The [sad] State of NJ School Libraries

November 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm 12 comments

by April Bunn

Is this some kind of nightmare? No, it’s really happening.

Our state is broke and they’re coming down hard on everyone, especially education to help make up much of the 2 billion dollar deficit. Our relationship with the state government is so bad that even our acting Commissioner of Education Rochelle Hendricks decided not to address teachers at last week’s NJEA convention, as has been tradition for years.

In my post a few months ago, I talked about the recent change of our title  back to School Librarian.  To quote myself, and where I was at the time, “I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.”

The war against NJ Govt.

Now it’s early November and the budget cuts were beyond devastating

to schools and school libraries. Entire districts, like Woodbridge, lost their librarians.

It’s estimated that hundreds of positions were lost. My little one school district lost its librarian too. Yes, as a result of the mid-March enormous state aid cuts, my Board was put in the position of cutting almost $500,000  and my position and program were included in those cuts (along with teachers, a secretary, all the lunch aides and part of our basic skills program). Note: I still have a job because in addition to my School Librarian certification, I also have an Elementary Teacher certificate. So, I’ve transitioned to the 2nd grade classroom of one of my colleagues who was let go.

Our library program was strong and popular. Some of the current Board members had been active volunteers through the years.

Just some of the programs that will be lost with this decision:

A Weekly Book Club, held at lunchtime

Poetry Cafe
Recess Library Assistants in 4th-6th grade
Bookmark Contest
Reading Contest
Six Flags Reading Club
Collaborative projects with tech, art, and language arts on subjects such as: endangered animals and alternative energy

Recess quiet reading/study area

Student book reviews
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race tracking
Award-winning books gallery

Reader’s advisory for emerging and reluctant readers up to voracious YA readers

Visits to the public library to promote membership and familiarity

What will happen to these libraries? In my school, classroom teachers are responsible for taking their classes to the library and allowing students to pick books. Parents in my community are volunteering to come and help with book re-shelving.  While I’m always grateful for parent volunteers, they cannot replace a certified librarian. It’s a disgrace. The students will lose out in so many ways.

Pat Massey, past- President of NJASL, testified to Chairman Louis D. Greenwald and Members of the Assembly Budget Committee on March 25th, arguing that students need resource-rich school libraries that are staffed by state certified school librarians. The transcript can be found here.

I am sad and mostly angry at what happened here. To put salt in the wound, I am now Vice President of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) and am not even be doing the job while serving my term! I’ll work to advocate for the recall of these positions, but according my administration, we’re in this situation for a minimum of 4 years.

The outlook is bleak

I just saw a posting from a library school student on the YALSA listserv looking for a place to do her practicum in northern New Jersey and she is struggling to find a program that is still afloat. What does this mean for our award-winning MLIS/MLS programs that are producing excellent school librarians?

These budget cuts are far-reaching into the future of education. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is fighting the cuts in education, and local teacher associations are rallying to get the public’s support. Barbara Keshishian, president of the NJEA, the state’s 200,000-member teachers’ union, said in a statement that the proposed budget “is a disaster for public school children and for older students who want to further their education beyond high school … Gov. Christie is slashing education in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.”

Working hard and advocating for our jobs is the most important thing we can do right now.

Keep advocating. Don’t give up. Tell your towns that cutting school libraries (and public libraries) is not an option.

Keep the faith that we’ll wake up and find out that this was all a bad dream.


Entry filed under: AASL, advocacy, Education, Future of Libraries, Libraries, New Jersey Libraries, School Librarians, School Libraries, Teaching and Instruction, Uncategorized. Tags: .

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  • 1. Cathy Jo Nelson  |  November 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    This nightmare is becoming a rude reality in many places, not just NJ. SC is already preparing us for a possible five additional furlough days next year for all educators (double that for admin–and My husband is an admin) and the possibility that many will be losing their jobs. You are right– ADVOCACY is critical right now. We must not only advocate for our jobs, but work endlessly to show that we are indispensable.

