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IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD : Temecula: Supporting School Libraries, Against the Odds

September 13, 1993

California's school library system has deteriorated to the point that the American Library Assn. recently called it the nation's "worst of the worst." Because the state doesn't require schools to have libraries, they have, for years, been among the first targets of school district spending cuts, regardless of the economic climate.

The Riverside County city of Temecula defies this dismal profile. Each of the nine schools in this fast-growing desert community has its own library, with an up-to-date book collection, computerized reference resources and one full-time library assistant. A committment to school libraries was generated by concerned educators and parents and what one Temecula resident called a "wild coincidence": an influx of state funds to meet a swelling student population that comes at a time when two of the five school board members are librarians. In the last two years, the Temecula Unified School District has spent more than $300,000 on its libraries. But future library funding remains tethered--as it does in every state school district--to political and financial winds that can shift at any time.

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER

ROSIE VANDERHAAK

Parent, Riverside County public librarian

I think the part I played was to bring awareness to the school district that there was even a problem with the school libraries. Because I wear this other hat in the public library sector I met a lot of the students and parents, and there was a high level of frustration about what was lacking in school libraries or what we had in the public libraries.

It's been a pretty hard sell (to fund the school libraries) considering that we've been talking about this as soon as I got on the board (in 1988) and we didn't start this (funding program) until 1991. You have to bring this up at a time when it fits into the budget planning. There are so many other needs and sometimes it's tough to know where to start.

We have committed not only the money but the energy, time and programming to rejuvenate libraries that were really old and in awful condition and build libraries into our new facilities and keep them going. There has to be a forever committment that we won't let this slip. At the school board, parent and community level we're just going to have to drive that home.

LIBRARIAN

JULIE GRAY

School librarian and educator for more than 30 years, Temecula School District librarian and media specialist since 1991

The biggest problem in California is that there are no special school library programs--I'm not even mentioning that there's no formal funding. We go by American Library Assn. standards, so we aim at spending $7 to $8 per student on books.

If the state doesn't think school libraries are important, how are we going to convince anyone else that libraries are important?

ADMINISTRATOR

BOB VANDERPOOL

Director of curriculum and instruction since 1988, has worked for 32 years as an educator in California

There's a major issue we need to think about: No longer does one textbook in a classroom meet all of a student's needs. The days of one textbook with all information (on one subject) have long passed. We want the kids to be able to work with more than one resource. And you can't work with a variety of sources without the resources--print and computer--a school library can offer.

Population: 27,099

Anglo 81%

Hispanic 15%

Asian 3%

Black and other 1%

How bad is California's school library system?

Half of all school libraries statewide have closed in the last decade.

State ranks 50th in nation in number of librarians per student. (Hiring 3,000 school librarians in addition to the current 600 would move state only into 49th place.)

State ranks 43rd in the nation in number of library books per student.

State schools spend an average of 78 cents per student per year on library books. (The national average book cost is $15.)

No statewide standards exist for number of books and librarians per student.

There is no state requirement for districts to have school libraries.

Source: American Library Assn.

How good is Temecula's system? Each public school has:

A library

One full-time library aide

One automated library catalogue

Two personal computers for computerized reference materials

4,000 to 15,000 books

In addition the school district system has one full-time credentialed librarian and a library computer lab, open to the public, equipped with 15 computers, 4 laser printers, 2 dot-matrix printers and graphics scanner.

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