Glendale Unified considers shelving librarians

Librarian positions at four Glendale Unified high schools may be eliminated for the 2012-13 school year as the district tries to balance budget and staffing variables, officials said.

The four librarians — who are also credentialed teachers — at Glendale, Hoover, Crescenta Valley and Clark Magnet high schools have been notified that they could be moved from their current positions back into the classroom as the district works to create breathing room in its ever shrinking budget.

“As much as we try and keep things as usual, things aren’t as usual,” school board President Joylene Wagner said Monday.

The move hadn’t been officially decided, she said, but because it had been put on the table of possibilities, “they need to be notified that it is an option.”

The district is working to design a new model for its high school libraries in which low-level support staff, overseen by an assistant principal, would supervise the facilities, Assistant Supt. for Human Resources David Samuelson said. The new model could allow the district to extend the hours of the high school libraries, which currently run from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

“We still want our libraries to be a key part of our campus,” Samuelson said. “We want them open longer. We are all going to be working hard to develop a new approach to our libraries.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the plan would save the district, Samuelson said, but the reassigned librarians would continue to earn the same pay in their new classroom positions, although they could be moved to a different campus.

The proposed changes do not sit well with at least one of the four librarians. Leslie Beaton-Snyder has overseen the library at Crescenta Valley High School for nine years and says that the job involves much more than simple clerical work. She and her colleagues are responsible for purchasing materials, as well as cataloging and organizing the entire contents of the library, Beaton-Snyder said.

At Crescenta Valley High School, that means managing 17,000 books.

“I don’t just go and buy any old book,” Beaton-Snyder said. “I have to buy books based on the curriculum and what teachers need for their classes. Beyond that, I also try and get books that are going to spark teenagers’ reading interests.”

At the conclusion of each school year, she submits a report to her principal summarizing library services, Beaton-Snyder said. During 2010-11, she had 36,000 student visits.

She received a letter on March 12 indicating that she might be moved back into the classroom, Beaton-Snyder said. After investing two years earning her library credential from Cal State Long Beach, it was difficult to swallow.

Glendale Unified, like districts up and down the state, has to plan for the 2012-13 school year based on multiple budget scenarios. If a tax measure planned for the November ballot is not approved by California voters, schools could lose an additional $455 per student.

In Pasadena this year, the school district notified seven credentialed librarians that they may be laid off as part of a number of cost-cutting moves there.

The possible reassignment of the four Glendale Unified librarians does not require board approval. Nevertheless, it is expected to be addressed during the school board meeting Tuesday. The librarian is a critical resource, especially at the high school level, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said.

“They are the ones who are in there picking out the materials, being current on what databases to use, showing the students how to access reliable sources online,” Carlson said.

Studies have shown that schools that staff a librarian typically boast higher standardized test scores, she added.

“We are talking about minuscule savings because they are going to have to put someone in there,” Carlson said. “It is not much of a savings at all for what we would be losing."

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