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Persecution of Teacher-Librarians (guest post by Rob Darrow)

Perhaps, no one expected a library inquisition.

Just in case you haven’t been following the situation in California, I asked California colleague, Rob Darrow to describe the frightening situation in a guest post.

(May 18th update: LAUSD librarians, fighting for their jobs, get a grilling | 89.3 KPCC Listen to this call in show from Southern California Public Radio and check out the passionate stream of comments. And view ALA President Roberta Stevens and AASL President Nancy Everhart’s open letter to LAUSD objecting to the librarians’ treatment and the defunding of their positions.)

Persecution of Teacher-Librarians

There have been many groups persecuted throughout history: Galileo, religious groups, ethnic groups, various individuals … and now, today in California, the newest persecuted group is California Teacher-Librarians (also known as School Librarians, Library Media Teachers and Library Media Specialists).

Someone somewhere decided that eliminating school librarians in schools in California would help to reduce the operating costs in schools.  However, schools that eliminate teacher-librarians will soon find that their decision is short sighted and that further information and knowledge deficits will occur in the students we all work together to educate in California.

Hector Tobar of the LA Times eloquently chronicled the treatment of Teacher-Librarians in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  I am not sure why or how a “court” or “inquisition” system was developed in LAUSD but why does any group of educators have to justify their existence like this?  Regardless of the dire economic conditions that exist in California and in public schools, no group of people in any profession should be treated this way.

Listed below are words from those who were there.

Blog posts from “The Library is Not a Fruit”, and from Abigail Librarian.

The following are posts from CALIB K-12, the teacher-librarian listserv in California (here are the specific posts from below):

1. “I went through my LAUSD interrogation on Wednesday, May 11th.  I am a relatively frequent reader of this listserv and as far as I know LAUSD is the only district in CA to layoff TLs without offering them a position in their primary credential area.  Am I correct about this?  Does anyone know of any other districts who have done this?”

2. “Thank you for writing the timely article about the disgraceful treatment of LAUSD Teacher Librarians. Please be aware that we chose our professions not to get out of the hurly-burly activity of the classroom, but to move into the hurly-burly activity that is in today’s modern school libraries. Here in Bakersfield, within the 18 high school libraries, as well as all over school libraries in California, you will find thousands of classes taking place in the libraries for research projects, checking out library books for Silent Sustained Reading, and students selecting books to read for pleasure and for class assignments. Trust me – if you want a quiet place, most probably you won’t find it in a school library. Also, all of the teacher librarians have broad expertise in teaching information literacy to students. In other words, we teach today’s students how to locate, evaluate and use information ethically, both print and online, for research and other class assignments. Helping students learn how to navigate safely online through the billions of articles on the Internet in order to find trustworthy information is essential to living successfully in the 21st century.“

3. “I think I’ll include articles about LAUSD’s witch hunt the next time I TEACH the Red Scare and the Salem Witchcraft Trials.”

4. “Ray Bradbury missed the mark in Fahrenheit 451, in which firefighters in a dystopian future burn books.  As it turns out, it’s not books but librarians getting burned, and it’s not firefighters but the school district doing the burning.  One librarian at a time, their careers are demeaned, their livelihoods shattered, in legal proceedings meant to show that libraries are not “classes”, and librarians are not “teachers”, and are therefore expendable.  All to save our dystopian school district a few bucks, while it squanders millions on new schools (with new, soon to be empty libraries), grotesquely overpaid administrators who spent us into this mess in the first place, and billable hours for the lawyers conducting this sordid little inquisition.”

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Teacher Librarians are TEACHERS. According to California Education Code: 44869. Any library media teacher when employed full time as a library media teacher or serving full time, partly as a library media teacher and partly as a teacher, shall rank as a teacher. So this whole thing is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

  2. I agree Marie, this is a violation of edcode!

  3. Richard Opie says

    In a recent change in state government in Victoria, Australia my school lost out on a new building. For once I am pleased because in the new building for 500 students, the library is 5 book cases in a corridor! In my heated discussion with the architect I could not get this modern day ‘barbarian’ to see that it was not a library. His empty stares told of incomprehension. ‘What was my point?’ he seemed to say! So, we keep the old building and it’s library.

    However, we have not had a trained teacher librarian for 10 years. The assistant does her best but I miss the discussions about which book would suit which student best.

    We have almost ceased training teacher libararians just as reports indicate that properly run school libraries are key to a school’s literacy progress. Go figure. I wish to state my unequivalent support for all school librarians every where. You are the key to our students’ success.

  4. Kate St. Paul says

    This is not only happening in California. Media positions are being eliminated in the metropolitan areas of Minnesota as well. Instead of being put through an inquisition to keep our positions, our positions are pared down and we are asked to teach in many buildings. Some principals are good managers, some bully us in the hopes that we’ll toss in the towel. Parent and community support for libraries just intensify the bullying.


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