Librarians vow to fight cut: Say board cut will be blow to student literacy

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NEW GLASGOW – Local school librarians still in shock over Thursday's announcement they will no longer be employed in the fall are vowing to fight for their jobs and the children who use their services.

Monica Nielsen, a library specialist with Northumberland Regional High School, said cutting back on library programs at a time when students need more help with literacy, not less, and on instruction in dealing with the effective use of information could have serious effects on the students' achievement.

“It was direct hit on us,” she said hours after learning that 100 per cent of the library staff at the CCRSB would be unemployed in a few months. “We thought maybe we would see a reduction of services in some areas or a reduction in elementary schools or even a possible realignment of services. We thought we would be stretched a little thin.”

She said school library staff are trained to select excellent resources to encourage student reading and support the curriculum, to give instruction in 21st century skills, and to collaborate with teachers.

The loss of library service is the first of many staff reductions expected to take place within the CCRSB as it struggles to meet a budget shortfall of $6.5 million. The Nova Scotia government has cut school funding across the province by three per cent this year in addition the cost of living increases each board will have to absorb. It had similar budget reductions last year.

The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board held a straw vote earlier this week that allowed it to approve, in principle, the reduction of 130 full-time equivalent employees for the upcoming year. The vote let employers and unions begin collaborations with staff affected by the reductions.

The board recommendations included a reduction of 51.8 full-time equivalent teaching staff and 54.6 full-time equivalent reductions of workers with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, which includes librarians, educational assistants and administrative staff. 

Other staff reductions will include 20.5 full-time equivalent employees with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing maintenance workers and bus drivers. Four non-union full-time equivalents will also be laid off.

Gary Clarke, superintendent for the board, confirmed Thursday that library staff were told their jobs would be ending after June 30.

He said libraries will still exist in schools in the region, but there won’t be any librarians working in them. The board employs the equivalent of 38 full-time positions in library services. Clarke added that no libraries were closed as a result of Thursday’s announcement and services would continue as usual until the end of the school year.

Nielsen said having libraries without librarians is pointless, adding that her job entails more than just "checking out books." She said library services are a valuable part of a student's learning process and a school library advocacy committee has been started to draw awareness to their role. 

“Without trained professionals, they might has well stick the students in a room by themselves,” she said. “We are there to support the students and the teachers as well.”

Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU, strongly condemns all the school board layoffs.
“This is going to be devastating. Taking libraries out of schools is like taking food out of the cafeteria,” Jessome said. “There is simply no question these cuts will have a terrible impact on the education received by thousands of Nova Scotia children.”

School Board member Ron Marks accused the provincial government of turning the education clock back 20 years by demanding such cuts and warned of devastating effects on students. He said library services have proven to improve literacy in school age children, but they are the “sacrificial cows” of the system.

“Librarians increase the likelihood of students wanting to read by 20 per cent,” he said. “If they are not readying, they are not learning.”

Marks recommended that the school board ask the provincial government that it be able to use some of its $6.5 million surplus to help offset budget reductions. He said about $4 million of the money cannot be touched because of cash flow requirements, however, he said, at least $2 million, which could be spread over two years, would help with the CCRSB’s budget crisis.

Nielsen said she has already paid a visit to Pictou Centre MLA Ross Landry’s office in her fight to keep the service the alive.

“We have to fight until the bitter end,” she said. “It’s a very unfortunate circumstance when you remove an entire service because you will never get it back.  We will be asking about that surplus and what needs to be done to get that money. If not for us then for other services that will be lost.”

Organizations: Say board, Northumberland Regional High School, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union Central Regional School Board Canadian Union of Public Employees

Geographic location: NEW GLASGOW, Nova Scotia, Chignecto Pictou Centre MLA Ross Landry

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Recent comments

  • Victoria B.
    April 09, 2012 - 11:41

    Money and politics aside, it is a sad day when the entire library program in the Chignecto-Central Regional School System has been wiped out. As someone commented, perhaps the “whole system will not fail” without librarians, but librarians do far more than sign out books. A librarian is a trained information specialist; they search for and find information, collect and organize information, and implement systems and vehicles that make information easy to access. It is very strange to me that a child could go through his/her school years without contact with a librarian. I am not sure most people really know all that the librarian does; just as important as their technical tasks, librarians are also sounding boards for children and they often represent a safe place to go within the school. I personally know a wonderful librarian with this school system. She goes out of her way for the staff and students. She goes out of her way to get to know her students and to find and presents literature these students might be interested in reading - and encourages them to do so. It is exciting when a student becomes passionate about reading, and they are proud of their accomplishment, and often drop into the library to show her (librarian) how far along in a book they’ve gotten. There are also many students who have other issues, shy in class, bullied, difficult home lives, whatever it may be…libraries do represents a safe place to go. School children will talk to the librarian about what is going on in their lives – good and bad, and often after leaving the conversation, feel a bit better. Here is someone to listen, not judge, someone to offer encouragement and offer a distraction from problems in the form of literature. Ultimately, I am not writing this letter for or against the action the School Board has taken, or to debate the politics of it all, but I think it is important to remember the librarians and library support staff that the School Board had, and the wonderful work that these individuals have done in the schools with and for the children and teachers. For many children, parents and teachers the obliteration of library staff will be devastating. If people do not know this now, they will when they have spaces, formerly known as libraries, with no librarians.

