The Last Library Meeting: Staff Reductions and Re-assignments

Yesterday was the last early morning library meeting of the year. We drank our coffee and ate our scones while we shared our successes and congratulated the retirees. We commiserated and cried with the library techs who had their hours cut and the teacher librarians who were being re-assigned and sent back to the classroom. Yes, once again, California schools are facing budget cuts. In Napa Valley USD, we have declining enrollment… a double fiscal whammy!

I had hoped I would never write again about losing teacher librarians and cutting staffing to the bone. To be fair, libraries are not the only ones going through this. All our instructional coaches, five administrators, and many classified staff have been re-assigned or have had their positions eliminated.

I know there are many school districts in California who are experiencing the same library cuts. Somehow I don’t hear their stories and I wonder why. Are we ashamed to talk and share our frustrations, our grief, and anger? Do we really feel that it’s our fault that education budgets are always in peril and may become even worse? Do we feel that somehow we didn’t go that extra mile to prevent a layoff or a re-assignment? Well, I am here to tell you that is not the reality. The reality is and always has been the politicization of education and the lack of adequate or stable funding.

And I am angry at the smugness of districts who can’t conceive of not having teacher librarians or full-time clerks. I am angry that there are less than 900 teacher librarians left in this state. And I am angry that the credentialing process to become a teacher librarian is almost cost prohibitive. I am angry that we can’t follow California’s model library standards because we have no staffing. And I am really angry that anyone would assume that we should have been more visible and valuable and, of course, legislated more. And I am angry that on my library watch I somehow failed to keep this from happening. And I  want to scream and yell and tell those who feel safe… We tried the best we could and at times these efforts were herculean, but it didn’t matter. 

When I think about this, I wonder about the collegiality of the school library profession. We are partners and advocates and should support each other during the good times and cheer us on when we are in what seems to be a cycle of bad times. I want to remind all that California is not alone in this… other western states and some in the east are feeling the same pain. So as our colleagues, please commiserate, support and talk to us… our situation may be a wake-up call for all.

Even now we are trying to pick up the pieces and plan for next year. This is a critical time for all our students, and we need to provide as much stability and access to information as possible. Luckily we do have our United We Stand partnership with the county library, but it will be a huge stretch for all. In the midst of our tears, anger, and fear, I believe we will carry on like Delacroix’s Liberty… and lead our students over the barricades of intolerance, bullying, and racism.  

Next month we will give our annual school board report. The statistics on database usage, e-books circulations, and, yes, library stats are impressive. We all know that the following  year they won’t be…


Author: Kate MacMillan

18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

4 replies

  1. My heart goes out to you and to your district, Kate. I remember doing what I thought was everything in my power to stop cuts, still having them happen, and yet, on top of it, feeling like it was somehow my fault. When library stats fall next year, let’s get CSLA and AASL to help yell from the rooftops about the comparison.

  2. Problems in North Carolina as well.

  3. Hi, Jane!
    I was on the CDE committee to update the annual library survey. The current submission rate is about 21%… not a good sign.
    In addition the costs for the credentialing program have soared UC (living at home) is over $27,000 and the cost for the MLIS program at San Jose State is a little over $20,000 (one of re-assigned teacher librarians was in the program). Together this is around a $50,000 tuition price tag for a minimal pay raise and little if any job security.

    I would call this very disturbing

  4. Dear Kate,
    I agree it is sometimes too easy for “haves” to blame the “victims” and for the “haves” to think it cannot happen to them because they provide better programs than those “other” librarians.

    School librarians in Arizona quite literally feel your pain.

    In our state, 2003 was the year districts began eliminating school librarian positions. My second librarian position was cut to half time that year in a district that had to that point two high school librarians in every high school and a school librarian in every middle and elementary school – thanks to the work and advocacy in the 1990s from the national Library Power Project.

    We had high quality programs facilitated by qualified and effective school librarians.

    We had known this was coming and had done our homework. In 2001-2, we had had a bill in the state House to require at least one full-time school librarian in every school. The bill did not make it out of the House Education Committee.

    In 2004, we launched the “No School Left Behind @your library: Campaign to Save Arizona’s School Libraries.” Using southeast Arizona as an example, we highlighted the inequality of school library access between schools in affluent districts and schools on the Arizona-Mexico border. We gathered endorsements from well-respected educators, politicians, and business leaders from around the state. We presented the situation as an economic and social justice issue. We made presentations in our local districts and in Phoenix to members of the legislature; we specifically targeted the Children’s Caucus. But to no avail…

    The legislature continued to slash funding for district public schools and granted more charters (for schools without libraries or librarians). Arizona is currently just one ranking above California for the fewest number of school librarians per student.

    Sources report Arizona teachers’ salaries are at 49th or 50th in the nation. To remedy the lack of qualified teachers willing to work at pathetic wages, Governor Ducey (aka “Little Trump”) just signed a bill allowing ANYONE to teach in Arizona’s K-12 schools – no certification required.

    This is the editorial cartoon in today’s Arizona Daily Star:

    This is not an Arizona or a California problem. With Secretary of Education DuVos at the helm, this is a national crisis. Republican legislatures across the country are emboldened and our students will be the victims. (In California, your Democratic legislature continues to suffer the effects of Prop 103 that cut property taxes in 1988.)

    I know California school librarians who remain in place will continue to offer high-quality programs. I know you won’t give up! I know you will keep speaking up for students, for classroom teachers, for school librarians, and libraries.

    I also know first-hand how easy it is to blame yourself. Please don’t.


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