Commissioner Tells NYC to Follow Regulations When It Comes to Librarians
State Education Commissioner John King has issued a decision where he rejected the New York City Department of Education request to reduce the number of school librarians that staff the city school libraries. Many of the city's schools have been out of compliance with the state regulation 91.2 that requires that secondary school have a school librarian. In his decision the commissioner stated that he was troubled by the city’s “admitted non-compliance with the regulation”. He goes on to direct the city to comply with the regulation and offers the services of the State Education Department’s Office of Curriculum and Instruction to offer guidance in meeting the standards stated in the regulation.
The decision was the result of an appeal to the commissioner from the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing school librarians in New York City. “Bringing New York City schools into compliance with Regents Regulations by ensuring certified school librarians in the secondary schools is a very positive step,” says Karen Sperrazza, president of NYLA’s Section of School Librarians. “NYLA/SSL is also working toward ensuring all students have a certified school librarian beginning in kindergarten. While there is a cost involved in hiring school librarians, education is an investment in the future.”
In an article published by School Library Journal October 2, Jeremy Johannesen, NYLA’s executive director, calls the ruling a “good first step,” but argues that “younger students across New York will be denied this same benefit, because the [regulations] do not apply to primary schools.” To address this, he says, “NYLA is working on a bill that will require primary and secondary schools to provide access to a school library staffed by a qualified school librarian.”
Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye told ChalkBeat New York, “School libraries bring tremendous value to school communities, and ensuring all students have access to information services is priority. We are working collaboratively with our partners on a plan to address this.” However she declined to comment on whether the city would commit to staffing the librarian positions. She also would not say if the city agreed with the decision that schools should staff more librarians.
In 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that over half of the city’s High Schools did not meet the minimum library staffing requirements. It also stated the between 2009 and 2013 the number of New York City school librarians dropped from 399 to 333. Regulations state that secondary schools with between 300 and 500 students must have one for at least half of the day, while schools with 700 or more students must employ a full-time librarian.