Monday, July 25, 2011


by Bob Thorpe | Boulevard Sentinel / Eagle Rock-Northeast Los Angeles News |


   July 2011 - The above picture is of the protest held June 14, 2011 at the LAUSD offices downtown, in support of the libraries impacted by the school board cutbacks. Librarians and Library Aides (librarians who do not hold teaching credentials) are being eliminated from many of the Los Angeles Unified School District Elementary Schools. In the wake of the budget crisis, children are being left with little or no access to books they need, and schools are forced to cancel many important programs that introduce children to books and help them to learn to read aloud.

    What this has meant for our local schools included temporarily shuttering the library at Mount Washington Elementary, reducing the hours at Delevan to three hours a day, and staffing other schools with volunteers, which is actually illegal. One school alone suffered the loss of over 600 books because volunteers and untrained staff lost track of who had the books – they weren't stolen, they are just missing, and worth $18,000.00.

    The problem started last November, when the Library Aides first were given notice that their positions were being eliminated or that their hours were being cut. But first, a bit of background on what Librarians do. Librarians, unlike teachers, are with the students throughout their entire time in Elementary School. They get to know of special needs, and can recommend stories that help children through life events such as parental divorce, birth of siblings, and transition from childhood to adolescence. The Library serves as a safe haven for victims of bullying, and a place of peace and quiet for children who have far too much turmoil in their lives.

    Librarians put together special programs such as book fairs, holiday readings, the celebration of Dr. Seuss' Birthday (also known as Read Across America, when adult volunteers read aloud to the children) and they are responsible for making appropriate books available for the program tracks in "No Child Left Behind". Innovative programs such as "Reading with Rover" where volunteer therapy dogs are read to for 15 minute sessions by second through fifth graders who are otherwise unable to read aloud, are impossible to implement without the help of librarians.-

    Although each classroom may have a small subset of books appropriate for the grade level, the books required for students below or above grade level in reading skills are to be found in the library.

    Many schools saw the value in keeping their library aides and made funding available from the local school budget. But due to seniority issues, and a misguided attempt by LAUSD to fund a 3 hour position at every school, the schools lost the aide they were trying to keep, and the aides found themselves with extended commutes to new schools but with half the salary to pay for the transportation.     As a result, the position Delevan paid for was filled by a Library Aide from Heliotrope Elementary in Maywood, the Librarian at Mount Washington Elementary was sent to Trinity Street School in the southeast part of Downtown Los Angeles, and the Mount Washington library was temporarily closed. In all, about 150 Library aides were let go.

    What the LAUSD board hasn't figured out yet is that even if they centrally fund a 3 hour position at each school, that amounts to a 50% pay cut for each librarian, a basis change of negative 17% because they are no longer considered full time, and loss of benefits with furlough days added as the cherry on top. No working person in any discipline can survive that drastic a change.

    The Librarians need your help, so that they can continue to help our children. The district, in its current contract negotiation is offering to "restore" (their word for fund) 520 Library Aides for 3 hours each. There are over 534 Elementary Schools plus 17 Special Ed Schools, so the proposal doesn't even cover the full number of schools. At present, NO library aide or librarian positions are centrally funded.

    Please let the LAUSD Board and Superintendent Dr. John Deasy know that we need our school libraries open. He can be reached at: Los Angeles Unified School District, Office of the Superintendent, 333 S. Beaudry Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90017. Let him know that we need full time positions to eliminate the random shuffling of staff due to seniority. Let him know that for all their paid and volunteer hours (and librarians devote countless hours of their personal time to their libraries) they deserve a living wage.

    Let LAUSD know NOW, while there is still time to include these vital staff positions in the budget, because without open libraries, all the books and computers on order for the next school year will be of no use to our children.

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