Resident Concerned about CASD Library Plan
CLEARFIELD – During public comment at Monday night’s school board meeting, resident Gail Ralston voiced an “immediate concern” for the Clearfield Area School District’s library plan as well as how it’ll be impacted by the proposed consolidation into two school buildings.
“If I understand the plan correctly, I don’t feel that this meets the needs of our fifth through twelfth [grade] students,” said Ralston.
According to her, fifth and sixth grade students visit the Clearfield Middle School library once every two weeks for book selection. Without a librarian, students may not visit the library at any other time, unless their entire class attends with the teacher.
“Readers don’t have the opportunity to get more books and appropriate magazines, which provide greater student reading interest, aren’t being fully utilized,” she said.
In seventh and eighth grades, Ralston said teachers may take classes to the middle school library for research. In addition, they may schedule the high school librarian to assist them in the library.
Just as those in the fifth and sixth grades, she said these students don’t have library access unless either their entire class attends with the teacher, or the librarian is in attendance. She said Clearfield High School students suffer from the same problem if the librarian is at the middle school.
Ralston asked how accessible the high school library will be to grades nine through twelve when it’s under construction and its librarian is stationed at the middle school.
“Currently, it appears to be none,” she said. “A library curriculum has been approved and includes all grades. With the current usage, this curriculum is not being met for all of the students.”
According to Ralston, the high school library is scheduled for renovations to accommodate the two, incoming grade levels and to include an age appropriate selection of books. She asked what additions are being planned for the CES library to meet the needs of their increased population.
“Again, the current plans make it appear as though nothing is scheduled to be done. If that is the case, then this is a serious oversight,” she said.
She said some problems will only last for the duration of the proposed consolidation process. However, she said these months and years will have a lasting impact on the growth and development of the district’s students.
“Library time is about more than book selection and reading for personal pleasure. It is an opportunity for the librarian to teach research, information skills and critical thinking as well as to widen reading interests through book talks,” she said.
“Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests do not include a subset for library, and I would assume the Keystone testing doesn’t either, because it’s a part of the total curriculum.”
According to literature titled “Pennsylvania School Library Programs,” Ralston said students who score higher on standardized tests tend to come from schools with more school library staff and resources, regardless of other factors, such as economic ones. She said PSSA scores tended to increase by 10 – 15 percent when all library predictors are maximized.
She asked the board to listen to the district’s PSSA test results and to notice the increased need for improvement in reading scores and how that also impacts other tested areas. Further, she asked them to help the district’s students to reach their potential by restoring the library program.
Ralston said she was aware of the district’s budget restraints but noted alternatives exist to correct the problem. She suggested the hiring of a temporary, substitute or part-time certified librarian.
“Make sure that all the district’s ‘playing fields’ address the needs of our students,” she said. “Do you realize that at the end of tonight’s meeting, you all will have spent more time this year in this library than the students it was designed to serve?”
After the board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto said the district’s administrators and library staff have been working on the library plan.