The majority of New York City's high schools are ignoring state requirements by not employing enough—or any—librarians, according to recent estimations by officials. If the Department of Education gets its way, The Wall Street Journal reports, the state will soon waive those regulations entirely for city schools—a privilege not afforded to any other municipality in the state of New York.
It's a simple dilemma, but one not easily resolved by educators and administrators: must schools hire and retain full-time library media specialists to provide students with their research expertise? In most cases, the state says yes. But some experts are pointing to—what else?—technological shifts as evidence that having fewer librarians is perfectly justified:
City officials say advancements in technology, shifts in teaching practices and the addition of classroom libraries have made librarians not as necessary as they once were. And as the city creates smaller schools, a full-time librarian becomes harder to justify.
"The notion that [schools] should stay exactly the same forever doesn't make sense," said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer. "We have to adapt, and we have to be responsive to what's actually happening in schools, and how kids are learning."
Librarians, naturally enough, disagree, pointing to their research specialties, which neither teachers nor the Internet cannot adequately match. "We're using a lot of online journals and trying to encourage them to use them as opposed to just going to Wikipedia, which is their first instinct, or just to do random searches on Google," Kate O'Connell, a librarian, told the Journal.
But the numbers are sobering enough. There are just 333 librarians in the city's schools today, which is roughly a 17 percent drop from four years ago. The Journal's Lisa Fleisher additionally points to changing school designs as a factor in the decrease.
"It's just very sad, because they don't value librarians," O'Connell, one among the 333, bemoaned.