Libraries should be more than rooms

Oct. 28 is School Library Day in B.C. This should be a cause for celebration. The promotion of literacy and the acquisition of learning and thinking skills must be goals for all of our children. Every child must learn to learn with the whole gamut of resources in print, picture and digital formats. That is what the school library was meant to develop and support.

Every school in the province has a library-like place. In many high schools, they tend to be large, established facilities boasting programs delivered by teacher-librarians supplementing and enhancing the curriculum through active, formal engagement of teachers and materials.

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Unfortunately, in elementary and smaller secondary schools, that program is frequently not offered or severely limited due to cutbacks. The teacher-librarian who would drive the program is missing, replaced by volunteers and clerical assistants.

Without a “library program,” the library becomes an unappreciated vestige of a vanished time. Many of those libraries are maintained through donations of money and old books. The library is not a vital part of the school’s learning program or its budget.

A school library without a program is merely a room. If only we could have a School Library Program Day and expect all our schools to have qualified, dynamic teacher-librarians to develop quality collections and programs that make a difference to every child. Then the “rooms” would come alive. Then we could really celebrate the school library as a force for personalizing learning.

Donald Hamilton

Emeritus education librarian

University of Victoria

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