This post has been updated. The librarian I refer to below is Jennifer Calder, and she’s fine with me using her name. She says, “I’m happy to know I convey my passion for what I’m doing.”
If you’ve ever met me, you probably know I care a lot about libraries. I am chair of the Halifax Regional Library Board, and generally a champion of all things library-related.
So it was with some shock that I (like other Nova Scotians) learned that the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board planned to cut costs by getting rid of all its librarians and library technicians. My first thought was that this was the most backward and least imaginative response possible.
The board has since (with prodding from the provincial government) gone back on its decision. But it is still cutting 21.2 full-time positions (leaving 16.9) . That’s still a huge loss.
I do writing workshops for kids throughout the province, and I have been in a lot of school libraries. To be honest, a lot of them are pretty pathetic. I used to volunteer in an elementary school library, and I felt really conflicted about it. On the one hand, I was a good person for the job. On the other, I always felt that the kids deserved a real librarian (or at least library tech) instead of a well-meaning volunteer like me.
The cuts the Chignecto Board is making really hit home for me last week when I was visiting a small school in the northern part of Nova Scotia. There was a young librarian there (she splits her time between two schools) and she was a real dynamo: up on technology, widely read, enthusiastic. She’d taken a library in which — are you ready for this — none of the books had been properly catalogued, and turned it into an inviting place to read, study and borrow.
She will probably lose her job in this round of cuts, and her students will be the worse off for it. The whole thing makes me sad and angry at the same time. The Internet will not replace a good librarian. But that’s an argument for another time.