Recommendations of the Legislative Special Commission
The MTA believes that all students in Massachusetts deserve access to strong school library programs, and therefore we wholeheartedly endorse the commission’s five major recommendations:
- Improve access to school libraries and school librarians. The commission found that at least one in five schools (20 percent) do not have even one school librarian. DESE data indicates that at least two out of three schools (67 percent) do not have a school librarian. While this data gap calls for further investigation, every public school in the Commonwealth needs at least one school library and a licensed school librarian. Additionally, there should also be mandated librarian-to-student ratios to accommodate larger school populations. To guarantee more equity between districts, we support the commission’s recommendation that legislators introduce and pass legislation mandating a school library and licensed school librarian in every school, with provisions for ensuring funding and compliance in all schools. We also strongly endorse the recommendation to increase access by eliminating the widespread practice of closing libraries during school hours, especially for standardized testing and special events.
- Improve access to information resources in school libraries. Every school needs a library with adequate print and electronic information resources to develop students’ love of reading, curiosity and skills for independent inquiry. School libraries also need adequate infrastructure for students to access these resources.
- Improved access to information technology. As more information resources, instructional tools and creation software move to digital environments, all students need access to internet and digital devices in school libraries.
- Improved access to library instruction and help. All students need access to the best instructional practices in their school libraries. In addition to licensed school librarians, schools should employ at least one library ESP who is responsible for noninstructional tasks, freeing the librarian to focus on instruction and collaboration. As has been the practice in many districts, replacing licensed librarians with ESPs is not only inequitable, it’s unethical. It means that students are not being supervised and instructed by a fully trained and licensed educator while they’re in the library, and it also exploits lower-paid ESP staff members, imposing on them many of the responsibilities of a licensed educator without commensurate pay, support and professional development.
- Improved access to funding. Guidelines for budget allocation and expenditure to support the commission’s recommendations are needed. We also need to establish compensatory guidelines for school library budget allocation that are equitable and account for school libraries in underfunded districts and schools.
The commission looks forward to seeing the Legislature adopt these recommendations and collaborate with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the DESE to ensure that every student in our public schools has access to an effective school library.