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Our students deserve a quality public education

October is Information Literacy Month in Oregon. What is information literacy? It is the ability to find, evaluate, use and produce information effectively and ethically.

Why is it important for students to learn these skills? As of June 6, CNN Money reported that: “The Internet now has 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses.” With the ever-increasing tsunami of available information, students now more than ever need to learn how to identify the best information resources, sort through that information, evaluate it for bias and reliability and synthesize it into their own work.

The following excerpts from the Information Literacy Month proclamation signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber explain the importance of these skills in education and in the workforce:

• “Individuals who are comfortable working with the information resources available in the digital world are able to seek highly skilled jobs and compete at high levels in the global economy; and

• “Information literacy is a crucial part of education, and if taught as early as kindergarten, will expose students to analytic and research practices that will better prepare them for changing technologies....”

Licensed school librarians are trained to equip students with information literacy skills so they can be independent researchers, critical thinkers and effective communicators using a full range of media and technology tools. Unfortunately, due to ongoing school funding constraints, many Oregon schools have lost their school librarian positions over time.

According to the 2011 “QEM and Libraries” report published by the State Library, the number of licensed school librarians in Oregon had fallen in 2009 by 61 percent since 1980 (from 818 to 319 librarians). That percentage is even higher today with cuts to school librarian positions in Salem-Keizer and Beaverton since that time. This report also outlines the minimum criteria for quality school libraries as defined by the 2008 Quality Education Commission. These criteria include licensed librarian staffing, library support staff and library materials expenditures. Only five of the 1,303 Oregon school libraries in the 2009-10 school year met these guidelines. When school librarian positions are cut, the teaching of these critical information literacy skills often falls by the wayside because classroom teachers have so many other demands on their instructional time.

Educators working in Oregon schools have experienced budget cuts year after year. It’s not about tightening our belts anymore because any “extras” have long since disappeared, and there aren’t any notches remaining to tighten.

Please commit to spending some time volunteering in schools to experience first-hand how hard teachers and other educators are working to do the very best for students despite making do with less each year.

Our students deserve a quality public education. They deserve sufficient and stable funding for public education. They deserve moderate class sizes. They deserve high-quality school libraries as a piece of the complete educational environment preparing them to become our future doctors, scientists, teachers, engineers and community leaders. I urge parents, grandparents and community members throughout Oregon to advocate on behalf of students for the full educational experience they all deserve.

For more information about how well-funded and staffed school library programs contribute to student achievement and specific examples of high-quality library programs, please visit learnforlife.info. This website also includes links to Oregon school library standards for students and citations for sources appearing in this letter.

Jenny Takeda was recently honored as the Oregon District Librarian of the Year. She now serves as a substitute teacher in the Beaverton School District.



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