Monday, October 22, 2012

New Year, New Library: New Library (kind of)

It's been quiet here for the last month as we train new staff and bombard the campus with information literacy one-shots. In addition, much of my free time has been taken by volunteering for a local charter school that, like many schools in Washington, DC, lacks a school librarian or school media specialist.
To wit, for the 2012-13 academic calendar there are approximately sixty (60, 6-0) schools in DC that lack a librarian or school media specialist, covering between 16,000 to 17,000 students. There's plenty of blame to go around, starting with the Mayor, Vincent Gray (sample inflammatory statement from the mayor, "[W]e decided we would leave education to educators"), the Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and individual principals, who decide whether or not to staff a school library. There is more sadness this way:
The results of a Freedom of Information Act request show that in FY11 and FY12, the money appropriated to DCPS [DC Public Schools] for library and media services was overwhelmingly used for other things. It paid for other things like building repairs, maintenance to HVAC systems. More than $400,000 was used for testing. DCPS used $80,000 of these funds to pay for a San Francisco-based consultant to develop a strategic plan for its Office of Family and Community Engagement.
This school, which one of my children attends, moved into a new facility last year, and this year finally has space for a library. But no librarian or school media specialist, and that's where parents like me come in. I suddenly find myself a Chinese-language cataloger (it's a Chinese-immersion school), blindly fumbling around, guided by ISBNs that may or may not lead me to a record, relying on Library of Congress Subject Headings that may or may not exist, and eyeballing the height of books to make a cataloging judgement. I've cataloged in Cyrillic before, with the help of a cheat sheet, and in Japanese, which I used to speak, but Chinese is a whole different animal.

On the plus side, the school has selected Follet's Destiny as an integrated library system, and it's easy to use. Within about fifteen minutes I felt comfortable with it, and this ease of use will allow teachers to check out materials to students. Double plus, some other parents are also librarians, and we've all taken active interests in the new school library.

In addition, the school is going to experiment with giving students raspberry pi (not pie, though that would be good, too), so I may be talking a bit (more) about programming in this space.

In the meantime, if you'd like to help DC's schools, please sign this petition. Thanks.