State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

In PA schools, movement to keep school librarians on the books

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 17, 2014 3:20 PM
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Things may be looking up for school libraries in the commonwealth.

Researchers say school libraries across Pennsylvania are still lacking the proper resources, but staffing levels may be increasing in the next school year.

In 2011, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association did a statewide survey of 78 percent of the school districts in the commonwealth, and found many programs wanting. Subsequent studies tracked changes in staffing levels - because budget cuts made the state Department of Education unable to follow such developments alone.

Mary K. Biagini, associate professor of information science at the University of Pittsburgh, assisted with the surveys. The big drop happened about three years ago with state budget cuts, when about 100 school librarian positions were eliminated.

"What we're beginning to see now as we're looking forward to the 15-16 school year is that more library positions we believe are going to be restored," Biagini said. "There is strong reaction from parents, from community leaders, from students themselves, who have gone to school board meetings and who have testified to the importance of having a strong school library program in their school."

The state's lack of dedicated funding for school libraries is still a problem, Biagini said.

"We export a lot of the librarians who are educated in Pennsylvania to southern states" - Biagini mentioned Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina - "where there's a real acknowledgement that the school librarian does make a difference in student learning."

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