The following is an update to the Change.org petition "Save the SOMSD School Libraries," which can be found here.

On March 3, the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education met with the administration and more details were released about the potential cuts to our school library programs. The administration is recommending cutting two full-time librarians -- one from Columbia High School and one from the middle schools. The two middle schools will now share a single full-time certified librarian traveling between the two schools. There is also a plan in place to cut the budget for the elementary libraries. The money will now be used to purchase classroom libraries instead of books for the libraries. There will also be a reduction in the periodical and reference budgets at all schools. 

These cuts are devastating to a once award-winning district library program. The elimination of full-time certified librarians at the middle schools makes absolutely no sense when both of these schools are on the state’s “Focus School” lists due to their issues with the achievement gap. Studies have shown that having a full-time certified librarian helps to reduce the achievement gap. It also makes no sense to cut the librarians at Columbia when the district is seeing an increase of students going to the high school. The demand on the library is already too much for two librarians and reducing it to one will make it impossible for all student to have access to the resources and training they need to be college and career ready. 

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Building up classroom libraries while cutting the library budget is not a “net gain," as stated by one BOE member. Who picks those classroom libraries? While having classroom libraries is great, the students don't have the opportunity to bring these books home and read them for pleasure like they can with the collection housed in the school library. Classroom titles are also not chosen by certified librarians who are trained to pick the just right books for the children. How will those classroom libraries be circulated so that the entire student body has access to them?

In the school libraries, students are allowed to choose any book they want, so if a 3rd grader is reading on a 5th grade level they can take out the new Rick Riordian book if they want. That can't happen easily when that book is not in the library, but in some classroom which has no means in place to make it available for circulation to the entire school. Having an elementary library program without the ability to purchase new books and materials is in no way a “net gain” to the quality education our kids need and deserve.

If you agree, please consider taking the time to share this petition, email BOE members, and come speak at the BOE meeting this coming Monday night at 7 p.m.. 

It is not too late to let the Board of Education know that all of the students at every school in our district deserve the right to have a quality library program cultivated by a full-time, certified librarian.

Supporters can add their name to this letter, which is on Change.org, and has 693 signatures as of March 7.