Libraries Crucial to Learning

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK WOODS

We've spent quite a bit of time wringing our hands about how education cuts will affect arts, music and sports.

Lucretia Miller understands these concerns. But she points out something often overlooked: shrinking funds for school libraries.

I know what some of you are thinking. In the Internet age, do we really need a place for kids to learn the Dewey Decimal System? If something will be slashed to 1.5 days per week of certified staffing, why not elementary school libraries?

Pull up one of the chairs to a table in the library at Chaffee Trail Elementary and Miller - the 2008 Duval County Teacher of the Year - will tell you why not.

To start with, she says, her profession is often misunderstood, even by others in the field of education.

She's a school librarian. But the reason her title is "school library media specialist" isn't that it sounds fancier. It's because this isn't a Dewey Decimal world anymore. And school libraries and librarians have changed to reflect that.

At first glance, the library at Chaffee Trail doesn't look much different from what I grew up with. There are shelves of books, even a set of good ol'-fashioned encyclopedias. But today's library also includes databases, Web resources, electronic reference materials, etc.

Not that books don't still play a very important role in what goes on here.

On this day, on each table there is a small pile of books about the body. They are part of a project fourth-graders are working on. …