Friday, March 5, 2010
Why Closing School Libraries is a Really Bad Idea
I found out yesterday that our school district had voted to lay off all library personnel, effectively closing all elementary school libraries indefinitely. As a parent of school-aged children living in California in 2010, I had thought this was impossible. Yes, money is tight and something had to go. I suppose I'd rather see the libraries shut than having the wonderful music program canceled. But the reverberations are going to be massive.
My kids will be fine. Because of what I do, I buy a ridiculous amount of books and we go to our fairly new, very well stocked local library often. My kids had books as toys before they discovered XBox or skateboards and both of them are wonderful readers. It is the other kids that are going to suffer, and if they suffer we all suffer.
We live in an incredibly socially and economically diverse area. Kids whose parents drop them off in a Jag sit next to kids who come to school for their only nutritional meal of the day. It is the kids whose parents didn't grow up surrounded by books, who don't have internet access in their house, whose family doesn't own a car and doesn't feel comfortable going to the town library who are going to lose their access to good books. These are the kids for whom that hour spent at the school library every week gives them an opportunity to choose any book they want from the hundreds of tempting titles that line the walls. Who may discover a person or a place that opens up a whole new world for them. Who may discover a love of reading that will take them to new heights as teens and adults. And now the doors will be locked, the books will go dusty and new titles won't be added.
Okay, that's a little dramatic. Truth be told, my elementary school is lucky to have a really active PTA and I'm hoping they will step up to fill the gap. I've already signed up to volunteer as many hours as I can spare helping in the library. We'll come up with fundraisers to pay the librarian's salary, at least for the next year. But we are the lucky ones. This won't happen in the other seven elementary schools in the district, who don't have the luxury of so much parent participation.
The irony wasn't lost on me as I read a great article about the Botswana Book Project last night.
A woman named Pam Shelton visited Botswana on vacation and realizing that the kids had no access to books, started a decades-long project to bring books to the kids of that country. One passage from the article really struck me:
Shelton offered to volunteer as a primary school librarian, but she discovered there were no primary school libraries. "I was startled. Then I remembered that when Botswana got its independence from Britain 43 years ago, they started from scratch," Shelton says. Mma Seretse had been praying that the country's primary schools would get libraries. The two women vowed to make it happen. "God made us meet, and we jumped with the same zeal!" Mma Seretse says. "For how can children grow up to be informed citizens if they have no libraries and no books?"
On this date: In 1963, the Hula Hoop was patented.