School libraries still struggling despite addition of volunteers

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TRURO – Despite the addition of volunteers to help with school libraries, it’s still a struggle to maintain the service to local students, say school board members.

A report to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board from its education services department on Wednesday night indicated more volunteers are being trained to help in school libraries in light of the reduction of full-time equivalent library positions at the beginning of the school year.

Seven library volunteer training sessions recently took place that included 55 volunteers from 14 schools, including Truro, Tatamagouche, Bible Hill Central, North River, Chignaois and Debert elementary schools in addition to Harmony Heights. More training sessions are planned for this month.

Scott Milner, director of education services, told the Truro Daily News the loss of professional librarians in the schools has been difficult as anticipated.

“(Schools) are struggling. The transition has been difficult and challenging,” acknowledged Milner. “We are missing that expertise (of trained librarians) but we appreciate volunteers.”

During the school board meeting on Wednesday, school board member Wendy Matheson-Withrow said it’s not been a good situation.

“Things are not running smoothly … Half of our children are receiving (library services) and the teachers are already taxed” with numerous responsibilities, said Matheson-Withrow.

There are 21 library staff (17.90 full-time equivalents)  providing library services to 30 schools, seven that are in the Cobequid family of schools, most of which are  located in Colchester County. Most of the services are in high schools.

Milner said library services will again be a part of this year’s budget deliberations. He said it’s too early to know whether or not there will be more cuts to library services.

Organizations: Central Regional School Board, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Chignecto, North River, Debert Harmony Heights Colchester County

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Recent comments

  • Former employee
    January 22, 2013 - 10:11

    When I worked in the school system my profession was constantly criticized and looked down upon by teachers and administration. I was seen as someone who was hired 'only' to check in and out books. It's laughable that this had to happen for teachers and administration to open their eyes that library staff were, in fact, a valuable asset to their schools.

  • Former Library Specialist
    January 10, 2013 - 15:30

    Dear Library Volunteer: I appreciate a lot of what you are trying to convey, however please consider how you sound to former and present library staff. It was a huge insult last year when library staff was in the middle of fighting for our careers, the rights of our students, and defending our profession every time we turned around within and outside of our schools to hear from the mouths of school board members that teachers and volunteers would take over our duties. Not only were we told three times within two months that we no longer would be employed, but also told people with minimal or no training could do our jobs. Thankfully the outcry that followed resulted in 40% of our staff to return to their positions for the time being. Yes, at first glance it seems as though library staff is "only" there to check in and out books and shelve, there is much more to what we are trained to do. As a library volunteer you ought to know better. In fact, many of us used volunteer assistance to do these tasks for us so we could better assist students and complete our many other responsibilities. Good for the school board to tell you to wait for the “trained professionals.” Perhaps more people will begin to recognize that trained staff is needed to do the job. Unfortunately, 60% of us are already gone. You should enroll in the library program at the NSCC or Dalhousie if you are truly interested in more in depth training; just don't expect employment in the schools upon completion.

  • Northern NS Resident
    January 10, 2013 - 13:07

    While I really do appreciate volunteers, you cannot replace the valuable work of trained library staff, who have the experience and education to work in these positions.

  • Dan Thompson
    January 10, 2013 - 10:19

    Nice to see that the volunteers are already disgruntled with the board. Now imagine how it feels to have your job taken from you and be replaced by a volunteer. Good times all around and the children are still not receiving quality library experience with the volunteers in place. Poor kids!!

  • Susan Higgins
    January 10, 2013 - 10:09

    Mr. Milner: It's too bad that you didn't appreciate the educated professionals that you cut and the rest that you will cut. Glad to see that you will be happy with volunteers doing a well intentioned task, even though they are poorly prepared for it. Perhaps we could take the volunteer idea a little further, and replace the teachers, or the hierachy that is the school board with volunteers. Epic fail in getting rid of the educated library services people.

