The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Arlington’s proposal to cut library assistants would hurt elementary schools

Parents walk their children to Key Elementary School in Arlington on Feb. 4. (Cal Cary/For The Washington Post)

The Arlington Public Schools’ budget proposal to eliminate elementary school library assistants is misguided and unwise, and it would directly affect student achievement. The American Association of School Librarians strongly advises minimum staffing requirements of highly trained support staff to realize an effective school library program. This is reiterated in numerous position statements and publications, including national library standards.

The elimination of elementary library assistants is described in the budget as having a minimal impact on strategic plan goals. The budget proposal notes that “schools will have to find alternative methods . . . to maintain the library books.”

I am a first-grade teacher in Arlington Public Schools and am pursuing a school library professional endorsement. I know library assistants do not simply “maintain the library books”; they also support instruction, prepare special programs and ensure librarians have time to plan and collaborate with school staff.

The budget is mistaken in saying the cut “will have a minimal impact directly on student learning.” Studies across the country link increased library staffing to higher reading performance and confirm that the best school libraries employ and require support staff.

The best librarians co-teach, plan and collaborate with teaching colleagues. The best libraries have high circulation numbers and check out hundreds of books per day.

Without assistants, our school libraries cannot and will not be their best.

Greg D'Addario, Silver Spring