by Dorcas Hand
Certified School Librarians in Texas are certified teachers with at least two years full-time classroom teaching experience PLUS coursework in library science PLUS a Masters Degree.
In Houston ISD, personnel with all this additional training are paid the same as any classroom teacher making the expertise held by the campus librarian a bargain!
HISD has just hired a new Superintendent. We at Students Need Libraries in HISD welcome Millard House. He comes from Clarksville-Montgomery County School Systems in Tennessee, where every school has a certified librarian. Consequently, we have high expectations that he will work to offer students across HISD the EQUITY of a school library that is fully funded, holds a diverse collection of materials appropriate to the student population, and is staffed full-time by a certified librarian. HISD Library Services stands at the ready to support him in making this change.
YOU who read this blog post hold the responsibility as members of the Houston ISD community to speak out for equity for all our students. HISD Literacy rates are much lower than they should be, and inconsistent across the district in part because students have not had reliable access to school libraries that support the students’ own reading interests with awareness of their skill levels and abilities. Together, we can change what has been into what can be.
Welcome to HISD. We represent a grassroots group of community members, parents, and other advocates who want to see a dynamic library in every school. We have a website (Students Need Libraries in HISD) that provides information about HISD libraries in particular and school libraries in general. As a new Superintendent, here’s what you need to about HISD libraries:
(1) Numbers: As of mid-July, there are only 55 certified librarians in a school district of over 280 schools. Too many schools have no library at all, but most schools have clerks or teachers assigned to manage the library. Although these individuals have been trained to circulate books, most of those assigned to the library cannot provide the instructional services (book selection, teaching research skills, etc.) required. The perception among those who might apply is that a library position in HISD is insecure. We have lost many good librarians to other school districts as a result. Five out of the ten librarians who were selected as Librarian of the Year in the past decade have left the district to work as a librarian in outlying districts. Here is the link to library staffing data in recent years: http://www.studentsneedlibrariesinhisd.org/library-staffing-overview.html
(2) Site-based Management: Principals have the final determination as to whether the library is open or closed and whether to hire a librarian, a teacher or a clerk to staff the library. In general, many principals are not aware of the benefits of a strong library program and do not realize the librarian’s impact on student achievement for all students. When principals attend the district’s budgeting sessions, they are likely to be told they cannot afford a librarian.
(3) Board Policy: Reading the board policies, the district clearly has a commitment to providing library services to all students. The problem is that these policies are not being enforced or considered when staffing libraries or making decisions that affect students’ access to libraries.
(4) Department of Library Services: This department is the district’s expert on staff in the management of existing libraries and the design of new libraries. For many years, HISD Library Services was part of the School Support team which was a good fit for this department as libraries provide ongoing academic support to both students and teachers. For the past ten years, Library Services has been under the Curriculum department which has not been a good fit. Currently, the department is under the purview of Elementary Curriculum, ignoring the fact that libraries serve schools PreK-12. Under Curriculum department management, there have been numerous cutbacks in staffing and budget.
(5) Equity: Ultimately, the strongest argument for the restoration of the library program in HISD is equity. There are some communities in HISD which have never failed to staff their libraries. There are too many communities - whole feeder patterns - where the books on the library shelves have disappeared or the collections have been allowed to stagnate locked in time. A return to centralized budgeting for all libraries would benefit student success.
Conclusion: School libraries and certified librarians offer a strong toolkit to support improved literacy scores across the district. Investment in libraries is a long-term effort with benefits for all HISD students in test scores and graduation rates. The ESSER funds already requested by Library Services offer a huge opportunity to rebuild the campus library collections and develop plans to support increased staffing over a few years.
We look forward to seeing what your new leadership will bring to HISD. We know that your libraries in Clarksville-Montgomery were all fully staffed with certified librarians. We urge you to take this opportunity to recommit to the idea that all HISD schools have access to library programs as well. You have our support in this effort.
Library Advocate/ volunteer
Eliminating school libraries and librarians deprive students of diverse and equitable opportunities to learn the essential college and career skills necessary to be successful.
ARTICLES about School Libraries with Certified School Librarians
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.