“Hi Kenny, this is Ellen Resman. I am the cook at the Strafford School and was told to pick out $500 worth of books. Would it be possible to have you pick out the books? I have pk-8 grades at our school.”
I received that email a few days ago. The name and school name have been changed for privacy. Reading it with decades of experience in serving rural school libraries, the email was neither surprising nor far from the norm. A little out of the norm, sure, but not much.
To explain why. let us answer a few questions.
How did it happen that a person whose primary job is school cook was tasked with picking out books?
Devaluing expertise in school librarians is an entrenched state of affairs here. In Maine, each district is required to have at least one librarian with a Masters in Library Science (MLS) degree. The rest of the school libraries are usually staffed by ed techs. The pay differential between a librarian with an MLS and an ed tech is vast. Ed techs get minimum wage, have no benefits, and have no pay over the summer. From an operational standpoint, the distance between an ed tech ‘librarian’ and a cook is nonexistent. Gym teachers, bus drivers, and receptionists have all, in my direct experience, made the lateral transfer into ed tech library positions.Continue reading