Requiring an Elementary School Librarian
There is no shortage of research illustrating the powerful positive impact that access to a certified school librarian has on the education of students, particularly at the elementary level. Unfortunately, current Education Law requires a certified school librarian begining in grade seven.
NYLA strongly supports the development and passage of new legislation to require a certified school librarian for all students.
Expand Access to School Libraries and Librarians
- Currently, elementary schools are not required to staff a certified School Library Media Specialist. Secondary schools are only required to do so in Commissioner’s Education Regulations, not by state statute. Many school districts disregard the Commissioner’s regulations; the NYC Department of Education previously sought a waiver from this requirement.
- Students with access to school libraries staffed by certified School Library Media Specialists consistently score 15-20% higher in English Language Arts tests by the fourth grade according to a study conducted at Syracuse University.
- Passing this bill would ensure that all students, K-12, have access to a school library staffed by a certified school librarian. Having access to a certified school librarian would ensure students have equitable opportunities to develop strong digital literacy, critical thinking and information literacy skills regardless of economic status or school.
This bill looks very similar to current (Grades 7 – 12) regulations with regard to the requirement based on student population. However, it is looking to change from a “per period” formula to a FTE formula, as the “periods” are not consistent in schools across the state.
The following chart summarizes the proposed legislation:
|Student Population||Librarian Requirement|
|1 – 100||.15 FTE|
|101 – 300||.3 FTE|
|301 – 500||.5 FTE|
|501 – 1000||1 FTE|
|every +1000 students||+ 1 FTE|
Web Briefing on the 2016 Effort
During the 2014 Legislative Session the issue of requiring a certified school librarian for elementary grades was once again brought to the forefront. Thanks to the newly appointed chair of the Assembly committee on Libraries and Educational Technology, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, a bill A.9699 was introduced.
A.9699 is the reintroduction of 2007 bill introduced by Senator Hugh Farley. As a bill that was drafted seven years ago, the language is not current nor does it best address today's realities. It is although a good first step on the long journey toward passage.
On the last day of the 2014 Legilsative Session, Senator Farely reintroduced his 2007 bill as well, under bill number S.7922. This action demonstrated his commitment to this issue and his willingess to work with library adovcates in the coming session.
The time for everyone to write letters and make phone calls on this issue will come, but that time is not now.
There is much work to be done between now and next session. A.9699 is not the version of an ‘elementary school librarian bill’ that we want to pass. A revised version will need to be developed in partnership with a broad coalition of supporters, SSL, SLSA, NYSUT, NYSSBA, NYSPTA and more.
NYLA is confident that we will be able to find sponsors for this legislation, once we have the ‘right’ bill drafted.
With a bill in place that aligns with the our goals, while at the same time have the important element of being ‘passable’ – the real advocacy work will begin.
In the mean-time, the most important and most effective thing that every school librarian can be doing is consistently and persistently advocating for their program and position at the building and district level.
- Ensure that your principal visits the library at least once a month
- Invite the School Board to hold one of their meetings in the library
- Request to present at a School Board meeting about the value of your program
- Invite your elected representatives to visit your library
Building support for certified school librarians at the local level, is the best ground work that everyone can be laying for an advocacy push for passing a certified elementary school librarian bill in the future.
Comment from SSL
"As much as I am so happy that there is so much energy and passion to pass this bill I echo Jeremy's words and add this as he cannot say it but I can. We have hired Jeremy and Mike Neppl as our spokesmen and experts in dealing with the legislature and legislators and we should heed their advice. We have the beginning of a great bill that need sponsors in the Senate and the bill is in its beginning stages. We are getting input from the people that know how to do what we ultimately want - the bill to pass both houses and more importantly, get signed into law by the Governor. As Senator Farley pointed out to us, it could pass both houses and he could make sure of it, but it would just as certainly get vetoed by the Governor and the legislature would not touch it after that. So we need to be patient and work on the bill to get it to be what we want and then at the right time use all of our advocacy power to get it passed and signed. I feel some of our work at the summit can help to achieve that. My fear is that if too many people push this bill as it stands right now too soon then it will be less then we want or nothing at all. So let the people who know what they are doing do their jobs and as hard as it is, be patient so we get the best bill possible that will have strong support in both houses.
Thanks so much for all of your hard work - we must keep the faith and as Jeremy advises - advocate on the local level so that word goes from our administrators to the legislators that they need the funding so there can be elementary librarians in our elementary schools."
- Jill Leinung
President Elect SSL and Legislative Representative
School Library Programs Laws, Regulations, and Guidance
Current Regulations of the Commissioner of Education
Commissioner's Regulations Section 91.1 (pdf) - school libraries shall be established and maintained in each school
Commissioner's Regulations Section 91.2 (pdf) - employment of school librarians
Commissioner's Regulations Section 100.4 (pdf) - units of study in 7th and 8th grade, library and information skills
Commissioner's Regulations Section 80-2.8 (pdf) - School Librarians as certified teachers; certificates valid for school library media specialists