Education

Many LAUSD elementary schools in South LA still don't have library staff

Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Since January, the Los Angeles Unified School district has reopened more than 200 elementary school libraries that had been shuttered during the recession — but almost half of  those those that remain closed are in South L.A., including the low-income neighborhoods of South Gate, Huntington Park and Watts.

Another third of closed elementary libraries are in the east side of the district, including schools in MacArthur Park, East Hollywood and Mount Washington. 

There are no closed elementary libraries in the wealthier San Fernando Valley, according to list of library aide openings complied in March — the first time the district has provided the locations of closed libraries.

 A small number of vacancies may represent a second library position.

LAUSD officials declined to comment on the latest figures, but have said recruitment is challenging given library aides work part-time — either three or six hours per day.

California state law requires trained library staff to assist students in browsing collections, selecting research material and checking out books. L.A. Unified cut hundreds of library staff since the recession, leaving about 300,000 students without a library for years.

Former librarian Joan Kramer, who oversaw 50 school libraries in south and east Los Angeles before she retired, said access is crucial for students learning to read.

“Statistics show where there is a professionally run library in the school in fact the [reading] scores are the highest," Kramer said.

In all, nearly 60 Los Angeles Unified elementary schools still lack to the staff necessary to operate libraries. Seventy-five percent of those are in the less affluent south and east sections of the district.

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(LAUSD Elementary schools with vacant library positions as of March 2015. A small number of vacancies may represent a second library position. Source: Los Angeles Unified School District)