    • johnny smoke
      April 09, 2012 - 18:54

      Holy cow Victoria B you make our schools sound like the big house with crime and corruption hiding behind every book in the library. I am afraid that in your zest for the spectacular you have missed the point of the exercise completely. The librarian is not a indispensable cog in the education system. It is not like they were charged with a class of students, they are an extension of the classroom, they provide additional resources that are not now affordable. It seems that the whole education system has expanded over the years like a balloon. The more air you put into it the larger it gets. The time has come when there is no more air (money) to be pumped into the system. I for one who sees many dollars of my tax money being pumped into this monstrosity applaud the efforts of the provincial government to pare it back into a manageable and affordable entity , this will only be accomplished when the whole school board system is abolished, and a workable system not interested in empire building is substituted in it's place. The government is on the right track, it is obvious by the wails of outrage that they are succeeding in their objectives. Keep up the good work.

    • Anti-Smoking
      April 10, 2012 - 13:25

      Johnny Smoke, perhaps you did not read the entire comment...the point of it was not to comment on the action of the School Board, or to comment on Government or Politics...it was merely to recognize and commend the librarians and library staff for the good work they have done. Get a life!

  • Kirk Munro
    April 09, 2012 - 01:05

    I'm feeling that our school board is full of Tory (reform party, whatever, people) who want us to get mad at the NDP provincial government for making cuts to education funding when in FACT ..they have NOT ! Funding per student has INCREASED, however enrollment has decreased and so total money to the school board has decreased...surely the School board can do better than this....they are the mismanagers NOT the Provincial Government

  • Karen J.
    April 08, 2012 - 01:46

    NDP = Slash & Tax "A Better Deal For Today's Families"

  • sick and tired
    April 07, 2012 - 12:52

    My how times have changed, not for the better I may add. I came up through the school system in Pictou County. I attended Saint John's Academy for grades 1-9 I then attended the New Glasgow High school for grades 10-12. Then I went on to university and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. All of those years in school I never saw a librarian , never saw a councilor , never saw and never needed a physiologist . I remember the 40 students in a class at St. Johns, I remember a likewise number at the New Glasgow High. I also remember the constant turning out of high aggregate students, most who excelled when they went on to higher learning.I feel more than certain that the whole system will not fail without the constant intervention of librarians in the over all scheme of things. This is a age of the computer even the brain trusts at Encyclopedia Britannica recognized that fact. Further more it shows how out of step our universities are by offering many courses of study that are not relevant to today's needs. Maybe while the Provincial Government is at it , if should demand a complete overhaul of the university curriculum as well and dispose of some of those old prof's who live in yesteryear and are too mean and stingy to step aside and let the younger and brighter set the agenda.

  • The shadow
    April 07, 2012 - 07:56

    Well considering Northumberland has over 100 staff members not including bus drivers while the enrollment is just bellow 1000 there is still fat to be cut. Staff protesting government cuts should stop the play for public sympathy because it is the choice of the upper management to ignore many other areas to save IE disposing of 950,000 sq feet of schools and the accompanying real estate surrounding it. The school board ignores savings that could come with computers which this Board ignores the use of virtual desktop computing that could save millions. 15 information techs work in this system and that could be reduced to 5 saving millions. Of course hey we are talking of eliminating union jobs here. A million in staffing in ICT could be there.

  • Avid Reader
    April 06, 2012 - 21:04

    "The most important asset of any library goes home at night -- the library staff." -- Father Timothy Healy, former president, New York Public Library Mr. Clark, do you have any idea of the disconnect in your statement”libraries will still exist in schools in the Chignecto-Central region, but there won’t be any librarians working in them.”? I saw first-hand what happens to a school library when there is no staffing as occurred at Springhill High School before Chignecto Central School Board expanded library service after amalgamation. The collection disappeared and the room suffered from neglect. All of the new schools built in the Chignecto Central region since 1996 have libraries that were placed in prominent locations in the school design and provided with significant start-up funds from the Department of Education. It is quite a waste of money to build them, develop the collections but not fund staff. What a statement this announcement is about Chignecto Central School Board’s belief in literacy. A few short weeks ago, in an article in this newspaper, your school board member, Ron Marks was quoting an OISE study about the value of school libraries in supporting literacy. How easy to use this kind of data when convenient and discard it when practising it becomes a challenge. What a loss to students who love to read.

    • Craig Kenney
      April 09, 2012 - 08:30

      I am schocked that this is happening. As a former student of West Pictou, I remember being in the labiary alot doing work and using the resourse of the Libarian. I all ways want to move home with my children but if these kind of cuts are being made I think my kids will stay in school in Ontario for now. Don't try to save money at the expence of young minds..