state copying the "success" of another, I worry that, if this proceeds, it will be the start of a long slide down the slippery slope of cost-cutting.

    My home state (Washington) is working hard to cut school library staffing, I hear. This would give them yet one more tool.