Letter to the Editor: Lani Gerson

Although a relatively new resident of Watertown, I began my career as a librarian in this community 35 years ago. My first position with the WFPL was as joint public librarian/school librarian at the old Brown School. In those days there was great access to libraries in Watertown including school libraries, branch libraries and a combination of the two. Things sure have gone downhill since then. I join the many voices demanding full funding for the schools – including fully staffing the school libraries. I despair at what the school children in this town are missing out on. Without full funding of the schools, many, many needs will not be met and many important programs will suffer, and libraries will continue to take fatal hits.

Today, just as 35 years ago, every school child deserves a strong and vibrant library program, yet Watertown has been one of the districts in the Commonwealth gradually eliminating those programs and access to library resources and library professionals. It is not the case that every district is getting rid of librarians and school library programs. Of the top 50 school systems (as rated by Boston Magazine) the great majority has dynamic school library programs.

Too often libraries are viewed as holding places, study halls or as the final resting places for dusty books. This is WRONG – headed! There is ample research documenting the crucial role that access to fully staffed school libraries play in helping students to achieve.

Test scores tend to be higher in all types of schools where there are school librarians, and where library staff spends more time delivering library/information and literacy instruction to students. In addition, students do better when library staff spend time collaborating with teachers on instructional units and also training teachers in successful information access. Finally, test scores tend to be higher for all of types of schools when students have frequent opportunities to visit the school library.

These optimal conditions do not exist in any of the Watertown schools. Unless the town manager and the town council can be persuaded to listen to the outcry in this community for better-funded schools, the educational needs of our children will not be met. I ask the town to begin the process of bringing back libraries and librarians to the Watertown schools and to better funding the schooling of our children.

Lani Gerson 4 Washburn Street Watertown, MA 02472