BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With the proposed 2018-2019 school budget having already been approved by the county superintendent and up for public hearing and approval April 24, some are imploring the administration to reconsider a proposed restructuring for the library department that eliminates one whole librarian/media specialist position.
The budget includes the elimination of the media specialist at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, a reduction of a salaried position set at $103,480. Media specialists for all other schools are still included in the budget.
Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick has said it is a restructuring in that they will be moving staff around to meet the vision of the program, but it is a reduction across the district as they are going from 11 media specialists to 10.
Several members of the department spoke out at Tuesday’s board of education meeting to object to the elimination.
“The students deserve a kindergarten through 12th media program,” said Kelly Mumber, library/media specialist at Adamsville Primary. “Without a specialist at the high school we will only have a program that is K to 8.”
Mumber said no one understands the intricacies of the libraries like the specialists do, including collection development, reviews of new literature, updates of search terms and more.
“We are a specialized group,” she said. “I am asking you to look at the budget and the way it is in its current form, and consider reallocating funds to make sure that position stays at the high school.”
Joanna Rose, the current librarian/media specialist at the high school, said she finds it very sad what is being proposed for the school.
“It is a loss to the students,” she said. “I found out by looking at the tentative budget and then questioning the principal. People are insinuating that clerks are being hired to take my place. But I have seniority, so my salary will not be saved, I will be moved to another place at my salary.”
Rose said the high school has an AP capstone program coming in, which includes two years of intensive study and research.
“But you will have no librarian there,” she said. “There will be no skilled person to work in helping to support and enrich the program. Clerks will not do that.”
“The bottom line is there is no certified librarian in the high school library, no plan for September, my salary is not saved and I can’t help but not understand what these moves are,” she added, “and why we are leaving the students out in the cold.”
Mumber cited that studies show test scores are higher in schools that have full time certified librarians.
“It should be a hub for research, and preparing for college and the future,” she said.
Leigh Woznick, media specialist at the middle school, said she agrees. She also cited a number of legislative requirements at the state level that call for certified librarians to do certain work in schools.
“The library is an information space, but it is also a knowledge space, and it takes a qualified person to be able to teach those literacy skills,” she said.
“As a parent in the district and as a school library media specialist, I have been grateful to the board for the book and supplies budget, it shows you appreciate that students need the resources,” she added. “But they don’t take care of themselves.”
Woznick said librarians also make a difference in terms of digital knowledge.
“Students are digital natives, but they are not digital literate,” she said. “They need someone to teach them those skills.”
As a member of the community and the district, Woznick said, she understand that cuts have to be made.
“But all studies show that school librarians make a huge impact, more so than any one particular department,” she said. “What we do is connected to every single department.”
“I urge you to reconsider,” she added. “I know you have spent a lot of time and work on this, but this decision is penny wise, and pound foolish.”
The budget is coming before the board for a public hearing April 24. There will be two special budget presentations held April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Primary School, on Woodmere Street in Raritan, and April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School, on Merriwood Road.