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ALA: Department of Education withdraws federal support for school libraries

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program was zeroed out under the Department of Education’s allocation for FY2011 funding, released today.

Improving Literacy Through School Libraries is the only federal program solely for our nation’s school libraries. This program supports local education agencies in improving reading achievement by providing students with increased access to up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school libraries; and professionally certified school librarians.

“This decision shows that school libraries have been abandoned by President Obama and the Department of Education ,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, said.

“The Department has withdrawn funding for numerous successful literacy programs in order to launch new initiatives to bolster science, technology, engineering, and math education. Apparently, what the Department of Education fails to realize is that the literacy and research skills students develop through an effective school library program are the very building blocks of STEM education. Withdrawing support from this crucial area of education is an astounding misstep by an Administration that purports to be a champion of education reform.”

Nancy Everhart, president of the ALA’s Association of School Librarians (AASL), said school library programs provide students with the skills they need to select, interpret, form and communicate ideas in compelling ways with emerging technologies, preparing students for the demands of a global, competitive economy, and a 21st century workplace.

“Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that students in schools with strong school library programs learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized tests even when differences in socioeconomic factors are taken into consideration,” Everhart said.

“School libraries are there for every child. They are the great equalizers of society and by making this cut, it’s taking away the opportunity for all children to excel in every area of education, especially science and math. The school library has traditionally been the place where low-income students gain access to the resources and learning experiences that make STEM subjects relevant and rich.”

The ALA calls on Congress to include a dedicated funding stream for school libraries in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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One Comment

  1. Caitlin Caitlin

    I feel I gained research skills in spite of, not because of, my school system. And that was a decade ago. We had an up-to-date library with dedicated certified librarians, but no classes that ever brought us to the library or gave us time to use it. I was in my high school library probably 5 times during the 4 years I was there, and I became a librarian. If kids like me can’t figure out a way to use the library, how can others? What I’m saying is, the libraries were not the problem. Cutting the funding to them is not the answer. Making goals and objectives of actually using the library in class work is the answer.

    I did not learn how to use a library until I was actually in a Library Science masters program. All of a sudden, I discovered all of the things I was missing that would have made hundreds of my research papers easier. I have no idea how I finished high school or college, looking back. I eked by on whatever articles I could find regardless of how helpful they were. I’m so disappointed in the lack of cooperation schools show in using their libraries. I would have given anything to figure this crap out earlier.

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