Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Dec. 26, 2007

The irony of library’s closure

I find it ironic that Superintendent Tom Murphy and the Federal Way School Board have been so vocal in their opposition to the King County Library System (KCLS) plan to temporarily close the Federal Way Regional Library during construction next year.

About 22,000 students in Federal Way have been directly affected by cuts to school libraries in recent years. Now Mr. Murphy is suddenly complaining of the hardship to some of those students if KCLS temporarily reduces its services in our community. The school board unanimously passed a resolution asking KCLS to continue providing as many library programs as possible during construction.

Is this the same superintendent and board who did the following:

• Drastically cut library budgets over the last 10 years so that most books and media materials that now remain in our school libraries are worn out and outdated.

• Drastically reduced school library clerical staffing in 2003 for elementary schools and even longer ago for middle schools.

• Laid off half of the elementary school librarians and almost all of the middle school and high school librarians in 2005?

Ironically, at the same time that elementary school librarians were cut back to half time, many elementary schools also hired half-time testing/assessment coordinators — a clear sign of the school board’s priorities at that time.

Ironically, the Federal Way School District’s motto is “Every student a reader.” Yet my daughters rarely go into their school libraries anymore. My oldest told us, “There’s nothing there worth reading.”

If we want students to be readers and to improve their test scores, we need them to practice reading. If we want them to read avidly, we need to have relevant reading materials at the schools. Having libraries staffed with people who know how to connect kids with good books that will spark their interest in reading and learning is a sound investment and will lead to strong test scores.

If we want students to know how to find reliable information off the Internet and to use other electronic resources, we need trained librarians to teach them these skills. Several recent research studies have shown a significant correlation between higher test scores and strong library programs.

To be fair to Superintendent Murphy and the school board, they have had to make difficult budget decisions in recent years as school funding has eroded while unfunded mandates in the so-called No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) have required more and more standardized testing.

Now, however, is the time to aim Federal Way’s schools back in the right direction if we want our students to become successful readers, thinkers, workers and citizens. We have new board members who should be able to move us toward a long-term vision of strong educational programs in Federal Way.

It would, however, be truly ironic if the FWSD’s leadership kept complaining about the temporary closure of one KCLS branch in Federal Way while they continue to overlook the degraded condition of the libraries in the schools that we have hired and elected them to oversee.

Sean Fullerton, Auburn

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