Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yes! 'Reading Counts' as learning!

Back in the day when I was first studying to be a Librarian, one of my classes was on the history of libraries. I remember learning about Assurbanipal's library in ancient Nineveh, the Alexandrian Library
and the Vatican Library, to name just a few. Civilisations have always had libraries. In ancient times, during warfare, when a city was defeated, to gain it's library was a major coup.

Few could argue that Libraries are not a precious resource. Anne Firor Scott, in her article, writes about women and American libraries, and the sad fact that historians have not paid attention to the part women have played in establishing them. She writes, One great gap in library history is created by the failure of historians, so far, to make a systematic analysis of the part played by women's associations in creating public libraries. Perhaps 75 percent of such libraries were initiated by women's groups, often originally for their own use. Close study of this phenomenon would reveal a good deal about the growth of self-education and adult education as significant aspects of American culture (Scott, 1986).

An article found in the American newspaper, Los Angeles Times, exposes that currently school Librarians in the Unified State District, are being interrogated about their qualifications. The district are seeking to cost-cut their state education, and it looks as if the school libraries are easy targets.

The article written by Hector Tobar, witnesses the Librarian's interrogation:

Sandra Lagasse, for 20 years the librarian at White Middle School in Carson, arrived at the temporary courtroom Wednesday with copies of her lesson plans in Greek word origins and mythology.

On the witness stand, she described tutoring students in geometry and history, including subjects like the Hammurabi Code. Her multi-subject teaching credential was entered into evidence as "Exhibit 515."

Lagasse also described the "Reading Counts" program she runs in the library, in which every student in the school is assessed for reading skills.

"This is not a class, correct?" a school district attorney asked her during cross-examination.

"No," she said. "It is part of a class."

"There is no class at your school called 'Reading Counts'? Correct."


Lagasse endured her time on the stand with quiet dignity and confidence. She described how groups of up to 75 students file into her library — and how she works individually with many students.

The reason why the Librarians are being questioned in this manner, is because all Middle and High school Librarians need to have state teaching credentials. The catch here, however, is that they must have taught students within the last five years.

This article poses many questions. What is learning? Let's just say that you can go into schools and mete out zones where learning can occur. This would mean that within a school, no learning could ever occur on the playground. Or in the cafeteria (tuckshop) line. Or, as in this case, the library. Learning can only take place in classrooms. Personally I have a problem with that.

The other problem I have is the shameful disrespect shown to these Librarians who are qualified. It takes many years to gain a Library qualification and teaching qualification. Most Librarians are Post-graduates, and yet, in this instance, it all stands for nothing.

The reason why I quoted Scott's article earlier, about the role women have played in the history of our libraries, is because the Librarians' whose jobs are currently at risk, are mainly women. On the witness stand, one librarian at a time is summoned to explain why she — the vast majority are women — should be allowed to keep her job.

And I'm going to put this out there. If Libraries were mainly run and staffed by men, would this be happening? Libraries and Teaching seem to be a 'soft' profession. What makes it so? I want you to take a look at this picture.
This is a woman's, mother's and wife's job on the line here.

As someone who is a Librarian, studying to be a teacher, I feel devalued reading an article like this. A culture that values its libraries and schools, and the people who make that happen, is, in my opinion, a very fortunate culture. The final point I want to make is that I am writing about this article from Australia. I became aware of it on Facebook. Social media has played a role in ousting this shameful debacle, the world really is watching.

Anne Firor Scott. The Journal of Library History (1974-1987)Vol. 21, No. 2, Libraries, Books, & Culture II (Spring, 1986), pp. 400-405

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