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Although students collate information online more frequently than ever, the number of school librarians who can help them learn the basics of research and media literacy is quietly disappearing.

A report released today comes from School Librarian Survey: Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) is a research project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through Seattle Antioch University, highlighting the continued decline in the number of districts with school librarians across the country. According to the survey results, in the 2018-2019 school year, among the 13,000 areas inspected, the number of librarians decreased by about 20% compared to ten years ago. But the absence of these educators is not evenly distributed. Smaller rural areas and areas with higher proportions of English learners, Hispanics, and low-income students are more likely to lack librarians.

“We have learned from our work since 2018 that we have been losing school librarians at an alarming rate for ten years,” said Keith Curry Lan, a library statistics and research assistant of the RSL research group and co-author of the study. (Keith Curry Lance) said. the study. “But everyone will not lose the school librarian, just the person they can’t bear the most.”

The rate of decline in areas with librarians is not a recent change. In fact, the greatest decline occurred in the early 2010s, although the downward trend has remained consistent throughout the decade. As of 2018-2019, about three-tenths of school districts did not even have a librarian.

This trend is in sharp contrast with the changes in other education industries during the same period. Teaching coordinators, school districts, and school administrators have increased significantly over the past decade, and teachers have decreased slightly. No one has ever experienced the continuous loss year after year by school librarians.

Areas with a high proportion of underprivileged students, English learners, and Hispanic students are much less likely to be staffed with librarians. In fact, most Hispanic areas are more than twice as likely to have no librarians than other areas. Most non-white areas are also generally unlikely to hire librarians, although this correlation is not so significant.

It is worth noting that the researchers found that financial resources have nothing to do with the staffing of librarians. They checked the spending levels of each student in different regions and found that those students who spent the least actually had better staffing than some students who spent more.

“When you ask,’Why did you lay off your librarian?’, you will get this explanation in all likelihood. It is’We just can’t afford it. We don’t want to do this, but we just don’t have enough money. ‘” Lance said. “Well, this does not match the expenditure data for each student.”

The study authors also found that as of the 2018-2019 school year, nine out of ten chartered school districts (which may sometimes include a school) do not have librarians.

An important determinant of the school district is the legislative requirement for a certain level of school librarians. Although these policies are not always enforced, enacting laws on books is still related to having a school librarian in at least one school in the area.Have more University courses People who train and give recognition to K-12 teachers in library media are also more likely to hire them in their area, but these programs are declining.

“This is the situation where the chicken comes first and the egg comes first. Because the university does not produce [librarians], The school district said,’I can’t find anyone, so we won’t have a school librarian,'” said Debra E. Katcher, an affiliated faculty member of Seattle Antioch University and another co-author of the study.

A complicating factor in the research is the definition of “librarian”. The SLIDE project analyzed data from the National Education Statistics Center, which used a definition dating back to the 1980s and did not mention computers or the Internet. In addition, the researchers said, some regional leaders are reluctant to use the term “librarian” to describe staff who may serve as librarians because they fear that the term sounds outdated.

“What I like to say is that even if we don’t like thinking, the concept of school librarian becomes blurred,” Lance said.

Ultimately, these findings raise major questions about the future of public school librarians, especially considering the economic recession brought about by the pandemic. The data does not cover the 2019-2020 school year, so the impact of COVID-19 is still difficult to determine. However, financial challenges may further strain the staff budget.

Other areas are facing new cuts in school library staffing. The latest budget in Washington, DC will leave 37 schools without full-time librarians in the upcoming school year.Activists initiated Social media activity Promote the restoration of at least some employees.

However, this new study does provide an important background for understanding the situation before the recent recession. Kachel said that looking ahead, the impact of these losses will increase over time. She discovered that a few years ago, only a small number of areas without librarians had restored any of these educators.

She said: “There are many school administrators who have worked in areas where there are no school librarians.” “When the administrator has never experienced the experience of working with such professionals, why should he add a position?”

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