MIAMI COUNTY — In the past 10 years, the number of librarians, or full-time equivalents, in Ohio public schools has dropped by 43 percent, from 1,628 in the 2004-05 school year to 923 in the 2013-14 year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Dozens of studies point to children with higher reading levels and better overall performance in schools that have full-time, licensed librarians, a position that requires both a master’s degree and a teaching license.
Many school districts are replacing licensed librarians with aides, volunteers or substitute teachers. Those replacements often aren’t qualified to teach subjects such as media literacy and database research, or aren’t licensed to teach at all.
In some districts, the only licensed librarians on staff have to cover several schools a week, spending a few hours at each.
Librarians are usually responsible for teaching classes in digital literacy and research skills, often collaborating with teachers from every grade. As information — a librarian’s bread and butter — moved to the Internet, librarians became the experts in that arena.
However, because of the huge shift of information traveling from hardback books to the Internet, there was formed a misconception that school librarians are not necessary.
This misunderstanding, coupled with shrinking school budgets, is leading districts to cut full-time jobs and close school libraries. The situation is even worse for poorer communities — the same communities that benefit more from increased exposure to librarians.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Eric Herman said the cost of a library for his district was not large and the libraries, as well as the librarians in them, play a significant role in helping students learn.
“The Internet has added to the function of the librarian, especially at the higher levels,” he said. “It does not diminish their need in the school.”
Miami East Schools Superintendent Todd Rappold said the school only has the librarians work in the library, and they do not have other duties such as technology.
“We have computers placed in all of our libraries,” he said. “So we believe librarians still provide a very valuable resource assisting students in locating materials needed to complete papers and projects.”
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Troydailynews.