Write BESE Now about Importance of School Libraries

I have written in this blog before about the changes that the board which governs education in Louisiana, BESE, wants to make. BESE is working on amending Bulletin 741, the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators. Section 1705 refers to school librarians. BESE has altered the wording to make it easier for schools to eliminate or not create a librarian position. We need to tell our lawmakers that school libraries are not an option. 

In the March issue of School Library Journal, there is an article explaining how the research shows that school librarians directly impact student achievement. You can read that article here

The people who make decisions about our students need to hear from parents, students and constituents who care about school libraries. When I write a letter, it just looks like I am asking to keep my job. It is truly about the students not my job, but they don't see it that way. 

Below is a copy of an email that I received imploring everyone to write to BESE to save school libraries. All letters must be received in Baton Rouge no later than April 8th. 

Write now, tell BESE to maintain school libraries!
"Are you a K-12 student, or a proud supporter of a student in our state?  If so, 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, which concerns School Library Media Centers.
The proposed changes would eliminate most of the existing polices about the purpose of a school library; the kinds of materials it should provide; the physical space that should be allocated for the library; the funding of the library; and the kinds of instructional services the library should provide.
Eight existing guidelines have been replaced with two guidelines and one big loophole.  The two remaining guidelines state that schools shall provide appropriate resources and learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and thatsecondary schools shall have a library and a minimum number of librarians based upon enrollment. No mention is made for elementary libraries and there is no definition of secondary schools; are middle schools included?

It’s the big loophole that troubles me: “This provision shall not apply to schools capable of providing resources and assistance to students through an alternate structure.”
Does this not imply that a school will be able to eliminate its library space, library resources, and librarians?  Or that new schools could choose not to have a library in the first place?  What is BESE’s motivation for this broad 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.  And what will the school do for students who do not 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 particular certification requirements. They are held to the same standards as classroom teachers.  They help our children develop a love of reading and independent learning.  They teach literacy skills that our students need to become successful, contributing members of society.  Does BESE believe that the school librarian can be replaced by a web site?
Is the local public library an acceptable “alternate structure”?  Public libraries are wonderful resources, but their mission is different from that of the school library.  They serve a different audience and their collections are not specifically focused to support 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, 2013, at 4:30 PM.  Send your letters to Heather Cope, Executive Director, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Box 94064, Capitol Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064."

(the above was sent to me by Cathy Seal, Director, Library Services, East Baton Rouge Parish Schools)


  1. Strengthen school libraries by putting those alternative structures well within the Library and Information Technology Program job description. Maybe the WLMA LIT framework and video might be helpful to share around the state...Here is WA we've seen school districts, and the state OSPI adopt LIT as the definition of library programs and the job description for librarians. Step up to LIT and be essential. Resources sharing on the SLJ.com/bethechange webinar wiki can help.


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