This is a tragic situation because a large body of recent research shows that well-funded, professionally staffed school library programs continue to have a positive impact on student learning.
I’ve observed this positive impact from both the classroom and the library. Before I became a school librarian at Brockton High School in 2004, I taught English there. I still remember the first time I brought my juniors to the Red library to get them started on a research paper. Mrs. Murphy had pulled a cart of books for us, and she showed the students how to find books on their topics in the catalog. She also gave them a lesson on some relevant research databases. Then she spent the rest of the period working with me and helping the students. I had never had this type of help with my classes before, and I thought it was amazing!
In 2004, I transferred to the library when Mrs. Murphy retired. At that time, our school had four full-time librarians for 4400 students. Across the district, there were another 10 certified librarians. However by 2015, only 7 of us were left because as more people retired, they were being replaced by paraprofessionals. Districts save a lot of money by replacing certified librarians with paraprofessionals, who typically earn less than half of what we do. While library paraprofessionals are usually hard-working, wonderful people who love books and children, school librarians are certified teachers with master's degrees. Without certified librarians, students are being denied significant learning opportunities.
Last year, Whitman, Malden, and Brockton cut all their librarians except for high school. Brockton also closed all its middle school libraries, and then this year in a shocking move the district eliminated the last two librarians.
Although deep cuts to school library programs occur across class lines, they’re especially rampant in urban low-income communities like Brockton and Malden. I believe these cuts reflect our nation’s growing income inequality as well as its institutional racism. Over 80% of the students in my district are low-income and almost 80% are students of color. These demographics are fairly typical, and this is happening all over the country.