Shannon Englebrecht, who works for the San Francisco Unified School District, is poised to become one of a rare breed in California when her hours are increased next year: a full-time public school librarian.
California employed 804 school librarians in 2012-13, which translates to one certified school librarian for every 7,784 students in 2012-13, according to data from the California Department of Education. That is the lowest per-student ratio of any state in the country. The national average in the fall of 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, was one school librarian for every 1,022 students, according to The National Center for Education Statistics.
The lack of certified librarians has led to a decrease in student access to books, a decline in student research skills and the loss of an important resource for teachers, said Janice See-Gilmore, president of the California School Library Association.
“It’s actually pretty dreadful,” See-Gilmore said. “In 1999 we had 1,300 teacher librarians. We’re just going in the wrong direction.”
State funding for school libraries has never been steady. Prior to 1994, there was no money specifically set aside for them. Between 1994 and 2009, various statewide initiatives – from a check-off on income tax forms to a block grant program for districts – funneled vastly varying amounts of money to public school libraries. Those amounts ranged from $266,000 to $158.5 million annually.
Beginning in 2009, the funding set aside for libraries became “flexible,” meaning it could be spent on other priorities as districts scrambled to slash their budgets during the recessiSchool librarians a rare find in California public schools | EdSource Today: