- The number of school librarians in Michigan dropped 73% between 2000 and 2016, compared to a national decline of 20% over the same period, and 92% of schools in the state now don’t have a full-time certified school librarian, according to Chalkbeat.
- Literacy rates have also been on the decline since 2003. The state now ranks 35th in the nation for 4th-grade reading scores as measured by a national student achievement assessment, the lowest of any state in the Midwest, the article says.
- While prisons in the state are required to have a library and a librarian, schools are not — but some lawmakers are seeking to change this by introducing bills that would require every school to have a library and a librarian, regardless of demographics. While the idea has broad bi-partisan support, there's not consensus yet on how the positions would be funded, and school librarian roles would be hard to fill as fewer students are now pursuing the field.
As economic factors have driven school staffing decisions for over a decade, some school districts have had to make tough calls regarding libraries. Some districts have opted to eliminate school librarian positions — and even the libraries themselves — as a consequence.
Even with the increased use of technology, school librarians still play a strong role in literacy efforts. Libraries are also becoming a center for creativity and collaboration, as many are now including makerspaces and becoming "learning commons" instead of places for individual reading and study.
School librarians help students master the research aspects of tech and teach students to discern truth from error in the sea of information they can access. They can also aid teachers as they strive to keep up with new technologies and can help curate websites and apps that can be especially helpful in lesson planning or classroom engagement.
Many school administrations are recognizing the value in retaining and using school librarians and media specialists as partners in the educational process. School librarians support both teachers and students, and their importance is growing in the current educational environment.
"Today’s school media center is the heart of the school, the hub of learning and the center of new and emerging technologies," Debbie Turner and Michele White noted in an article published by the AASA. "It is a source of tools, resources, information and support for students and educators alike."