Spring 2019: Members of CEAG and the NJ Association of School Librarians met with Dr. Oswald to discuss the long-term plans for libraries and better understand the decisions that are being made. We encouraged him to include library media specialists in their upcoming ballot question to get the funding that they claim is not available. We said that Social Emotional Learning is supported through library services and would be a perfect fit with the upcoming SEL ballot vote. He said he would encourage the Board to do so, but they indicated that it would be “disingenuous” to include any costs not associated directly with the SEL platform. We disagreed, but decided to focus more on the upcoming budget for 2020-2021.
Summer 2019: Members of CEAG and the NJ Association of School Librarians met with Tatem Principal, Mr. Kulak to share concerns about the lack of book access and circulation. They created a detailed spreadsheet of recommendations outlining the areas of concern and comparing them to standard school library practice, which was shared with Mr. Kulak and Dr. Oswald. They did not commit to making any specific changes, but did hire a part-time library media specialist for the upcoming year.
Summer 2019: Over the summer, Tatem received donations from two other school districts of books for their classroom libraries, which also were incorporated into a hallway library, which has not been in use by most students yet.
Summer 2019: Also over the summer, we saw Collingwood again treat school libraries as expendable space. The Zane Library was relocated to a shared space to create an additional kindergarten classroom. This echoes the downsizing of the Sharp Library several years back. As of now, within the five Collingswood elementary buildings, we have two downsized libraries and one school with no library at all. This has all occurred under the leadership of Dr. Oswald.
Fall 2019: The shared-service library media specialist hired by the district is now working with students primarily in Oaklyn and only does coaching for staff at the Collingswood elementary schools. Dr. Oswald has referred to her as the district Social Emotional Learning specialist, instead of calling her the library media specialist. He made clear that Collingswood elementary schools would not at any point this year receive direct instruction with this library media specialist and that she would not serve in that capacity.
Fall 2019: Tatem PTA is doing fundraisers to raise money for classroom libraries, since the principal and superintendent indicated that there will not be a reinstated school library space beyond classrooms and the one hallway shelf. We have at least two advocates who are working with Tatem PTA to advocate for library services.
Fall 2019: In October, two advocates for libraries worked with CEAG to provide powerful public testimony to the community at the Collingswood Board of Education meeting. Both will be following up in writing to hold the district accountable for making positive changes to support library media education in schools for the 2020-2021 year and allocated sufficient funding to support at least two library media specialists for the elementary buildings. We are currently seeking additional speakers for the November meeting.