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Feeling the Pinch, Libraries Defend Duties

School libraries nationwide are striving to provide smart researching methodologies and information literacy skill sets to students but are also taking significant funding cuts, says a new major survey from the American Association of School Librarians and data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

AASL president Sara Kelly Johns says that in today's information age school libraries aim to function as facilities offering centralized learning resources and instilling in students a love of reading, but half of the respondents to the 2007 AASL survey of more than 4,000 schools reported annual average per-pupil expenditures of only $10.76 for informational resources and an average copyright date of 1994 for health and medical titles, and NCES data shows a shrinking pool of full-time, state-certified library media specialists.

"Students need these skills to survive in 21st-century life," says Johns, "and in class they're getting them only randomly."

Keith Curry Lance, former director of the Library Research Service at Colorado State Library, says that if the trend continues, the per-pupil expenditure could drop next year to $9.76, a decrease of more than 50 percent from 1999-2000.

The financial crisis stems greatly from federal budgeting priorities to raise test scores under the No Child Left Behind law and a lack of awareness of the evidence that students perform better on state achievement tests at schools with certified library media specialists actively engaged in teaching roles, says American Library Association president Loriene Roy.

Library advocates nationwide are pushing for the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act, which would place a state-certified school library media specialist in every school in America, and efforts from groups such as the Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology have led to the passing of state legislation to provide districts with funding for a set number of teacher-librarians and allocate $12 per child for acquisition of materials.

Educators and child advocates consider the Washington bill a model for nationwide education reform, and groups such as the recently formed Oregon Coalition for School Libraries and Information Literacy are also lobbying for funding, says Roy.

AASL hopes the advocacy language and the SKILLs Act will be incorporated into the reauthorized version of NCLB.

The Washington coalition's work and status of the bill can be found on their Web site,


Joining the Supt. of the Year "Crew"

Rudolph Crew, superintendent of the Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools, the nation's fourth-largest school system, was recently named the 2008 National Superintendent of the Year.

Honored at the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference in Tampa, Crew, in his fourth year as superintendent of Miami-Dade, was credited as making significant changes in the learning environment of the 353,000-student school system.

"Rudy Crew has demonstrated high-quality leadership in several of our nation's largest public school systems," said AASA executive director Paul Houston. "From developing innovative school improvement programs to strengthening collaboration with the local community, he has worked hard to improve learning outcomes for all children. AASA is proud to have him represent the best of the profession in 2008."

Getting the Scoop on Cooperative Purchasing

A Web seminar was recently held by DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION on the uses, benefits and legalities of cooperative purchasing groups for school districts to streamline their procurement process and save money, sponsored by Williams Scotsman.

As schools grapple with shrinking budgets and reduced staff , such associations-which manage purchasing for goods and services-are growing in popularity, but many officials remain unfamiliar with them. A video presentation of the seminar, which featured a panel of experts in the field, is available on-demand at