Media Centers Cede Space to California School Reformers
Goldberg, Beverly, American Libraries
Well-intentioned California legislation designed to create extra classroom space has resulted in the unintended exile of school libraries from their quarters across the state. Enacted July 15, the Class Size Reduction Act pays participating schools up to $650 extra per K-4 student reassigned to a classroom where the student-to-teacher ratio is 20-1 or less.
Ironically, the incentive specifically exempts space occupied by school libraries from being pressed into service for classroom use, California School Librarians Association President Susan Choi told American Libraries. But, she added, "to get the incentive funds, schools must have the program in place by February 1997," so enthusiastic principals in search of usable space have evicted media centers as well as computer labs and art and music programs.
Reports received by Choi and California Department of Education School Library Consultant Barbara Jeffus indicate that media centers have either closed or now share space with classrooms in the Pasadena, Albany, Chico, Petaluma, Santa Barbara, Santee, Sonoma County, San Juan, and Compton school systems. Collections have been boxed up, curtained off, and placed on carts to serve as "mobile libraries" in classrooms as well as auditoriums, cafeterias, hallways, and other common areas.
Proud to work for one of the "highest-implementing" districts in the state, San Juan Unified School District Public Relations Director Christie Olsen told AL that her district has reduced class size for grades 1-2 in all 52 elementary schools and for grade 3 in 47. Acknowledging that "a few schools used the library space," Olsen said that a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators decided that library workers could "adequately" provide bibliographic instruction and story times via classroom visits. She also contends that children now get more access to materials via field trips to the public library as well as through "free browsing on carts. …