June 17, 2015
What’s happening to school librarians in Kansas?
by Kirsten Reach
Twenty-five percent of school librarians in Kansas have been cut in the last decade. In many cases, they’ve been replaced by media clerks, who do not have a degree in library sciences or teaching, reports Sean Sandefur of KMUW.
In Derby Public Schools in Wichita, for instance, the number of librarians serving 6,800 students has dropped from thirteen to one. Derby Superintendent Craig Wilford said the funds were needed to expand other programs like English Language Learning. But this is a prime example of what’s going on across Kansas: there are, on average, fewer than three librarians per school district.
Sandefur’s article for KMUW included a chart that shows the disparity between the number of students and the librarians on staff:
Budget cuts are nothing new. But other states, like Delaware, have proposed legislation to mandate at least one librarian per school… with district funding, if necessary.
Last week marked the twentieth year of the Kansas Summer Institute for School Librarians. “I think it’s especially important this year because of the economic situation in this state and in the country,” Mirah Dow, professor of information science in the School of Library and Information Science, told The Emporia Gazette.
“Everyone has worried about finances and, often, school librarians are seen as a luxury and not a necessity to student learning and achievement. I think celebrating their role and importance in education is key to keeping them feeling confident and supported in their work.”
Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.