ABQLA Response to the Proposed Cut of Librarians at the Lester B. Pearson School Board
June 10, 2015
"We must all make the effort to ensure that our schools have the resources to provide the print and electronic sources, the technology, and the professional library staff to give all of our children the skills and the tools they need to navigate their way in this knowledge society."
-- Roch Carrier, former National Librarian of Canada
L’Association des bibliothécaires du Québec-Quebec Library Association (ABQLA) declares its strong support for the role of qualified library personnel in elementary and secondary schools and deplores the recently announced cuts being made by the Lester B Pearson School Board (LBPSB). Should funding for the 18 librarians at 37 elementary schools be cut, student achievement will suffer.
Last year, new Canadian national school library standards were published by the Canadian Library Association. (Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada) This document, compiled with contributions from provincial committees across the country, recommends the hiring of qualified personnel for school libraries at all levels: “When staffed by qualified professionals trained to collaborate with teachers and engage students meaningfully with information that matters in the real world, school libraries become sophisticated 21st century learning environments that offer equal opportunities for achievement to all students, regardless of the socioeconomic or education levels of the community”. (Leading Learning, p. 6, 2014)
In addition, library-related skills such as formulating questions and identifying appropriate sources of information are becoming a student learning priority at different levels of government. “When provincial, national, or international learning assessments are analyzed, the areas of concern that emerge are frequently library-related, particularly in the realm of information literacy practices” (Oberg, Diane, (2014) Ignoring the Evidence: Another decade of decline for school libraries Education Canada, (54, 1)) By cutting school library positions, Lester B Pearson School Board is demonstrating a disregard for learning priorities and the achievement of its students.
This decision is also contrary to the efforts of the Quebec Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de Recherche to support the increase of library service to students in schools. Since 2004, the Ministère has given 15 million dollars a year to school boards towards the purchasing of additional library resources (both physical and digital) for students and staff. With the cuts to library positions at the LBPSB, there will be no trained personnel in the elementary school libraries to ensure that those resources or spaces are fully maximized, maintained or updated to reflect the changing needs of our information-based society.
LBPSB has stated it intends to replace library staff with parent volunteers. While parent volunteers are to be appreciated, to think that unqualified individuals can replace qualified library personnel is a disregard for the education that they have achieved and the skills they have acquired. Would they replace a teacher with a volunteer?
The ABQLA’s mission is to advocate on behalf of library and information specialists and their institutions. We agree that “learners have a right to expect good school libraries in every school in Canada.” (Leading Learning, 4). While we recognize the Quebec School Boards are experiencing drastic cuts, these cuts cannot be done at the expense of student's learning and reading skills.
The ABQLA recommends that the Lester B. Pearson School Board:
By doing this, the school board can continue to assure its students equitable access to resources and opportunities.
Sonia Smith, on behalf of the ABQLA