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Numbers of US public school librarians down 20% since 2000

US public schools have lost 19% of full-time equivalent school librarians in the period between 1999-2000 and 2015-16, reports Forbes.

The figure comes from researcher Keith Curry Lance’s analysis of the US school library workforce in School Library Journal. Using data from the US National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Lance found that in the period covered, US schools lost the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-time school librarian positions nationwide: a 19% drop in the workforce.

The most rapid declines occurred from 2009-10 to 2013-14, following the 2008 recession. The decline subsequently slowed in 2014-15, but resumed larger losses in 2015-16. A report in Education Week points out that many districts lost librarians even as student populations grew by seven percent nationwide.

The Education Week report also notes that schools serving students of colour have been the worst affected. The 20 districts that have lost the most librarians had, on average, 78% minority student populations, while districts that have not lost a librarian since 2005 are 75% white.

Over the same period covered in Education Week‘s report, US schools saw a nationwide increase in counsellors (11%), instructional aides (19%) and school administrators (28%), suggesting that schools may have shifted funding from libraries to other support staff. However, Lance’s analysis notes that the numbers of library support staff in public schools have dropped at a rate even faster than that of librarians: from more than 46,000 to fewer than 26,000, a loss of nearly 45%.

Lance says that what is not clear is ‘how the position of school librarian is being perceived differently in different states, districts, and schools, and how those varying perceptions impact the data’. He asks, ‘Are school librarian jobs simply evolving into other ones with different names—digital learning specialist, digital media content specialist, technology integrator, and information literacy teacher, for example?’



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