Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Steps to take now for our schools- What Were You Thinking, Bernstein??

I just sent this letter to the editor to Newsday, regarding Marc Bernstein's (Superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District) Opinion Piece in yesterday's newspaper. I don't know if they will publish my response, but I will publish it here:

Superintendent Marc Bernstein says, "Other avenues to explore, especially when evidence is lacking, this Internet age, eliminating the antiquated requirement that all high schools have at least one full-time librarian and a minimum number of books." I say, the only thing that is antiquated is Mr. Bernstein's view of school librarians and the function of school libraries! School libraries are not simply warehouses; they are knowledge portals, manned by highly qualified educators who teach digital citizenship, inquiry, critical reading, evaluation, comprehension, analytical skills, collaboration, and creativity. We are, in fact, literacy leaders, teaching students the skills they need in a world where information is available across all kinds of platforms. In the "Internet age" that Mr. Bernstein speaks of, it is more important than ever to teach students how to seek and search for information. They might be very savvy with technology, but they don't necessarily know how to evaluate. The explosion of online resources demands that there is a teacher with expertise in technology and information-gathering (librarians) to guide students through the maze. We know how to let content spill outside of our libraries, into classrooms, and into students' lives wherever they may be. Our teaching focus is on enhancing literacy and encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoned decision-making - essential 21st century skills that students need now more than ever!

Buffy J. Hamilton, high school librarian, writes in her blog, The Unquiet Librarian, "...President Obama In October of 2009, issued an official proclamation celebrating and affirming the importance of information literacy with the declaration of National Information Literacy Awareness Month. In this proclamation, he stated,

Our Nation’s educators and institutions of learning must be aware of — and adjust to — these new realities. In addition to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it is equally important that our students are given the tools required to take advantage of the information available to them. The ability to seek, find, and decipher information can be applied to countless life decisions, whether financial, medical, educational, or technical.

How do you think students can become informationally fluent in the absence of rich, current, and diverse collections in their school libraries or appropriate access to digital content? How can we as a nation provide students the instruction needed to help students cultivate “the ability to seek, find, and decipher information” without fully funded libraries staffed by highly qualified, certified school librarians?"

Obviously, Mr. Bernstein does not support his school librarians and the integral role they play in educating students about information and digital literacies. Perhaps if he educates himself about the role we play as educators, he would change his opinion.


  1. Thank you Karen for saying what needed to be said so beautifully.

  2. Wow! Extremely impressive response. I believe I can speak for all librarians when I say thank you!


    Matisse Muscatello
    Farmingdale High School
    Library Media Specialist

  3. Bravo and thank you, Karen! I am forwarding the text of your blog to my Principal and perhaps an administrator here in my district.

  4. Well said Karen! I hope that this will be printed and I hope you will allow me to point others to your blog post.

    Cyndi Phillip
    School Librarian
    Former AASL President
    Grand Haven, Michigan

  5. Beautifully written! I will be looking for this in Newsday. I will also be forwarding this to the school librarians I work with at the public library.

  6. Too bad that Marc Bernstein didn't interview Robert Fenter from the Oceanside HS who spoke at the NBSLS meeting on Oct 6th. He had a greater understanding of the impact that school libraries have on education.

    - Catherine Brown
    B.A., M.L.S.

  7. Dr. Bernstein's unfortunate remark, "Other avenues to explore, especially when evidence is lacking..." demonstrates that he is greatly lacking in knowledge about the link between school libraries and student achievement. He needs to be provided with the Research Foundation Paper "SCHOOL LIBRARIES WORK." This treatise gives abundant evidence that students score higher on standardized tests across all grade levels, regardless of socioeconomic or educational levels, when school libraries contain strong collections, act as a curriculum partner, and are staffed with certified media specialists. These are findings from studies conducted in 14 states that has led to a resolution approved by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in 2007. This Commission advised Congress that:
    * schools be provided with adequate resources to provide up-to-date print and non-print materials in all school library/media centers;
    * school library media specialists be added to the "highly qualified" classification;
    * every school library be staffed by a highly qualified state certified school library media specialist.
    There is a severe lack of knowledge in the coursework given to those in educational administration programs, and this ignorance is often perpetuated throughout an administrator's tenure. Only those who critically think, beyond their initial educational training, have the vision and understanding to value and support their libraries, library programs and library media specialists. Unfortunately, these visionary administrators are in the minority.

    Marilyn Abramowitz
    Library Media Specialist
    Mineola High School

  8. Thank you for speaking on behalf of all of us hardworking librarians and the important work that we do to educate our students to be 21st century learners!

  9. An excellent response to the opinion of an administrator obviously unschooled in schooling. Gadzooks! He is the perfect example of what is broken in education.

    Jed Turner
    Library Media Specialist
    Comsewogue High School

  10. Well said Karen. I hope to see this published!

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments. Unfortunately Newsday did not publish my letter. In case you didn't see it, this is a link to the article:

  12. Thank you for so eloquently defending our profession.

    I wish that Dr. Bernstein were the only misinformed/uninformed (dare I say ignorant in its true sense?) educational administrator.

    May I share your letter with my district media specialists and administrators?

  13. Very nicely stated. As a fellow librarian, I know the value of libraries and what they bring to students. Kudos on a well written letter.

  14. thanks for the post