Passage of California legislation that dedicates funding to rebuild and enrich the state's K-12 school library services has proven to be a boon for enrollment in the Library Media Teacher (LMT) Services Credential Program at California State University, Long Beach.
"Because of Assembly Bill 862, schools have gotten more funding, and administrators are starting to see the need for qualified school librarians," said Lesley Farmer, director of the credential program. "As they were making their plan to decide what books to get, they realized they needed a professional to help make these decisions and looked at their staff to see who would be good to head that up."
Since the passage of AB 862, the California Public School Library Act of 1998, enrollment in the Cal State Long Beach program has jumped 82 percent over the last year. Currently, there are 70 students from 25 school districts in the program, and some have driven from as far away as Santa Barbara and Bakersfield on Saturdays to attend the two-year program's classes.
"More than one-third of our students were handpicked by their school's administrators to get these library improvements going," added Farmer, who is also director of the American Association of School Librarians' Region VII and author of 13 books in the field.
When it comes to library services and collections in K-12 schools, California's rank among the worst in the United States. In fact, the state ranks last in the number of school librarians per pupil. Seven out of eight schools in the state do not have professional library staffing for half a day or more, and many of those who are employed are on emergency permits.
The national recommendation for library books per student is 16-25, depending on the size and level of the school. But in California, the average number of school library books per K-12 student is 11. In addition, the average copyright date of a nonfiction book in these schools is 1972.
With AB 862 and two other pieces of legislation, the per-pupil allocation totals approximately $28.86 for school library collection improvement. Previously, there was no allotment per child.
With these new allocations, Delaine Easton, state superintendent of public instruction, wants to bring California's school library book count to 20 up-to-date, relevant and enticing books for students.
"Once the schools see the power of having a good selection of current materials for their students and the impact on student achievement," Farmer said, "they will see the need to support this more than they have in the past."
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