By Joseph Pratt
The news of Ohio witnessing a decline in school librarians has swept the state in recent weeks.
The reports are gaining attention because of the alarming numbers represented, stating that data from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) shows 923 school librarians active in schools across Ohio for the 2013-14 school year, which was at 1,628 in the 2004-05 school year. This drastic drop is at 43 percent in only 10 years.
These numbers have dropped, despite studies showing students perform better in the classroom if they have a full-time librarian to assist them in their studies.
“Students learning better with the help of a librarian is historic,” Gayle Hopkins, librarian at Portsmouth High School said. “For a long time now, studies have shown that students are better equipped when they have a licensed librarian. These students are better prepared for college, they are better at researching, and they are better prepared for testing; a certified librarian usually brings higher results to schools, because the students are higher achieving.”
According to ODE statistics, there are 3,586 public schools in Ohio. This year’s number of school librarians mean that only 25 percent of Ohio schools have a licensed librarian as a resource for their students.
Districts that are abandoning licensed librarians are filling the empty seats with teacher aides, volunteers or substitute teachers to cut costs.
Hopkins said that there is a major difference in a licensed librarian and someone the school can hire to save on cost.
“When you go to school to be a librarian, you are a teacher. You have a background in the curriculum and what is being taught at what level,” Hopkins said. “Librarians are made into teachers so that they can better help students and work more cooperatively with the teachers. In my mind, that is the difference in hiring an aide and not a librarian.”
Hopkins went on to say that she believes there are many wonderful aides in classrooms, but a librarian has more background and schooling, because their job requires both a master’s degree and a teaching license.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03. The Associated Press contributed to this article.