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Do you provide a student's worth of value?

We should all be obliged to appear before a board every five years and justify our existence…on pain of liquidation. George Bernard Shaw

Gary Hatzell made an interesting comment at our library media specialist workshop last summer. He said something to the effect that cutting library positions really has little impact on class sizes. Something about this observation niggled at me. Not that I doubted Gary, but I did a little calculation for our own district.

We have approximately 4,100 elementary students, 178 classroom FTE elementary classroom teachers and 8 FTE elementary library media specialists. So the current mean class size is 23.03 students* (4,100/178).

If we replaced the 8 library positions with classroom teachers, we would get a mean class size of 22.04 (4,100/178+8) students per class. A class size reduction of .99 students. About less one kid per classroom.

A bigger difference than I thought. As a classroom teacher I vividly remember that every student means:

  • one more student to supervise, counsel, guide, get to know
  • one more set of papers, tests and quizzes to correct
  • one more set of copies to make
  • one more line in the gradebook
  • one more attendance to account for
  • one more set of parent-teacher conferences
  • one more set of data to analyze
  • one more bit of planning time, thought and care about how that individual can be reached
  • one more voice to listen to and one more set of problems to help solve

So here is my question: Do teachers see you adding a student's worth of value in their classrooms? Does your presence balance the extra work each body in a classroom creates? Do teachers see your value in:

  • Creating independent readers (that raise test scores)?
  • Teaching technology and research skills (taking some important curriculum off their plates)?
  • Providing time for planning (fixed schedule)?
  • Providing immediate in-building tech support and training?
  • Adding constructive teaching materials, methods and ideas to a teacher's toolkit?
  • And???

I heard some very ugly, ugly budget numbers predicted for our state and district at a meeting this morning. There is a distinct possibility that we may need to make double the (very painful) amount of cuts we've made over the past two years just next year. The question like the one above is a hard one to ask - for librarians, for tech specialists and even for tech directors.

But ignoring reality is harder come budget crunch time. And I am afraid it is coming.

*Because of funding formulas, attendance areas, etc., our class sizes actually range from between about 17 to 31 students. Like in most schools, I am sure.

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Reader Comments (8)

I suspect a lot of school districts are going to be facing tough questions like these, and magnify it by each counselor, secretary, nurse, teacher aide, etc.

It is critical to know in tough economic times what we add to the school environment--and it's really local, not national, isn't it.

And yet, there's strength in numbers. The more teachers/principals/parents around the country stand up for the importance of libraries in their children's education, the more others can stand up too.

Thanks for this important reminder.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Foote

You raise some good questions, Doug, and we do need to continue to evaluate our worth to the total school program. However, since librarians are among the few in the building who serve ALL students in the school across grade levels and departments, we remain a great bargain in the world of educational bucks. When you remove a library position, it does not automatically translate to the removal of one student in every classroom in the school. A classroom teacher cannot be hired into that position who will take a student out of every classroom and grade level. At the best, that new position can lower class sizes in a grade level or department. When you lose a librarian, however, you've lost someone who can professionally manage millions of print and electronic resources, who can provide support for the development of vital information literacy skills, who can support collaboration among disciplines, and who supports the in-class and extracurricular development of literacy across the curriculum. Each of us should continue to examine our professional practices to make sure we ARE that bargain in these tough economic times.

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Perez

Hi Carolyn,

Hopefully the profession will respond both locally and nationally. I am more concerned, of course, about local efforts, but yours is a good reminder.


Hi Lisa,

You'll get no argument from me about the value librarians can add to a school program.

The point of my post, however, was wondering if classroom teachers recognize and value these additions. No matter how strongly we as librarians feel about our own value, it doesn't amount to much if we are not valued by the classroom teacher, principal and parents!

Thanks for the comment,


November 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

My teachers realize the value I bring to them everytime I'm out for a workshop, conference, or doctor appointment. When I'm not there there is a vaccum of information that they have become accustomed to. I always get a cheerful "Welcome back, we missed you" from my teachers when I return, even if it's just a half a day I was out.

I remember when I was in elelmentary school, the library was a dark room (the lights were off unless someone was in the room) with books, tables, chairs and nobody in charge. We only went into that dark room when we had a research project to do which might be once a year. I'd like to think my teachers, and administrators would put up a fuss if my position was downgraded to half time or elimiated altogether or if my assistant's position was eleminated. She helps me and is a very valuable asset to my program.

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Cardon

This article: could easily apply to school librarians, too. Same arguments, same concerns that The Powers That Be seem to be ignoring!

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralice yucht

Hi Andrea,

It sounds like you are doing the things teachers value. Keep it up!


Great article, Alice! Where do find these gems?


November 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'm a classroom teacher of reluctant and/or struggling students, and I really value the 2 librairians at our school. Our school librarians advocate for my students by supplying books that my students will actually read and for that I am grateful. They made graphic novels available well before they were acceptable to many teachers. My students actually will go to the library willingly to find reading material because the library is so welcoming to them. If they have difficulty, the librarians will discuss their intersts and show them possible choices. If we didn't have librarians at our school, my studednts would be the worse for it.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElona Hartjes

Hi Elona,

I genuinely hope all teachers share your sentiments!


November 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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