Thursday, May 19, 2011


This editorial ran in Wednesday’s Waterloo Ontario, Canada Region Record | 

●●smf: Mark Twain said: “First God created idiots, that was for practice. Then he created school boards”.  Apparently the phenomenon is international – as is the desire for politicians to become “The Education [Whatever]”.

18 May, 2011 - Nothing liberates the mind of a young person more than a good library. For this reason, school libraries could be seen as the most important room in the entire school building. The way school libraries operate might be the subject of legitimate debate but there shouldn’t be any doubt that publicly-funded schools in Ontario should have them.

Surprisingly, one school board in the province, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, is dismantling all of its libraries. It has laid off all but four of its library technicians and has started dividing the library books at its elementary schools among individual classrooms.

This decision conforms with a trend uncovered by People for Education, an educational advocacy group. In a survey released this week, People for Education found that while 80 per cent of Ontario elementary schools employed a teacher-librarian a decade ago, only 56 per cent do so today.

That’s a huge drop. And, as a trend, it is unacceptable. A school library is more than just a collection of books — important though that is. It is an information and research centre. A library is a place where students can learn to conduct research and think critically.

The facts contained on a library’s shelves or in its computer data bases mean far more when marshalled with the help of a librarian in a thoughtful, cohesive manner. Then they become a powerful force for learning. They enable students to better understand the world. If anything, schools need the research skills of librarians more now than ever because the internet is filled with facts that have to be analyzed and carefully interpreted.

Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky offered an incredibly weak response to the Windsor board’s decision. She urged parents to demand that the board reconsider the closings.

Many parents probably thought that the education minister is the appropriate person to speak to the board. She’s the person who has more power than anyone to correct a mistake in the school system.

The Windsor board’s problem seems to be both financial and philosophic. Cathy Geml, associate director of the board, said the board is facing a loss of $8 million to $10 million for the next school year because of declining enrolment. But she also said, “We need to work on teaching 21st-century learning skills.” Apparently, the associate director doesn’t realize that librarians have 21st-century skills.

Instead of asking parents to defend school libraries, Dombrowski should ask a ministry official to go to the Windsor board to suggest that it re-evaluate its priorities and trim other costs. Meanwhile, Dombrowski should direct her ministry to conduct a comprehensive review of school libraries across the province to assess the challenges facing them and develop strategies to ensure their future. Strong action may well be needed.

Premier Dalton McGuinty once said he wanted to be known as the education premier. He’ll have trouble holding that position if his government lets more schools close their libraries.

No comments: