We just had a provincial election in BC and, one of the issues that was front and centre, was funding cuts to school districts. While cutbacks in my own district were not as drastic as in Bellevue, Washington, they are serious for our school libraries. Starting next fall, there will be no full time teacher librarians in any of the elementary or middle schools in the district and we are losing our district librarian. I wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper in response to a statement of the Minister of Education in BC.
Election: Cuts don't reflect words
Published: Friday, May 08, 2009
In 2005, Premier Gordon Campbell unveiled the Five Great Goals for a Golden Decade. The most important of those goals was that B.C. was to become the best-educated, most literate place in North America.
As a librarian, I certainly applaud such a goal and certainly hope that it does succeed. Later, in a report on public libraries, he stated that: "Our libraries are a great investment in community, learning and literacy. They open doors of opportunity for minds hungry for knowledge and adventure. They are the front lines of the effort to make British Columbia the most literate place in the world."
Another goal I can agree with. On Oct. 1, 2008, BC Education Minister Shirley Bond proclaimed October 2008 as Library Month in British Columbia. She thanked the B.C. Library Trustees' Association, the Public Library Services Branch, the B.C. Library Association, the B.C. Teacher Librarians' Association, as well as all of the library staff and information professionals from across the province for their services.
Considering the importance the government and Ministry of Education put on libraries and their stated goals, I am perplexed by the cutbacks to teacher librarians and school library budgets in B.C.
Teacher librarians are part of the vast network of non-enrolling teachers who offer educational services to students and staff in schools. When budgets need to be cut, teacher librarians, like resource room teachers and other special programs, are the first to feel the cuts in budget and staff.
Langley is not immune to such cutbacks. Some position cuts have already been announced for the next school year. Most importantly, we will be losing our district teacher librarian in Langley. She was a dedicated resource person who has been helping teacher librarians across the district and has guided us through the transition from the stand-alone cataloguing systems in our school libraries to a web-based cataloguing system that will be accessible throughout each school for students and staff.
Sadly, just as we are about to start up our new catalogues next fall, the district has had to eliminate her position, and we find ourselves without a qualified resource person for school libraries. I was part of a group of teacher librarians last month that made a presentation to the school board that was well received. There is recognition of the importance of teacher librarians in the teaching of literacy skills in this district.
But the financial realities are such that Langley School District is put in a position to make cutbacks, like many other districts in the province.
We have an excellent group of teacher librarians working in Langley, some of whom have received national recognition for the work that they have done locally, and yet the district is left with little alternative than to cut positions from a lack of adequate funding.
In B.C., Minister Bond may recite the mantra that the government is funding public education adequately, but in this district, it does not reflect that reality.
Teacher librarians, the literary specialists in Langley schools, are prepared to teach the multiple literacies that are necessary for students in B.C. to be lifelong learners and live in the best-educated, most literate place in North America.
All we need is the right funding from the Ministry of Education in B.C. for our district to support us.
Sadly, they have not been willing to financially commit to their own stated goals for literacy in B.C.
Richard Beaudry, Langley