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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007

What is the school library’s role?

The following letter to the minister of education from teacher-librarians in School District 68 (Nanaimo) is printed here with their permission.

We, the teacher-librarians of School District #68, are very pleased with your commitment to improve literacy in BC. We have just read your recent press release, which outlines the millions of dollars to be spent enhancing the public library system, as well as increasing support to these programs: ReadNow BC, Ready Set Learn, Literacy Now, and Adult Education.

We are wondering, however, what role you see for the school libraries in British Columbia. Almost all children attend school in BC, and all schools have a library. Many international studies have shown that a professionally staffed and adequately funded school library will improve student literacy and achievement (Lance, Keith Curry, 2005).

School libraries not only provide access to quality literature, they are the focal point in the school for teaching research skills, the use of databases, and appropriate use of online information sources. School library collections are developed to support the K–12 curriculum, are age appropriate, and are staffed by teacher-librarians qualified to assist students with their literacy needs.

Public libraries do not share this mandate, as their audience is much larger and public library collections are not curriculum specific. School libraries are, therefore, an integral part of any literacy program, and need to be recognized and supported.

Equitable access to literacy materials is essential for all school-aged children. Unfortunately, many school-aged children are unable to access a public library due to geographic or social difficulties. This is not a consideration with school libraries, which, in theory, should be accessible to all school children each school day.

We would like you to explain, Ms. Bond, why your government is so completely silent on the important role played by school libraries in improving literacy for the children of BC? Why are school libraries not mentioned in any of your publications? We would like to hear from you how you intend to increase support for school libraries, which have been notoriously understaffed and underfunded for years.

Elsa Armstrong, Lynn Barnes, June Bouchard, Janice Brantner, Helen Fall, Linda Irvine, Karen Leeson, Margaret Litch, Cindy Lowry, Robert Lussier, Donna McDaniel, Kathy McKierahan, Iris Mennie, Katherine Miller, Robyn Mylett, Bonnie Palfrey, Ann Rainboth, Lene Rounis, and Elizabeth Sansoucy-Jones.

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