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Organizing against library closings

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

Last year when Victory Schools Inc. took over my school, Bethune Elementary in North Philadelphia, just about the first thing they did was eliminate our librarian in the name of saving money. As a teacher, I was appalled at this action; the library had been the heart of our school community.

Faculty and staff members were able to argue successfully that they should keep our librarian on staff, and she became the writing prep teacher, teaching writing in the library. But even with a librarian on staff, Victory told us they were turning our library into a multimedia center…with no librarian. So now children can visit our multimedia center, but with no one there to teach them about literature or information literacy.

Distressed over losing our library, we have learned that we are not an isolated case – this is happening throughout the city. (For a treat, visit some private schools and see what resources they pour into their libraries.)

Studies by Keith Lance prove that student achievement is directly related to well-staffed, equipped, and funded school libraries. The time is now to invest in our libraries and librarians.

We have recently broadened our organizing efforts to include any Philadelphian who feels that libraries and librarians are critical for our schools’ success. Our first meeting was last June, and we plan on coming together again this fall. Individuals concerned about this issue are encouraged to contact us at 215-848-6081 for more information.

Karel Kilimnik