Deeply concerned

Dear Mike:
I am deeply concerned and disappointed about a recent decision by the administration at Fort Frances High School to quietly eliminate the teacher-librarian position for the 2013-14 school year.
Losing the teacher-librarian position will have an immediate, negative impact on student success and literacy performance. Forget the stereotype of the eccentric elderly librarian brooding over a collection of musty old books—today’s teacher-librarians play a critical role in the education of students.
Teacher-librarians are responsible for managing and developing the modern library’s print and digital holdings. Close co-ordination with classroom teachers in every subject is critical to ensuring that appropriate resources are available to support the provincial curriculum and student success.
Their extensive training is unique within the high school and cannot be replicated by a library technician or non-specialist staff.
Teenage literacy rightfully continues to be an area of focus for all schools across the country. Without a teacher-librarian, who will ensure that our high school library has materials that are current, relevant, engaging, and reflect the constantly-changing tastes and abilities of student readers?
Who will take on the role of caring for the literacy needs of the school environment as a whole?
We’re making good progress in improving our local literacy rates—why jeopardize these gains?
The existing library technician at the high school, who already combines circulation desk duties with the task of managing the board’s central library, already is fully occupied. It is the job of the teacher-librarian to help students locate appropriate printed and online research materials, to plan research projects, and to navigate the pitfalls of the Internet.
Our teenagers may be wizards with their smartphones, but a surprising number don’t know how to use a library catalogue or search the Internet effectively and safely.
Teacher-librarians are under assault across North America as boards seek to make ends meet. I worry that this decision is an ill-considered reaction to a yet another short-sighted demand from the board to reduce expenses without properly considering long-term impacts on student success.
And once the teacher-librarian is gone, what’s the likelihood that it will ever be reinstated?
How can the RRDSB justify eliminating this crucial role to the parents and students of our district?
I encourage all citizens, but particularly students and parents, to let the RRDSB know how concerned we are about this potential loss.
Andrew Hallikas
Retired teacher,
Fort Frances, Ont.