Three Bills in Michigan to Restore School Librarians and Libraries

There are three Bills in Michigan to Restore School Librarians and Libraries

EveryLibrary is thrilled to report that our colleagues at the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME), the state association for school librarians there, have succeeded in having three bills introduced in their legislature that would go a long way to restoring school librarians to each and every school in the state!

It’s a huge legislative steps just to have the bills introduced, and state Reps. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) and House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) should be applauded for their leadership in fixing this fundamental problem facing Michigan students. Taken together, these three bills would restore the school library to its true status as the largest classroom in the school, and return certified school librarians to their libraries. Currently, only 8% of schools in Michigan have a certified school librarian on staff, and Michigan ranks 47th in the country for its ‘students to librarians’ ratio.

There is a literacy crisis in Michigan, and EveryLibrary knows that school librarians are part of the solution. In announcing the bills, Rep. Camileri said “Every student has a right to read, yet not every public school is required to offer students a library to help them grow and develop.” It is clear to us that the role of effective school libraries staffed with certified media specialists is critical. In 2017, 56 percent of third-graders failed the Michigan state reading assessment test. In 2016, seven students in Detroit Public Schools went so far as to sue the Governor and the state over the lack of literacy services offered to them as students.

Rep. Zemke, Democratic vice chair of the House Education Reform Committee, recently said “We are at a critical moment in our state when we must choose whether to take significant steps to improve our schools, or face the consequences of continued educational decline. It is crucial we do all we can to help put our state’s students on a path to success.”

The three bills that our colleagues at MAME have been working toward would do the following:

  • House Bill 5909: Require every public school in Michigan to offer a library beginning in the 2018-19 school year that meets certain criteria. (Rep. Zemke)
  • HB 5910: Require a school district board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by that district beginning in the 2018-19 school year. (Rep. Camilleri)
  • HB 5911: Require a principal or other appropriate administrator to designate an individual to supervise students in a school library when a certified media specialist is not present. (Rep. Greig)

Kathy Lester, Advocacy Chair at MAME puts it best when she says: “Certified school library media specialists provide vital services to their students and school communities. They are integral to reading, technology integration, and information literacy and have a high impact on student achievement.” We are very impressed with MAME's advocacy work, including building real alliances with organizations like the Michigan Reading Association and in recruiting these legislative sponsors. Now it is up to everyone in the state who cares about the future of education and literacy to speak up in support of MAME and school librarians in Michigan.

At EveryLibrary, we stand with MAME in urging the state House Education Reform Committee to quickly take up these three bills and move them to the full House for a vote. The time to offer real solutions to address the literacy gap for Michigan’s students is now. Restoring school libraries to their full potential - and making sure they are properly staffed at all times - is a smart, actionable, and effective way to address these problems.