A couple of years ago I visited Haggerty School in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the invitation of librarian Karen Kosko and met Anisha (left). Like many communities around our country, Cambridge is debating the relative value of school librarians given tight budgets. With Anisha's permission, I'm delighted to share her thoughts on the matter (emphasis mine.)
My name is Anisha N. I am an eighth grader in the Cambridge Public Schools. Thank you for giving me a chance to speak. I am concerned about the proposal to cut librarian positions in schools. I understand budget cuts are not easy because they have affected me personally. But I still feel that we need to have librarians in the school system because of the tremendous teaching role they play in the community and in the education of children.
Our librarians certainly enriched our curriculum. I have been inspired by authors such as Lois Lowry and Susan Cooper, who were among many influential people invited to the library. I will never forget my experience with the “From the Top” radio show, or the visitors from Young Audiences or the Actor's Shakespeare Project or the Nobel Peace Prize winners. These new exposures were helpful for us as we matured and developed academically into well-rounded citizens.
My librarian knew me since I was in kindergarten and has worked with all my teachers since then, whether it was to help with plays, to lead our reading group, help with research, or make presentations in class for different parts of the curriculum. Our librarian has probably read every book in the library, and knows just what I would like better than even I do. She also pushes me to try things that she knows I would not have touched otherwise! She knows all the other kids in school as well, and their likes and dislikes. She is one of the few who has watched us grow over the years and truly understands us.
I know that instead of librarians we would have 'support staff ' who would get trained to give us more information and technology. But don’t you see? We have access to more than enough information, we really need someone who can sift through all of it and give us what is best for each individual. We also have completely capable technology specialists. So why spend resources to train someone to do something that already works well? I think that we need to replicate in all schools what is working so well in some of them.
My librarian is my teacher. You cannot replace her with information and technology. I am saddened to think that my younger brother and other students will not have the same wonderful experiences that have helped me become who I am today.