School Library Challenges, New Digital Library, and Book Spine Poetry

This is the National Library Week edition of news from The Education Town Hall on We Act Radio (WPWC 1480 AM).

Full audio of today’s show.

State of Our Libraries

On Tuesday, the American Library Association released its State of America’s Libraries Report for 2013. This important and very readable document highlights how libraries are responding to budget cuts, attempts to ban books, and the challenge of providing ebooks and on-line content along with print materials. School libraries, in particular, face challenges including severe budget cuts.

A longitudinal study shows that between 2005 and 2011, schools lost nearly 4000 librarians to budget cuts. That’s a drop of nearly 7% over those 6 years, with additional losses since then and more to come:

School libraries are bracing for further budget cuts as federal funding to the states shrinks and the states begin to reduce aid to education. Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the National School Boards Association, warned that this could lead to the closing of school libraries, among other things.

And Carl Harvey II, past-president of the American Association of School Librarians (2011 – 2012), said eliminating school librarian positions betrays “an ignorance of the key role school librarians play in a child’s education….The value of school librarians has been measured in countless studies demonstrating that strong school library programs help students learn more and score higher on standardized achievement tests.”
–from the report

The ALA report highlights a 2012 study of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers about digital technology and their students. Most teachers agreed that digital technologies are a positive element in student research but “do more to distract students than to help them academically.” The study concluded that “the internet makes students more self-sufficient researchers” while “students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up,” with all that is available to them.

Among teachers surveyed, 83% believe that “the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students.” 71% believe that “today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research.”

Some teachers surveyed, all in classrooms advanced coursework, expressed concern about their students ability to recognize bias and to assess quality of resources available on-line.

The 2013 report and a link to the 2012 study are available at

Digital Public Library Launches April 18

The Digital Public Library, a huge, multi-year, multi-institution undertaking, launches today. A gala celebration and other events were planned to take place at the Boston Public Library. But the library is near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and, as most listeners know, two bombs exploded just outside the library on Monday. Celebratory and educational events are temporarily cancelled due to ongoing investigations and so that library staff can focus on their grieving community.

Announcing the change, Executive Director Dan Cohen said: “I see the building of a new library as one of the greatest examples of what humans can do together to extend the light against the darkness. In due time, we will let that light shine through.”

The Digital Public Library of America will launch a beta of its discovery portal and open platform at noon ET today. The portal will deliver millions of materials found in American archives, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage institutions to students, teachers, scholars, and the public. Far more than a search engine, the portal will provide innovative ways to search and scan through its united collection of distributed resources. Special features will include a dynamic map, a timeline that allow users to visually browse by year or decade, and an app library that provides access to applications and tools created by external developers using DPLA’s open data.

Digital Public Library —

Still Time to Enter the Book Spine Poetry Contest

The American Library Association wants all who value public libraries to use those resources in a creative way: “Tell us why your library matters to you by submitting a book spine poem,” a piece of free verse created from book spines.

How it works:

Compose your poem using book available to you at your local library.
Take a picture of your poem.
Upload your poem using this web form.
Submit your poem by the April 20.

Enter by April 20 at

— Virginia Spatz
for The Education Town Hall
April 11 edition on We Act Radio

Listen live on Thursdays at 11 a.m. (EDT) on
full recordings archived for later discussion and sharing
look for more information on The Education Town Hall’s blog,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s