LAUSD librarians, fighting for their jobs, get a grilling
Chris Jackson/Getty Images- Members of the group known as the Librarians perform on the streets of Hay on Wye during the Hay Literary Festival.
The Los Angles Unified School District (LAUSD) is facing major budget cuts and as a result, layoff notices abound. But an argument could be made that no one has had to fight harder to keep their jobs than 85 school librarians. Librarians may not be the type you’d expect to have to go toe-toe to with heavy hitting LAUSD lawyers to keep their jobs, but in a downtown basement last week, librarian after librarian took the hot seat to do just that. LAUSD wants to get rid of the librarians, but if the librarians can prove that they have taught classes in the library within the last five-years, they will be eligible to be transferred to teach in the classroom and remain on payroll. So the showdown over whether there was any teaching going on between the four walls and all those books ensued. LAUSD lawyers asked questions like “Do you take attendance?” and “Do you issue grades?” The librarians countered with statements like, “I teach all subjects, all day. In the library.” While the librarians fight for their jobs one thing remains unclear, what will happen to the library without the custodians of all those books? Will self-serve kiosks be able to replace the expert advice and the stern “Shhh! Use your inside voice!” we’ve come to expect and rely on at the library?
Hector Tobar, columnist, Los Angeles Times; author of the column “The Disgraceful Interrogation of L.A.
Roza Besser, teacher-librarian, Portola Middle School
John Hamrick, teacher-librarian, Fulton College Prep in Van Nuys
I am a teacher librarian and what is making me the most upset is the prospect that my children--ages 5 and 7--may NEVER be assigned research projects. Teachers can't/don't assign projects when students don't have equitable access to relevant, age appropriate resources. Only school libraries can provide these. Also,school librarians provide instruction and collaborate with teachers to help students use those resources--from instruction on the resources, to note-taking, planning and more. How can LAUSD claim to be preparing students for college and the 21st century?
The issue as I understand it is whether the librarians should be permitted to bump out current classroom teachers, even if they have not been in the classroom for five years. (Teaching strategies can change a lot in five years.) Plus, librarians will have re-employment rights and will not likely remain in the classroom for long. Shouldn't we consider the disruption and impact on kids?
One of the central goals in education is getting our kids into the library. The idea of sending skilled librarians back to the classroom sends absolutely the wrong message. In effect it says the libraries are expendable in the scheme of education.
Granted LAUSD is experiencing a financial shortfall, but I don't think I've every heard the idea of taking five and six figure administrative positions and putting THEM back in the classroom to save money.
It feels as though the educational industrial complex, i.e. the deep strata of administration at LAUSD, is desperately searching for a way to justify their own positions. So if school librarians are fair game, let's see some of our gifted administrators get back in the classroom as well. But naturally they'll have to be tried before a board of inquisition first to ascertain their true worth.
J.D. in Los Angeles
I am a lawyer who handled a RIF hearing last year. In your tease, you refer to an "interrogation" and I wanted to explain that the hearing is required under the Education Code. Employees who demand a hearing are allowed to testify as witnesses. Attorneys must "cross examine" the witnesses to show district compliance with the law. It is an uncomfortable process for all involved and one that cannot not consider performance. Don't blame the lawyers, blame the lawmakers!
typo above - should read "cannot consider performance."
1 hour, 20 minutes ago
Why are female-dominated unions under attack? Now it's the librarians. Why isn't the public outraged about the fat deal the prison guards just got? As far as I can see, all that deal is doing is "raising eyebrows." This society cares dearly about punishment but not one whit about education and literacy.
I agree that the treatment of LAUSD librarians is a travesty, but Hector Tobar's column and the reporting surroundin the situation miss the most important point: The high school students of LAUSD will have no librarians and no professionally-managed school libraries to prepare them for college. As an academic librarian, I assure your listeners that elimination of school librarians will dramatically reduce to number LAUSD students prepared to find and use the sophisticated information resources they will be required to use in college. Whether the librarians are able to move into the classroom or not, the libraries will be unstaffed and silent. Public libraries do not take the place of school libraries and the library instruction that school librarians provide. The reference and instruction librarians here at LMU can tell immediately which students arrive as freshmen from schools with skilled and active school librarians and those who do not. To relegate every graduate of a LAUSD high school to the latter category is a unconscionable.
Dean of the Library
Loyola Marymount University
Librarians must HATE the internet. Free resources and up-to-date references with NO unions or salaries to pay!
I wish Wikipedia and smart phones were around when I was in school.
michael from Orange
Sounds like a dog eat dog world in our education systems these days. I agree with John Mccormick it is the overpaid administrators who ought to be sacrificed instead of the librarians.
Teacher Librarians LOVE the Internet. We love the resources that are now available to so many more than ever before. We love that students can all go to the same electronic resource (ebooks, databases, subscription services, the World Wide Web, etc...) at the same time to get the same information, rather than fight over the maybe five books on each topic we may have in the library (courtesy of the serious lack of funding resources provided to purchase new materials).
But if you think Wikipedia is the end all be all of Internet resources then you seriously need to visit a school library with a fully qualified Teacher Librarian on staff. Maybe you should also pay a visit to http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/72347/july-31-2006/the-word---wikiality and then read about what happened after this was broadcast.
Teacher Librarians aren't all about the physical book in the physical library. We teach HOW to find resources online, HOW to determine what information is legitimate, HOW to determine which sources have quality information, HOW to take that information, analyze it, evaluate it, and synthesize it for them to use for their assignments and for later needs in life.
Google isn't everything and Teacher Librarians TEACH that.
Why all the attention on librarians? Throughout the state, teachers, nurses, counselors, APs, custodian, food service workers - everyone in public education -- is being affected by disastrous cuts. And if the layoff process is so offensive to them, why don't they ask CTA to stop opposing reform?