    • 2. April Bunn  |  November 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm

      Wow, Cathy, that doesn’t sound good. Our collective bargaining agreements don’t allow for them to force furloughs, but I wouldn’t be shocked if in the future, as our contracts expire, we are forced to do something like that.
      Many of our librarians are serving up to 3 schools and closing their libraries on the days when they are not there.
      One bit of hope I heard the other day- a school librarian just got her job back after there was such an uproar that the library was closed. She is serving 2 schools, but has a job.
      Good Luck fighting the fight!

  • 3. Cynthia  |  November 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Nearly every person says that education is incredibly important to them, yet they are electing candidates who want to cut taxes. When you cut taxes, you cut funding. Less revenue means less services available, all services.

    America needs to better understand who they are electing and what exactly is their plan for our schools, our libraries and the variety of public institutions that enrich and educate us all. Fear and negative sound bites are not platforms and plans.

  • 4. Beth Linenberg  |  November 11, 2010 at 6:59 am

    April – Michigan is also in crisis regarding deep budget cuts in education and our district’s media specialists who provided a broad range of student-based opportunities are now back in classrooms and every building is feeling their loss. I don’t think that I had any specific training in my education to prepare me to be a librarian, but I know that I enjoyed working with librarians to enrich my curriculum and instruction for students. We have approx. 11,000 students in our district and one person that oversees all building libraries – she basically tries to trouble-shoot now and helps with iordering books and supplies for each building. Lots of tears and frustration here in the Mitten State…

  • 5. School Libraries: Endangered Species? « Agnostic, Maybe  |  November 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    […] librarian-teacher’s account of going from the library back to the classroom due to cuts over at Library Garden. It’s this really horrendous paradox in which we demand better academic achievement from students […]

  • 6. i n f o d o n » November 11th  |  November 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    […] Shared The [sad] State of NJ School Libraries « Library Garden. […]

  • 7. Jill  |  November 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    “What does this mean for our award-winning MLIS/MLS programs that are producing excellent school librarians?”

    Funny that this is exactly the time that the only library school in NJ has decided to abandon the ‘library’ moniker…and all semblance of common sense (and common decency). It would be very interesting to find out exactly how much this school relies on tuition money from school librarians to fund the programs it appears to be more proud of, like ‘communication studies’ (I’m thinking quite a lot). Without a strong market (or the perception of same) for school library graduates, would the school be in financial trouble? One would certainly hope so. Poetic justice indeed!

    (I sign my name proudly to this. Someday the amount of bullying going on that school is going to be made public, and then I think there’s going to be a lot of apologizing going on…)

  • 8. john  |  November 16, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    First off it is not for ever it is until the state gets its act together so stop complaining, you like these programs then you pay for them. People have become SO decieved that they are entitle to ther peoples money that the think that they are owed the wonderful programs that they have had. Please either pay more to the state or take the control out of their hands and do ithe p[rogram right , if you say but I don’t have the money ,, then realize NEITHER DOES THE GOVERNMENT!

  • 9. Pam  |  November 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Living in California this has been a problem for such a long time. I actually go in twice a week at my daughter’s school and volunteer in the library letting classes come in and check out books and shelve what has been brought back. It is such a sad state as parent volunteers isn’t what is needed. I have absolutely no training and my best just probably isn’t good enough.

  • 10. Tamara  |  December 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

    It’s happening here in Indiana as well. The Governor frequently mentions the need to stop the Indiana “Brain Drain” and then proceeds to cut school and library funding to the bones. One school district that I know of has closed all their elementary and middle school libraries. I don’t know what the solution is.

  • 11. 2010: NJ School Libraries Around the Web | NJASL Blog  |  January 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    […] The Sad State of School Libraries – NJASL Vice-President April Bunn voiced her opinion on the outlook of school libraries in New Jersey. […]

  • 12. Online Library  |  May 20, 2011 at 1:36 am

    You did the right thing Cathy. Bunn said that many librarians are serving 3 or more schools and close the libraries at that time when they are not there. After finish that agreement what is the our position. Cathy, you need to fight.


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