BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School Media Specialist Leigh Woznick expressed concern at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting over the elimination of the library secretary position.
Woznick said the presence of someone in this position to aid her in accomplishing all the tasks necessary for the 1,404 students in the school was important to her job.
“I don’t mean to imply that my job is any harder than others,” she said. “We’re bigger, but this is a transitional period, particularly with research skills. Students need a lot of guidance to make the transition (from the younger grades).”
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said after the meeting that BRMS’s center is an outstanding example of what a media center should be.
“The media center is a critical hub in any school,” he said. “Every level needs a high-functioning media center. Further, our middle school media center is a fabulous example of what a public school media center should be. When you walk in, you are immediately immersed in literacy, and there is a clearly a careful plan to the space, allowing for all readers to find exciting materials.”
But Woznick said she is unsure whether she can maintain the level of classes and offerings without help.
With the aid of the secretary, Woznick said, she is able to conduct classes on research, assist teachers with instructional materials, work on database entry, catalogue new materials and more, while the second worker is doing jobs like signing out books, attending to fines for late materials, answering phones and scheduling classes, among other tasks.
“Without support, new materials will sit on the cart for months, and unit books will not get to students on time,” she said. “There will be a disruption in instruction and more books will go missing, and there will be fewer information literacy classes offered.”
“I am happy to do all of these things, but I am only one human being,” she added, noting that the school has 1,404 students, 218 staff members, 29,000 materials, more than 2,000 individual signs-ins, and, as of May 5, about 25,000 items checked out.
Woznick said it is impossible for one person to manage all of that alone.
“I will lose a chance with any reluctant readers who need a reason to love the library,” she said, saying that the middle school is a crucial step in getting the guidance of how to research before students move on to the high school. “Every interaction should leave students with a positive view of reading.”
Lazovick said after the meeting that there are limited resources in the district, and, for next year, support staff is being redistributed more evenly. He said the specific position from the middle school was increased in level and reassigned in the district.
“The redistribution of our staff does not eliminate coverage,” he said. “Building and district administrators worked collaboratively, so if our media center has needs, the building should still have ample staff to support what goes on in the media center.”
“We want that media center, and all of our media centers, to thrive within our buildings,” he added.
Woznick said she feels the decision to eliminate the secretary position is a mistake, and she hopes there is still the possibility in the budget to reconsider.
“I fear this decision (to eliminate the position) will make the media area less inviting,” she said.