Laid off librarians limit youth access to books

Educational inequalities continue to be the result

City News Service | 2/27/2014, midnight

About half of the 600 elementary and middle school libraries in the Los Angeles Unified School District are without librarians or aides, denying tens of thousands of students regular access to nearly $100 million worth of books, it was reported this week.

The crisis has exacerbated educational inequalities across the nation’s second-largest system as some campuses receive extra money for library staff and others don’t, the Los Angeles Times reported. It has also sparked a prolonged labor conflict with the California School Employees Association, which represents library aides.

Since 2011, the union has alleged that L.A. Unified laid off their members, then illegally allowed parent volunteers, instructional aides and others to do their work at nearly four dozen campuses. The district issued a bulletin last year clarifying that library work can be performed only by those with proper credentials, but the union asserts that violations are still occurring. The issue is set for a hearing by the state Public Employment Relations Board in May.

Franny Parrish, a library aide involved in the union’s unfair practice charge, told The Times that the issue is not only jobs, but the security of L.A. Unified’s $205 million library book collection. Without trained staff to make sure books are properly checked out, returned and refiled, she said, thousands have gone missing.

Aiming to stem the problems, the Los Angeles Board of Education recently agreed to form a district-wide task force to seek ways to improve access to school libraries with more dollars, alternative arrangements and collaboration with other public libraries and charitable organizations, The Times reported.