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School libraries await financial rescue

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

After nearly two years of mourning the loss of funding for school librarians in Federal Way, local library supporters are rejoicing.

Senate Bill 6380, which is being sponsored by State Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, could add funding back to school libraries throughout Washington.

“It has incredible significance because it’s the first one in the nation that would have a separate line item in the budget that would fund school librarians and school library materials,” said Marie-Anne Harkness, an elementary school librarian at Camelot and Sunnycrest elementary schools.

The Federal Way School District cut more than half of its librarians in 2006. The new legislation would fund replacements for those librarians, as well as additional librarians for schools with more than 500 students. If a school has fewer than 100 students, the bill will fund a half-time librarian.

The bill would also provide $12 per student for library resources including books, databases and online services. In years past, most Federal Way schools received an average of $0 to $4 per student for library materials, Harkness said.

“My reaction is I’m thrilled. Libraries are even more important today than they have been in the past, and they’ve always been important,” she said. “It’s a much more complex information world than it was in the past century.”

Harkness said there is an increasing availability of online resources, and it is important for students to have librarians who can teach them how to navigate the World Wide Web. Senate Bill 6380, if it passes, will fund those librarians in public schools throughout the state. The bill also specifies that the librarians will be certified teacher librarians.

“Our students’ economic future will be advantaged,” she said. “It will be highly advantagous for our students to know how to access and use information in all formats.”

If it passes, Senate Bill 6380 will become effective in September 2008.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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