Dem. Legislators Work to Promote, Improve Literacy

Package introduced to bring libraries and highly-trained staff back to schools
Thursday, March 14, 2019

LANSING — State Reps. and former teachers Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) and Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), along with Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s ongoing literacy crisis by requiring staffed libraries in every public school in the state. The three bill package would ensure every student access not only to a school library, but to a certified librarian or media specialist trained to improve literacy, foster a love of learning, and help identify and correct problems before they become significant obstacles to reading.

“Right now, we live in a state where every prison is required to have a library with a certified librarian, but we don't have this same requirement in every school," said Rep, Camilleri. "We need to do better- Michigan is facing a literacy crisis not only because our schools are wildly underfunded, but because leadership in this state has tried to cut corners for years when it comes to providing the well-rounded education students truly need to thrive. Libraries and the staff that go with them play a critical role in providing that education and truly helping prepare our students for success later in life.”

Over the past decade, support for school libraries has fallen throughout the state, with many public schools opting to use library space for other purposes. Michigan is ranked 47th in the nation for its ratio of students to certified librarians or media specialists. As of 2012, only 8 percent of public schools in the state have at least one full-time certified media specialist, despite Michigan state prisons currently being required to have a library staffed by a certified specialist. House Bills 4392-4394 would:

  • Require every public school in Michigan to offer a library beginning in the 2019-20 school year that meets certain criteria. (Koleszar)
  • Require a school district board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by that district beginning in the 2019-20 school year. (Camilleri)
  • Require a principle or other appropriate administrator to designate an individual to supervise students in a school library when a certified media specialist is not present. (Pagan)

“Our students are not going to grow into adults capable of the creative thinking and real-world problem solving needed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow if they’re denied access to something as basic as a library,” said Rep. Koleszar. “Addressing Michigan’s literacy crisis means looking at the whole picture, and fostering student success in and out of the classroom. Our package is about taking a step back and ensuring we’re truly focused on every aspect of a quality education. Libraries are a key part of that.”

“Access to school libraries is a strong component in making Michigan a top-ten state in education,” said Rep. Pagan. “Libraries act as gathering places, as activity centers and as incredible resource centers to expand imagination, learning and literacy. All children should have access to books and passionate school personnel who help unlock their true learning potential in the school setting. These bills do just that.”