More than 200 Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school libraries have reopened in just two months, according to district officials.
Recession-era budget cuts had left many libraries without staffing. The cuts persisted even when the economy began to improve: a year ago half of the district's 650,000 students were still without a librarian or library aide.
Without library workers, state law prohibits students from browsing collections, pulling reference materials or checking out books.
“We have been living without libraries and, no, we don’t want to because they are essential for academic achievement and learning for our students," said Mark Bobrosky, a librarian at Walter Reed Middle School.
School board member Monica Ratliff created a task force to recommend ways to expand libraries after KPCC reported that Lorne Street Elementary in Northridge had a library full of books collecting dust.
"This idea of equity — we are trying to make sure we don't have library deserts," Ratliff said at the board's curriculum, instruction and assessment committee meeting on Tuesday.
Even when the board committed funds for elementary school libraries, the district found it hard to fill openings. Library aides worked just three hours a day, five days a week.
Members of the task force suggested assigning library aides to two schools, doubling their hours and providing benefits. Elementary school libraries began to quickly reopen.
But while conditions have improved for elementary students, middle school libraries are still hard hit, with nearly 65 percent of their campus libraries shuttered.
Bobrosky said reopening the libraries is vital for L.A. Unified's success in implementing the Common Core state standards, which require research projects incorporating a variety of texts.