New York City School Librarians’ Association Sends a Policy Statement to Chancellor Porter

Chancellor Porter, 

Congratulations on your appointment and thank you for taking on this role at such a crucial time. As you know from your tenure in the Bronx, school librarians are at the forefront of addressing the pivot to digital access, focusing on equity, and supporting families and other educators. The New York City School Librarians’ Association (NYCSLA) Board is writing today in anticipation of how the NYCDOE plan of service, budget, professional development, and staffing plan will leverage the power of school library programs and school librarians for the 2021-2022 school year.

NYCSLA represents over 150 school librarian members through professional development and advocacy activities. Our members are at work every day in schools in all five boroughs to realize the educational goals for New York City Public Schools. We are focused on creating and sustaining effective school library programs and engaging with students, families, and other educators in their success. We are committed to supporting student achievement and fulfilling state standards as educators.

During the current COVID-disrupted school year, our members have experienced first-hand all the challenges of being an educator. Because of necessary reassignments, many of our members are currently working outside of library programs as online classroom teachers or other instructional support roles. As the 2021-2022 school year begins to come into focus we want to work with your office and principals across the system to see all school librarians returned to school libraries. As a professional community, our members are aligned toward student achievement now and in the future. Restoring all school librarians to libraries next school year will be the best way to ensure academic success for our students.

NYCSLA is also interested in working with your office to review and engage current policies concerning school librarians and effective school library programs across the system. As you know, New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner’s Regulation §91.1 requires that a school library be established and maintained in each school (“The library in each elementary and secondary school shall meet the needs of the pupils, and shall provide an adequate complement to the instructional program in the various areas of the curriculum.”) NYSED regulation §91.2 requires the employment of a certified school librarian in every secondary school and requires an additional school librarian to be hired for every 1,000 students served. We are concerned that these regulations have been disrupted by COVID. NYCLSA encourages your office to engage in a reasonable effort to re-engage these regulations in the 2021-2022 school year.

With a likely return to in-person instruction next year, we believe that it is timely and important for the New York City Department of Education to align its budget and staffing plan to fully implement current state regulations about school library programs and positions across the system. During the COVID-pivot school librarians in New York City were instrumental in helping schools make the transition to full remote learning in the Spring of 2020 and then to hybrid in the Fall of 2020. As we continue to move through this time, our hope is to see the New York City Department of Education strengthen its support of school librarians. 

According to “The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement” published by the New York Comprehensive Center (August 2011) extensive research indicated schools that rely on their libraries to support student growth, specifically in the areas of literacy, technological skills, and access to resources and equipment, have seen increased student achievement and higher graduation rates. Likewise, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National School Library Standards from 2018 laid out seven foundational rubrics for effective school library programs that we should all aspire to. These standards include supporting a learning environment of inquiry and literacy that is focused on equity, inclusion, and access. The AASL Standards demonstrate that school librarians facilitate both student achievement and collaboration among educators while focusing on important topics like information literacy that prepares students for work and life.

As an organization, NYCSLA is aligned in principle and practice with the goals of the Equity and Excellence for All campaign. Over the next several years, NYCSLA will look to work with your office to support student achievement by increasing the number of school librarians and the presence of school librarians in primary as well as secondary schools. As educators, our members are concerned with helping COVID-impacted students and their families reverse learning losses and maintain grade-level reading skills. We hope to collaborate with your office in support of student growth and achievement. 

Sincerely,

New York City School Librarians’ Association

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