Friday, August 30, 2013

Updates on Miami-Dade & Philadelphia Libraries

On July 22nd, I shared this discouraging news: Philadelphia laying off school librarians. On July 26th, I shared this: Miami Dade PL To Close Nearly Half its Branches.

Now, Library Journal's e-newletter, Library Hotline, has published the following two updates in its September 2, 2013,Volume 42, No. 35, issue.

Miami-Dade No Longer Closing Branches
The Miami–Dade Public Library System, FL, which was originally told it would have to close many branches owing to budget cuts, is no longer slated to close any, the Miami Herald reported on August 24.

In July, when Mayor Carlos Gimenez recommended no tax increase, which left the library with a $15 million shortfall, he first estimated that 42 of 49 branches would have to close. That number fell to 22 before the county commissioners voted to approve the mayor’s recommended tax rate, which can now be lowered but not raised.

With both the mayor’s office and Raymond Santiago, director of the Miami- Dade Public Library System and LJ’s 2003 Librarian of the Year, working on mitigating the impact, the number of branches to close fell to 16, then 14, then four, and now none. Layoff estimates have also fallen from 251 to 192, to the current 169. Hours, however, would still be reduced by 25 percent. (2)
Philly School Librarians Still in Flux
Philadelphia schools faced their first day with fewer school librarians— continuing a trend in the metropolitan school district and the state of Pennsylvania. Of the approximately 22 remaining certified school librarians working in the Philadelphia school district, some are not returning to their school librarian positions. Some are being sent back as prep teachers, with at least one returning as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher and another as a classroom teacher, according to sources close to the matter.

The changes come as the district faced a $304 million shortfall in its budget for the 2013–14 school year. The city agreed to borrow $50 million just to open schools, as Superintendent William R. Hite had threatened to delay opening without those funds.

In addition, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) passed a measure during a contentious meeting on August 16 allowing principals to hire back staff based on the needs of the school—not based on seniority. Parents and educators both voiced opposition to the measure by the SRC, which replaced the school board in 2001 with appointees from the governor and the mayor.

How school librarians may fare in the coming days is unclear. At least one school librarian whose position was transferred from an elementary school to a high school was told librarians might be hired back if and when the $50 million came through. However, with so many other persons, including assistant principals, secretaries, school nurses, and guidance counselors, laid off at the end of the 2012–13 school year, there’s no guarantee librarians will get priority.

“Apparently, they pretty much let principals decide how funds will be allocated in each building,” said Deb Kachel, cochair of the legislation committee for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. “So it’s very uneven which schools will have librarians and which won’t.”(3-4)

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