A decade of underfunding has compelled teacher-librarians and parents across BC to become fundraisers for their children’s school libraries, together raising more than $1.2 million to purchase books and electronic learning resources in 2009–10.
That’s only one of the worrisome facts reported in the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association 29th annual survey of working and learning conditions in public school libraries.
While most schools raised up to $3,000 last year for library resources alone, 24 schools raised between $5,000 and $10,000, and one school was able to raise an astonishing $50,000. These figures point to the growing inequities between public schools in low-income neighbourhoods and those in affluent areas.
“Equity of opportunity to learn is fundamental to a democratic public education system, so this report serves to ring the alarm bells that one of our key principles is threatened by the chronic underfunding of schools and their library services,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Here is concrete evidence of the importance of teachers being able to negotiate teaching and learning conditions with the employer. These issues will be of vital importance as we go to the bargaining table this spring.”
Heather Daly, president of the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association, noted that as a group, teacher-librarians have been the hardest hit since the cuts began in 2001. “We have lost 25% of all teacher-librarian positions across BC,” she said. “Despite tremendous challenges, our members are continuing to serve students well, running creative programs, hosting reading clubs, and providing crucial expertise for children growing up in an information society.”
Both Lambert and Daly called on premier-designate Christy Clark to read the report and listen to the voices of teacher-librarians, whose services are so important to students’ success at school and in their future careers. Here is a sampling of the comments contained in the report:
“We have no money for books. Zero. We have a [Parent Advisory Council] that is already stretched to its limits trying to replace our unsafe playground.” “I feel so lucky that this school has wealthy clientele, and parents who can and do assist with book fairs, as well as total teacher support.” “Libraries feed democracy and give students a safe place to figure out who they are and who they will be. Libraries have always been for me a place of solace and I fear that we are losing ourselves as we continue to cut funds and staffing to libraries in the province.”