94% decline in librarians for Philadelphia's public schools

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/11/94-decline-in-librarians-for.html


“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
― Walter Cronkite


It’s worth noting, just in case anyone isn’t familar with them as an institution, that school librarians(particularly below the high school level); are not ‘just the public library; but smaller and closer’. At least the the school environments I’ve worked in, the librarians did have the associated library science qualifications and did handle collection acquisition and maintenance; but the arguably more central aspect was keeping their finger on the pulse of what kids were reading/would be interested to read if they knew about it(which raised book consumption among all the students who weren’t already 100% covered on that at home or 100% checked out pretty substantially); and teaching(both informally in the ‘ask the reference librarian’ context; and in some scheduled classes that the students had regularly) what was effectively “How to not be stupid in the presence of an overwhelming wealth of knowledge 101”.

Even if your public library system is pretty good and accessible(ours was, some, not so much) and the internet has rather chipped away at the need to keep Ye Olde Worlde Booke Encyclopedia 1978 hanging around; having someone who knew and cared about kid’s reading interests made a huge difference in terms of how much general reading they did; and having someone who knew and cared that ‘research’ is a nontrivial skill; and one that has not been replaced by search engines, made a major difference in the utility of giving students access to information.

Had they just devoted themselves to running a small, narrow, in-house collection that was basically an inferior duplicate of the public library, the school librarians would have been a pretty hard sell vs. just putting up an interlibrary loan request terminal and calling it a day; but they knew that, and that wasn’t at all what they did.


You quoted a respected journalist. We’ll have none of that in this country any more, thankyouverymuch.



My kids didn’t grow up in Philly, but I can tell you that at their grade school there were weekly class trips to the school’s library, where the librarians told stories (from memory, like in olden days) which ignited an interest in reading for the younger kids and was beloved by the older ones too, taught them how to find what they were looking for (using online tools, yes, but also reference works and learning how to walk up to the person in charge and ask questions), staged yearly student-led contests to determine which new children’s books were “the best” in their opinion (and how to articulate why they felt that way), and provided a wide range of books including on controversial topics and in controversial formats (you’d be surprised how many parents think graphic novels aren’t real books, for example).

That’s what school librarians do, when they’re allowed to do their jobs.


I used to live in Philly. The schools are awful, and it’s by design. The state passed a law allowing taxpayers to donate money to charter schools and get 100% tax credit. This is in addition to all the things other states are doing to destroy public education.

Five miles outside the city, my son was educated at an excellent public elementary school.


You speak of this situation as if public officials consider it a bug rather than a feature.


Future of America in Philly under what’s her face.


Hey, if the kids can’t read, why do they need school libraries at all? Problem solved! Think of all the savings! And additional Trump voters!

(Seriously, though, why does this story have a picture of a library in Vietnam?)


Hey - what? You expect us to put librarians over soda?

Its either No Librarians, or No Soda folks.
(and by No Librarians I mean 94% decline, and by No Soda I mean a few extra pennies per bottle)


Anti-intellectualism will destroy this country. It’s already happening, and may have reach terminal velocity. I want to be hopeful about society, but I’m not sure I have it in me.


“Time will tell whether likely incoming secretary of education Betsy DeVos — who would be the first in her position to not have attended or sent her children to public school — will make enriching public education resources a priority.”


My son went to a public school in Philly for first grade, five years ago. They used the abandoned school library for storage and random overflow events, and let the kids do anything they wanted with the books, which had been randomly stacked, re- and de-shelved. The books were amazing, too–a very well-chosen and vetted collection. It broke my heart…


Hmm, i see a problem here: Well-educated children will grow up into thinking adults and thinking adults are more likely to challenge the “wisdom” of political leaders, their corporate masters and “faith leaders”.

This will lead to unrest and unhappy people who9might ask “Why?”

Far better off to be quiet, docile, sheep who only do what they are told since their betters clearly know more and have the luxury to think and plan with unclouded judgement and do what is best for all. (As defined by those on top at least.)


Schools still have books? I thought they went the way of the old chalkboard.

I spent most of my Middle School years getting books from our library…in suburban Utah. In that library, I read copies of the Dune books, Heinlein, Burroughs, and many others. All genre fiction but even this little middle school had a well stocked library and librarians that encouraged us to read.


Yeah, well this so-called ignorant nation just voted in “the greatest job-creator god ever created” to be president.

In your face Cronkite!


I support full time librarians, but the study sounds more like correlation than causation. if a school can afford the librarian, its probably wealthier, better funded school all around, and thus has better outcomes.

Also, if the librarian helps with a standardized test score, but standardized test scores are generally worthless… then…


This is an issue across the country. When given the choice between having a school librarian or another teaching position, cash-strapped school boards (who generally don’t know much about professional librarianship) will almost always go for the extra teacher. School librarian positions are disappearing because no one who controls school hiring really knows what they contribute to teaching. Literacy is for wimps :stuck_out_tongue:


Exactly this. At what point did journalism become so attached to the idea of “no bias” that completely asinine statements like this–utterly absurd on its face–are normal?