News

Librarians want money back

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Federal Way’s elementary school librarians would like some help.

Specifically, the librarians and their supporters are lobbying the School Board to reinstate the funding for assistants cut from the 2003-04 Federal Way Public Schools budget. Supporters estimate the cost at more than $590,000.

From the school district’s perspective, funding more time for aides will cost $400,000, according to Sally McLean, chief financial officer.

Supporters have been lobbying the board at public meetings.

The cut has hampered librarians’ ability to work with students effectively, supporters say, and closed libraries for periods of time during the day when the librarian is away and the aide can’t work.

Five elementary schools have aides for four hours each day, and the remaining 18 schools have aides for two hours each day. The hours are based on the student population in each school and how many students are eligible for federal assistance because they are from low-income families.

Marie-Anne Harkness, the librarian at Camelot Elementary School, said supporters want money restored for aides at all elementary schools, minus 10 percent to account for the change from junior high schools to middle schools. Then most of the aides would work about five hours a day.

“We’re trying to be reasonable,” Harkness said.

Some of the supporters have formed an organization –– Friends of the Federal Way Public School Libraries. The group is comprised of school and public librarians and people outside of the education system and libraries. They typically meet prior to School Board meetings, Harkness said.

Originally, the district considered eliminating all library aide funding –– $625,000 –– from the 2003-04 budget. Then $250,000 was put back in, giving aides the time they have currently, said Diane Turner, a district spokeswoman.

The aides help librarians by tackling clerical work and allowing librarians to focus on the students, providing lessons on navigating the library, Harkness said. In the last decade, many librarians have also expanded their roles to include training for students in using computers.

Also, a second adult in the library helps maintain discipline, Harkness said.

The supporters of the libraries are not alone in highlighting dark spots in last year’s budget and pushing for money to fund their interests. Some parents are talking about funding junior varsity soccer. And there is discussion in the community about continuing outdoor education.

If the money is reinstated, Harkness said she wants the board to go one step further and direct school principals, especially at the secondary schools, to use the funds only for library aides. She said lately some principals, using site-based decision-making powers, have taken money meant for library aides and routed it to pay for administrative help in the main offices.

The board is scheduled to hear about the budget at its July 27 meeting and is expected to render a decision on the budget Aug. 10.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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