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Move afoot to restore librarians

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POSTED July 7, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Mary Buchanan is not a certificated Manteca Unified teacher librarian. But she is working hard to convince district officials “to consider returning the teacher librarian positions to each of the high schools.” Those positions were among the victims of the budget cuts that were made during the Great Recession.

Buchanan is a classified worker in the Manteca High School Library. She said she knows first-hand the importance of a teacher librarian. As a classified employee, she cannot provide the assistance that teacher librarians can provide to students who stand to lose the most in becoming tech savvy, she said.

“Every day, I see students working on myriad projects from research to PowerPoint, creating brochures to creating films using programs like Photo Story. I know first-hand how much of an impact a teacher librarian makes in teaching information skills and incorporating technology into lessons,” Buchanan stated in an email to Don Scholl, president of the Board of Trustees.

Responding to Buchanan’s communication in February, Scholl informed Buchanan that “we are beginning to make strides in bringing things ‘back up to speed’ after the major budget cuts of a few years ago,” he wrote. “As we move toward improving site infrastructure to support technology, expanding student education for varying career options, examining and implementing expanded staffing needs, the Librarian positions are certainly on the radar. That may not be an immediate step but has been, and will continue to be discussed seriously.”

The new budget for school year 2014-2015 that was approved by the board – with a 45-day period for later adjustments in conjunction with the passing of a state budget – only included funding for the “minimum” librarian position required by law, which does not restore the previous staffing of a teacher librarian at each high school.

Superintendent Jason Messer made that comment during the budget discussion.

Reacting to Messer’s comment, Buchanan opined, “Why, in an age of astronomical amounts of information bombarding our students, would the position responsible for teaching information skills be cut to the bare minimum required by law? Don’t we want more for our children than that minimum?”

Buchanan recalled that after the board meeting when she spoke at the podium asking the district officials to restore the teacher librarian positions at the high school libraries, someone commented about her being “passionate about libraries.”

She responded by saying, “Yes, I am. But I am more passionate about giving all children the greatest opportunity to learn and succeed, not just in school but in their lives after school. The skills they learn from a teacher librarian will be used throughout their lives.”

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