Please contact the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and ask BESE to reconsider recent changes proposed to Section 1705 of Bulletin 741, Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, concerning school library media centers.

The proposed changes eliminate most of the existing policies about the purpose of a school library, the materials it should provide, the space that should be allocated for the library, the funding of the library and the instructional services the library should provide.

Eight guidelines were replaced with two guidelines and one loophole. The two remaining guidelines state that schools shall provide appropriate resources and learning opportunities beyond the classroom and that secondary schools shall have a library and a number of librarians based upon enrollment.

The loophole troubles me: “This provision shall not apply to schools capable of providing resources and assistance to students through an alternate structure.”

Doesn’t this imply that a school could eliminate its library space, library resources and librarians? Or that new schools could choose not to have a library to begin with? What is BESE’s motivation for this exception? What will this “alternate structure” look like?

Would an “alternate structure” be a virtual library? I hope that “Google” is not acceptable as an “alternate structure.” Librarians select resources that are appropriate for their students. Google does not.

What will the school do for students who don’t have computers or Internet access outside of school? How will the students learn to find and evaluate content? Who will perform the instructional tasks of the librarian?

School librarians must meet certification requirements. They are held to the same standards as classroom teachers. They help children develop a love of reading and independent learning. They teach literacy skills that students need to become successful, contributing members of society.

Does BESE believe that the school librarian can be replaced by a Website?

Is the local public library an acceptable “alternate structure”? The public library’s mission is different from the school library. They serve a different audience and their collections are not dedicated to supporting the school curriculum. Public librarians have different skill sets. The public library is a complement to the school library, not a substitute.

If BESE’s proposal stands, new schools might opt out of housing a library, and existing school libraries could be shuttered. I urge you to ask BESE to reverse the proposed changes.

Please tell BESE how libraries have made a difference for you or your loved ones.

BESE will accept written comments until April 8, at 4:30 p.m. Send your letters to Heather Cope, executive director, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Box 94064, Capitol Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064.

Carla Clark

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