• Carmen Marie Fabio and John Jantak

Eighteen school librarian positions shelved


PHOTO BY CAROLINE CERNIK

Westwood Senior High School Librarian Ute Wilkinson will still have a job following the Lester B. Pearson School Board cuts but she hasn’t been told what school she’ll be working at.

Hudson’s Westwood Senior High School librarian Ute Wilkinson said news that her position was being put “in surplus” as of July 1 arrived at her home by courier May 27 even before the Lester B. Pearson School Board Human Resources department knew about it. “I think it lowers the perception of the quality of education at the board,” said Wilkinson.

“A librarian is a part of a quality school and if you don’t have one, it’s not so good.” The board has eliminated the position of elementary school librarians affecting 18 positions and while Wilkinson holds a tenured position – meaning she still has a job – she’s not sure what school she’ll be working at. LBPSB Chairman Suanne Stein Day said the library staff cuts were necessary to meet its additional $4 million budget shortfall, one of the largest imposed by the provincial government for 2015-16 school year. The school board has had to absorb accumulated budget cuts of $15 million since 2010-11.

She added that more staff cuts will be announced at its next budget meeting at the end of June. “We are also cutting seven head-office support positions and there will be more announced at our budget meeting at the end of the month,” said Day. “There will be quite a number of positions at all levels affected, including management positions. “We continue to streamline and do more with less and we’re very committed to that,” Day added.

“The problem now is that it will affect things like librarians. At this point we can only cut the non-tenured positions, because if we cut tenured personnel, we’d still have to pay them.” Wilkinson said elementary librarians currently work only 8.25 hours a week with the shortfall being filled by parent volunteers but the librarian is the one responsible for purchasing and cataloguing the books and implementing the volunteer schedule, and runs special programs like Story Time, Literacy Nights, Book Fairs, and Battle of the Books. “Without the librarian, I think all of that is going to suffer. It’s a big loss. Every kid generally has four books out at a time.” “The librarians were just some of the people who were let go,” said Day.

“They were one of the bigger groups affected. We didn’t cut all the librarian positions. There are two tenured positions left. We still have librarians in all our high schools and we will use those people to do more with less.” The affected librarians had a meeting with their union, Independent Association of Support Staff (IASS) Friday, May 29.

“Other than explaining the situation, there’s not much they can do as they’re bound by the same collective agreement,” said Wilkinson of the union whose members also include special needs’ students’ integration aides.

“Elementary school librarians are not tenured positions and so there’s nothing they could do.” Wilkinson pointed out it doesn’t stop people from lobbying for the librarians’ positions. “We’ll see how the public reacts to it. It’s their kids that are in the schools and their kids who won’t be getting the same literacy programs that they had.”

An online petition has been started which, as of press time, had 1755 signatures.

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