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'Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish'

March 30, 1986

In a classic example of "penny-wise, pound-foolish" . . . the board members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District took uncharacteristically fast action to try and strengthen their weakening financial situation by firing six of seven librarians in the district's elementary schools.

I understand the board's dilemma posed by rising expenses and dwindling revenues due to the district's overall slow decline in pupil enrollment. But in many elementary schools, like John Webster here in Malibu, declining enrollment was beginning to be reversed.

So, just when there is a glimmer of hope for increasing enrollment and thereby increasing revenues to the district, the board makes a decision that not only weakens the education of pupils now attending its elementary schools, but makes those schools less attractive to parents who might have been contemplating switching their children from private schools to the (district).

But what difference do librarians make? The libraries in these elementary schools will still be open. But a library is just a room with books unless children are instructed in its use, and a few classroom teachers now have the time (and in some cases the training) to provide such instruction. A good librarian can not only teach children how to use the library for research and information retrieval, he/she can create the special programs and activities that can make reading the great discovery it should be. A librarian can engender in children a love of books and reading that no amount of fancy workbooks and computer programs can equal.

The salaries of the librarians the board has just fired don't amount to any really large sum; no one becomes a librarian to get rich! Couldn't more significant sources of funds be found by an aggressive financial manager who could find tenants/buyers for the unused land, abandoned school buildings, and real estate that the school district owns?

I hope that the parents of every child enrolled in the district will demand that the board reconsider its hasty and ill-advised firing of its elementary school librarians. Call or write them today!

DIANE CASELLA HINES

Malibu

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