Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can Someone Please Explain?

One of the things I find myself doing lately is thinking about my weekly post - what will I write? Well this week I found myself composing my blog post in my head on a drive into work after I heard the news regarding the proposed closing of one of the branches of our local public library. To give a little background, the city council in their budget deliberations asked the library board to cut $800 000 from their budget without closing branches or cutting services. $800 000! Seriously! In conversations with some of the public librarians, to meet this target they were even talking about not buying books! I am the only one who finds this ludicrous?

So this brings to mind a couple of questions:

1. Why are libraries (and school libraries are included in here) always a target of cost-cutting?

2. How, in this age of information, can people even think of cutting library programs and services?

I've ranted about this before in a previous post. The powers that be in this particular city have a propensity to cut and slash the very programs that make cities attractive to people - and then they wonder they nobody wants to come and live here! Libraries are a reflection of the values of a city. A city that has vibrant libraries and library programs shows that it values learning and literacy and equity. I just don't get how some people think. One of the city politicians thinks that just because his family has the Internet, public libraries are not needed. Obviously his family is well off. Obviously his family can afford computers, Internet access, a trip to the the local bookstores to buy books (or maybe they don't - perhaps they don't see the value in books?).

Ok, I'm not going to rant about this anymore because there is another piece to this post. The same week that they announced the proposed closing of a library branch, I received my Educational Leadership journal in the mail (yes even though I can get this stuff through the Educators Collection on the Knowledge Ontario Professional databases, I still love the paper copies). The theme of this issue was Poverty and Learning. On the cover sits a young (about 9 or 10) girl with a book. In the journal, there is an article called "Got Books?" written by Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, two professors from the University of Tennessee. Basically, their study concluded that increasing summer reading can prevent low-income children from losing ground during summer vacation. How did they find this out? Well, what they did was provide books to students over the summer - they mailed a new book a week to the child (and asked that they return it when they got back to school in the fall). Neat idea.

What was key to a significant increase in reading achievement? ACCESS TO BOOKS!!! No kidding! Did we need another study for this? Haven't teacher librarians and library researchers like Haycock and Todd been saying this for years. Don't we have numerous studies that connect access to superior book collections in libraries with increased reading scores?
And yet, libraries both in the community and in schools continue to be first on the chopping block. If school system and communities and governments say we value literacy and a literate citizen then why do we keep cutting libraries????

We need to practice what we preach as educators and as citizens. As one California parent put it after they had to fund raise to actually pay the teachers in their school: "Our nation chooses to bail out investment houses rather than insuring our children." Are we headed down the same slope?

Can someone please explain this to me - 'cause I don't get it!

No comments: