Maybe the Play's the Thing

American Libraries, June-July 2010 | Go to article overview

Maybe the Play's the Thing


For millions of American schoolchildren, National Library Week wasn't quite the celebration that librarians wanted it to be. That's because the viability of properly staffed school libraries, whose direct impact on increased academic success has been documented ad nauseam for decades, was under attack like never before.

In a particularly poignant NLW celebration, students at the Monroe County (Ind.) Community Schools' Templeton Elementary School presented a student play April 15 entitled The Case of the Missing Librarian, a fairy tale mashup without much of a happy ending. The play was inspired by the news that Templeton's real-life school librarian, Laura Hall, would be reassigned to the classroom at the end of this school year due to budget cuts (as will all but one librarian respectively in the elementary- and middle-school programs). On stage, the kids lose their voices until they decide to march on Indianapolis to protest.

Can you hear us now?

Perhaps the stage director should provide the student actors with a megaphone prop for that simulated march. It might come in handy offstage as well, since decision makers in manyparts of the nation continue missing the good news with which advocates deluge them about the return on investment that school libraries yield in abundance.

That's not to say that there aren't fiscal crises to avert across the country as the economy struggles to regain its footing; understandably, budget-makers are looking to cut corners wherever they can. However, as the powers that be turn repeatedly to the budget lines for school librarians in their search for expendable noninstructional services, one can't help but wonder if they lacked mentoring by credentialed school librarians in their own childhoods. How else to explain why the reams of data about the enormously positive impact of school libraries on student achievement fail to sway them?

Hoping that a picture was worth a thousand words, Shonda Brisco, curriculum materials librarian at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, customized a Google map of the U.S. that showed as of late March how close to decimation school library programs were nationwide, and by default, the education of a generation of Americans. …

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