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Originally published Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Grass-roots effort begins to save school libraries

Supporters of school librarians and library programs have launched a statewide online petition drive to try to save what they believe is...

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Supporters of school librarians and library programs have launched a statewide online petition drive to try to save what they believe is an endangered school position.

Two parents from the Spokane School District, where budget cuts this year reduced 10 librarian positions to half-time, want librarians and library services included in the state's definition of a basic education.

"We're really, really scared libraries will fall through the cracks," said Susan McBurney, who together with Lisa Layera Brunkan is organizing the petition drive. The petition can be found at http://gopetition.com/online/15285.html.

So far, more than 430 people have signed.

A task force meeting today in Olympia is considering revisions to the state education-funding formula. The task force hopes to make recommendations to the Legislature in September 2008.

Rep. Skip Priest, R-Federal Way, said the librarian cuts are symbolic of the state education-funding crisis. The Federal Way School District cut 20 library positions in 2006 in the face of a $4 million budget shortfall.

"When we were forced to eliminate librarians, it sent a clear message that the state wasn't funding basic education," said Priest, who serves on the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance created by the 2007 Legislature.

The petition organizers note that school districts around the state have made a variety of library-program cutbacks, including replacing teacher-librarians with aides, assigning librarians to more than one school, reducing library hours and not replacing retiring librarians.

An American Library Association task force last year called school librarians "highly endangered" and placed some of the blame on high-stakes testing. The ALA report said that little recognition is given to librarians' work in promoting reading and supporting classroom teachers.

Studies in 19 states link strong school libraries to student achievement, regardless of the district's socio-economic level, said Marianne Hunter, immediate past president of the Washington Library Media Association.

She said her group is joining other library supporters around the state to have certified teacher-librarians and library programs included in the state's definition of basic education.

"As the task force tries to solve the issue of education funding, we're hoping to get on the radar," she said.

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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