by Debbie Hall
In the late 50’s and 60’s, school libraries staffed with certified librarians were found only in HISD’s secondary schools. The Director of Library Services, Elenora Alexander, proposed that elementary schools also needed library services and consequently a plan was made to add libraries across the district. Staffed libraries providing needed services to staff and students was the norm for over forty years across the district. In the past 10-15 years, this standard has deteriorated, and new schools at all levels are being built without any library. Currently only approximately 63 librarians serve in libraries in the 276 schools within the district. A larger number of schools staff their libraries with teachers or clerks. In the Fall of 2020, we have identified 85 schools that are not providing library services due to vacancies or simply not having a library. That number represents 31% of the district’s schools who offer no library program to their students or support to their staff.
This brings us to these questions about the current state of school libraries:
Here is what the HISD policy manual (https://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Search/592?filter=library ) states regarding libraries:
The Superintendent or designee shall develop rules, regulations, and procedures to ensure the
systematic maintenance of libraries as current resources for teachers and students. Principals shall
ensure the effective use of the libraries within schools and shall establish library hours, staffing,
and procedures that best serve the needs of the students. (EFB Local 2012)
Library media centers for each school shall be equipped with resources for reading, viewing, and
listening to enhance the regular instructional program and shall be staffed with certified
learning resources specialists in accordance with approved staffing guidelines. (EFB Local 2012)
Adequate funding for library media programs shall be made through the annual budget. Funds
for the purchase of library materials shall be allocated on an equitable basis to the various schools.
(EFB Local 2012)
The reading of HISD policy clearly demonstrates that the Superintendent and Principals have failed to provide the leadership in maintaining libraries as outlined by district policy. They need to be held accountable for failing to provide the resources that all students deserve. This is an equity issue: every HISD student deserves access to a fully funded library staffed by a certified librarian.
by Dorcas Hand
HISD administration is working to decide how to spend the ARP/ESSER funds. That’s the federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, more than $800 million coming directly to Houston ISD. During the week of May 17-21, a survey was open to the public on how that money should be spent. It is a three-year windfall, which means the district needs to spend it in ways that have staying power.
The survey, linked here in PDF, covered lots of potential topics - including Library Services. Yes, Library Services were directly listed. And SNL Speaks Out readers know that we consistently push the idea that school libraries improve student success at school, and we know that libraries do not exist on every HISD campus. How might libraries help in many areas the survey addresses? What are useful ways to invest this one time funding in HISD libraries?
Besides libraries, the survey includes
Now, let’s consider areas that library services can impact positively.
HISD currently has 62 libraries staffed with certified librarians. It is unclear what budget those librarians have for library materials, but all funding is campus based. Yes, there are another 79 libraries staffed by teachers - again with uncertain budgets. There are 274 HISD schools served by Library Services but only 141 (62+79) have library services staffed by trained personnel; 48 have clerks; 43 are vacant; and 41 have no library at all [All data from the same link]. Given that school libraries could positively impact almost all the categories addressed by the HISD Survey, HISD should invest in its libraries so that more campuses have the advantage of library services.
How might the district leverage this one time funding to phase in libraries for every student?
This blog is primarily authored by Debbie Hall and Dorcas Hand, but guest authors are welcome. If you have an idea to share, please contact our email below. Debbie is a retired HISD librarian and Library Services Specialist. Dorcas is a retired school librarian who remains active in AASL/ALA. Both support increased equity in school library access and support for all HISD students and campuses.