This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Response to Feb. 4 blog post, “A school’s library reopens after 10 years,” by Sara Hoover for NewsWorks.
I am happy that the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) recognizes the need for school libraries and the importance of having easy access to a comprehensive collection of reading materials in a wide range of reading levels. Children’s reading skills improve when they have access to books that they enjoy. Study after study in state after state has shown a positive correlation between the existence of a high-quality library program staffed by a certified school librarian and academic achievement. One is Mansfield University’s School Library Impact Studies Project.
The Philadelphia School District at one time had 176 professionally staffed school libraries. Now there are 11 left. I applaud WePAC’s efforts to reestablish school libraries and the volunteers who donate their time, but I hope they will also put efforts into lobbying the District to staff those libraries with full-time professional librarians and lobbying their legislators to designate funding for libraries in all public schools. Public schools are civic responsibilities. They should not have to rely on charity to obtain the resources they need to provide our students a “thorough and efficient system of education” as mandated by the Pennsylvania constitution.
The writer, a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, is a retired Philadelphia teacher and school librarian