Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Library Bashing -- again

The sometimes acerbic but usually rational Brian McGrory has turned his rhetorical sights on librarians, specifically of the refusal of Bridgewater-Raynham teachers to accept the superintendent's firing of all librarians in the district. Parent volunteers want to step in to help, which is understandable but not acceptable in the long run. McGrory clumsily attempts to tie teachers' rejection of the volunteer solution to unrelated disputes in the King Philips district. It is a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that does his readers a disservice. The teachers are not rejecting the help because they want a huge raise; they are rejecting the help because it would undermine teaching effectiveness.

Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has weighed in, arguing that teachers have put their own interests above those of the children. Actually, he has this backwards. Teachers understand that libraries cannot be run long-term with volunteers, but that volunteers can create the illusion that a staffing problem has been solved. Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes has said that the volunteers are assisting proctors, but proctors are not librarians.

She tried something similar a year or two ago, when she attempted to rid the district of social studies teachers, to be replaced by teachers from other disciplines. At the time, she exhibited a fundamental failure to understand what teachers do, and a reckless disregard for the students under her charge. Of course a library can remain "open" for a day or two without librarians, just as a classroom can be covered by a substitute for a day or two, and a newspaper could run briefly without any original writing.

But no RATIONAL educator with students' best interest in mind would throw out the librarians or the teachers in any given subject. The books, periodicals, and electronic resources of a library are selected by librarians, who also instruct students and teachers in their effective use. This is not the job of volunteers, and the teachers at B-R are to be commended for saying so. Librarian Richard Smyth has also made the case, in a subsequent letter to the editor.

A more effective way to save some money would be to reduce the number of superintendents in the state -- we have about 250, ten times more than we need in a state this size. See my regionalization post for more on how to solve that problem.

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