Open letter to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board opposing cuts to school libraries

Atlantic Provinces Library Association
School of Information Management
Faculty of Management – Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building
6100 University Ave., Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3J5

Ms. Trudy Thompson, Chair
Chignecto-Central Regional School Board
60 Lorne Street
Truro, NS B2N 3K3

April 16, 2012

Open letter to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board opposing cuts to school libraries

April 16, 2012

Dear Chair Thompson:

I am writing on behalf of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA) to express our dismay at the recent news of planned cuts to the school libraries in your district which would, if implemented, affect more than 40 FTE library professionals, and impoverish the educational experience for thousands of students.  The Nova Scotia government’s intervention in this case was a welcome response although the outcome of the review which the government has mandated is uncertain.  In the circumstances, it is our wish, and indeed our responsibility, to remind you and your Board of the importance of school libraries to student success.

We understand that the Board has some difficult decisions to make in order to balance a reduced budget, but school libraries are not the place to cut.  School libraries are partners in the educational process, playing an integral role in a resource-based curriculum. School library professionals provide students with environments and learning opportunities that allow them to develop the literacy, critical thinking, and information literacy skills necessary for full participation in a knowledge- based economy.  These skills are essential for students going on to post-secondary education.  

Research clearly shows a direct correlation between properly funded and staffed school libraries and student achievement:

  • larger collections of library materials for students mean higher achievement;
  • higher spending on books and other materials correlates with improved reading scores;
  • library staffing levels correlate with test scores (in fact, U.S. studies have consistently shown a 10-25% increase in scores on standardized tests for students with a school librarian);
  • increased student visits to the library correlate with higher test scores;
  • hours of operation of the school library also have a positive effect (the more open hours, the higher the test scores).

As the above is true, the reverse is also true, that students without access to a well-stocked and staffed school library will do less well.  Children with poor literacy skills are likely to become adults with poor literacy skills, and the human toll and social costs of weak adult literacy are well-known.  Any short-term savings realized by reduced spending on school libraries will be more than offset by the future costs arising from underemployment and poverty and their attendant problems, including poorer health, lower levels of education in the children born to these circumstances, and greater reliance on social welfare and healthcare programs.

Rather than closing school libraries in your region (and to say that the libraries will remain open without staff, as your superintendent has done, is disingenuous), we strongly urge the Board to make a renewed and long-term commitment to school libraries, to the benefit of the students themselves, and to society as a whole.

Yours sincerely,

Jocelyne Thompson