  • Book Lover
    January 10, 2013 - 10:03

    I sympathize with this library volunteer, and I commend him or her for volunteering at a school library. Unfortunately, the library professionals who know how to operate the databases and catalogue books are not coming to the school to help because their jobs have just been cut by 60%. Many were laid off altogether, and the resources of the remaining librarians are already stretched beyond thin. The Board can't ask them to do a job from which they were just fired -- unless the Board wants to re-hire them, which would solve all our problems. I am glad the Board recognizes the effects of the loss of professionally trained library staff. And I am not surprised library volunteers feel frustrated by their lack of training. Librarians do a two-year Master's degree and Library Techs do an intense, two-year college program to learn their skills. I echo Library Volunteer's call for the province and the Board to see the importance of library services -- and to do something about it.

  • Irene Green
    January 10, 2013 - 10:02

    Dear Library Volunteer: All of the professionals, what are left of us, are WORKING. In jobs, that we may not be in next year. While being a volunteer is an admirable thing, you have to realize that being a volunteer for the school board will not guarantee you a job there. Where the volunteers are now, the jobs will never materialize. In at least two of the schools that had their library services cut, the library books are not in the library, they are in the classrooms, having been taken there by the teachers. You can see this for yourself by going to Cumberland North Academy in Amherst, NS. My dear library volunteer if you think that the database is hard, there is a reason for that, you are not trained to be a library services person. Those who were cut and those who are still in place went to university for that training and we didn't do it in an hour. Many dollars were invested in our education. It's a shame to to see more cuts come to the library, but come they will.

  • Bookmobile & Literacy
    January 10, 2013 - 09:37

    Neglected to mention I am very thankful for the volunteers and I think they should be given all the support they can get.

  • Bookmobile & Literacy
    January 10, 2013 - 09:31

    I remember the Bookmobile was always a hit at our school back in the day. If we had the Bookmobile back that would help out a bit but of course the library has been cut back too. You would think with literacy rates being what they are that library would be a bit higher on the list of priorities. Sad state of affairs.

  • Evelyn Trainer
    January 10, 2013 - 09:18

    I am a librarian working for CCRSB staff, students, and parents and guardians. I went to university for six years to become a librarian. My colleagues may have taken different educational paths but we all had to go to school to do what we do. So, no, an hour would not be sufficient training in how to catalogue new materials, do research, support the curriculum, and create programing for students. Professionals are not showing up because most of my colleagues are gone. The rest of us are continuing to provide service in, usually, more than one school. Most elementary schools no longer see one of us. It is good that volunteers are learning how much students love going to the library. That is a huge reason why library staff fought so hard to stay in school libraries. As volunteers are discovering, there is so much more to a library than checking out books and putting the returns on a shelf. Spread the word. If you want the 'user friendliness' put back into school libraries, you need to tell the Dexter government that people trained in librarianship need to be put back in school libraries.

  • Library Volunteer
    January 09, 2013 - 21:04

    As one of the several Library volunteers, this school board will never know or understand the pure joy that we the volunteers saw the first day we open and we continue to see each week when the students come into the library knowing they can finally take out a book. In my opinion, things would be able to run more smoothly for the volunteers and the teachers if we were allowed to do more or at least have more assistance available to us within our libraries. We have several boxes and shelves full of new books....but we can't put them out because the board refuses to show anyone how to do it. Their reasoning "We have trained professionals for that." and to date I have yet to see any of the said professionals come to our school to help get these books out on the shelf. We (the volunteers) try to assist the teachers and even the children locate books they want to but our so-called "training" was extremely limited. It took less than an hour and we were showed how to check books in, check books out, and searching the database is harder than just going to look on shelves....it is not very user friendly even for the teachers. You would think that this board would be more respectful to their schools and the students and look at reducing positions within the office itself a little versus cutting into a VERY popular program that is screaming for help. These children LOVE coming to library....its just a shame that the board or even the Dept of Education fails to see that.