FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2021
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR DC PUBLIC SCHOOL LIBRARIES
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) stands in solidarity with the District of Columbia Public School System (DCPS) librarians and the students they serve in demanding that library positions be retained and regarded as a vital resource in the success of all children, especially the most vulnerable – students of color.To deny a child access to a school library with a certified librarian reduces a child’s chance of academic success. Numerous educational impactstudies support this statement. The research of Keith Curry Lance (2000, 2005, 2011, 2012, and2015) and the Library Research Service (2012), indicates that a school library staffed with a certified school librarian greatly increases a child’s chance of scholastic success. Removing school librarians from schools in Wards 7 and 8, predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods and in other areas of the district in order to replace those schools with library aides eliminates a powerful resource in leveraging equity for those who need it most.
Students of color experience a consistently widening achievement gap in academic performance as compared with other groups. White male students are three times more likely to be reading proficiently in the fourth grade than their African-American peers and more than twice as likely as Hispanic boys. The statistics are even more alarming for children of color from low income families, with just 10 percent of African-American boys and 14 percent of Hispanic boys reading proficiently, compared to 25 percent for their white peers. Unfortunately, reading level is only one area in which Black boys lag behind. From preschool through the 12th grade, African-American boys and girls are more likely to be suspended and drop out of school than other demographic groups across the United States and more likely to experience school related arrests – all conditions which establish a pipeline for minority children to wind up in prison.
To reverse this tragic trend, BCALA implores DCPS to retain school librarians: take action to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children, rather than enact a decision that will short change their progress and opportunity. School libraries and librarians are integral to student success. Because of their education, training, and experience, school librarians are an invaluable resource to students in developing literacy and technological skills, critical thinking, and the ability to evaluate information resources. School libraries provide digital access for students who cannot afford computers, the internet or transportation to the public library. Without books, digital devices and online resources to complete assignments and engage in classwork students fall behind, their achievement stagnates, and they fail – proven by numerous studies and research. Additionally, school librarians offer training and curriculum support to classroom teachers to help close the achievement gaps faced by marginalized students.
The COVID-19 pandemic, increased incidents of police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter uprising in response to racial violence has sparked deep reflection with regard to societal inequities. In the fight for equality, it is imperative that we not overlook the educational disparities faced by Black and Brown communities in America as a civil rights and racial justice issue. School shutdowns, and loss of life and employment due to COVID 19 have compounded inequities faced by many minority children. DCPS librarians are needed more now than ever. The importance of school librarians and the vital role they play in the education of its students must be recognized. To view school librarians as unnecessaryand expendable, raises serious questions regarding the commitment of DCPS in support of an equal and quality education for every student.
About the Black Caucus of the American Library Association(BCALA)
BCALA serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community; and provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.