Media specialists are vital to our schools
"What a community thinks about its library is a measure of how it feels about education." I don't know who to attribute this quote to, or if I've stated it verbatim, but it says what I want to say.
As a retired school librarian/media specialist in Minnesota for 27 years, I firmly believe that the suggestion to cut the media specialists in our schools would be the biggest mistake a school board could ever make.
The media center should be the hub of every school, the place to turn to when the information is not found elsewhere, or when research is necessary. I was the only media specialist in the elementary schools of my district in northern Minnesota. The paraprofessionals needed training; they admitted they didn't know the nuts and bolts of managing a library. They were valuable to the management of the media center, but they did not have the training and continuing education required of media specialists that enabled the media center to stay abreast of trends and regulations.
Media specialists are exactly that, specialists with expertise often not held by other professional staff. In Minnesota, media specialists are still required to have teaching degrees. That is why I obtained certification as both a teacher and a media specialist.
Paraprofessionals are not trained teachers, and as such should not be the only people managing the students and their needs. If we value education then we must place equal, if not greater, value on our district's media centers, or they will languish.
We have a fine public library, but we shouldn't place the additional burden on their staff or materials to pick up the slack, and not all students are able to get to the public library for any of a number of reasons. If cuts to the media centers are necessary, there are ways to lower expenses without eliminating the media specialists.
Perhaps a moratorium on new materials for a year could be made or one media specialist could be dropped.
Terry Throndson's point of view that administrative cuts could be made is a better idea to follow, since the tasks can be spread among those remaining, even if this is not as efficient. This happens often in many areas of society when workers retire and are not replaced, and it could happen in the schools, too.
I would also suggest that while extra-curricular activities are also important, those that are too expensive for the district to maintain be considered for elimination or additional fees. I would love it if the budget didn't have to be cut. But I am also realistic, and I know that cuts are inevitable.
Please consider that the media center should be viewed as a vital part of any school environment and deserves the attention of media center professionals.