Budget Cuts: Lane Proposes to Cut Library Services…


Lucy Newman, Obama Eagle Staff Reporter

In a recent publication idealistically and perhaps inaccurately entitled Whole Child, Whole Community: Building a Bridge to the Pittsburgh Promise, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane proposed a number of budget cuts that would restrict students’ access to educational programs and would limit the quality of such programs. Such reductions eliminating organizational positions in the Central Office, having classes of multiple grades in elementary school, increasing average class size, sending special education students to home schools rather than those equipped to teach them, cutting back on maintenance cost, cutting transportation costs, and closing or reshaping schools. The list goes on. Many of these proposed cuts could possibly have a negative effect on the educations of the students of Pittsburgh, on Pittsburgh’s economy, and on our city’s long-term social stability.

It’s a scary list. For me as a student, I feel that my education has suffered greatly in the wake of teacher cuts and class size increases applied in 2012. Not all students are prepared to learn in the same way, and less and less individual attention is being paid to each child. However, in this article I will refrain from discussing the implications of each of Lane’s proposed cuts, and will instead focus on her proposal to cut back on library services.

Our school is lucky enough to have a large library with an incredible amount of resources both in print and on online databases, and a motivated librarian, Ms. Sirio, who is willing to help students with their research. As an IB school, we are required to have a library, so it is unlikely that the library will be cut at Obama. Yet the possibility of having severe cuts to library services is very real for other schools in the district,

So it is clear that libraries are great resources for students. Libraries offer a vast array of books that can instill in students a love of reading to stay with them for life. For this reason, it is equally important that elementary school students have access to libraries as it is for high school students to have access to them. Libraries also offer many nonfictional resources to help older students with research. This includes both books and online databases.

And finally, librarians are invaluable resources in themselves. They are trained experts that are able and, beyond that, eager, to help students with research and get them involved in learning.  “I love books, everything surrounding literacy and reading,” explains Ms. Sirio. She reads 70 to 75 young adult books per year, in addition to books that she reads for herself, so that she can discuss them with with students and make recommendations. “And I’m not unique to the library system. We pretty much all do that,” she says.

There have already been many cuts to the Pittsburgh Public School library system. Around three years ago, the position of director of library services was removed, a great blow to the system’s organizational structure. Some elementary and middle schools only have a librarian on hand every few weeks or even only once a month. Many parents are too busy to take their children to libraries, or have other priorities. This means that young students rarely if ever get to enjoy the benefits of libraries. And a child’s access to literature must be relatively unrestricted for him or her to develop an understanding of, and familiarity with, books.


Study upon study has proved the benefits of school libraries. Even after adjusting for school location, socioeconomic status of students, and other factors that may skew results, the correlation between school libraries and higher test scores has been proved again and again. “Independent research has shown that kids in schools with active, supported library systems do better in all sorts of measurements” explains Ms. Sirio. And higher test scores are only one result of libraries. The lifelong love of reading, which libraries can promote, is an invaluable asset to a person. Passion for reading opens up job opportunities and increases a person’s motivation to educate him or herself.


Cutting libraries could have a negative effect on Pittsburgh’s economy, as well. As discussed above, libraries increase the ability of individuals to find jobs that they enjoy and would succeed in. Further, laying off librarians would increase unemployment in Pittsburgh.


The details of the plan are not released in full yet. Ms. Sirio hopes that ”once we see the actual details of the plan, if there are any more cuts, that students and their parents will join with the librarians in arguing against the cuts.”


Libraries are really an invaluable and irreplaceable resource, she continues, and it is crucial for the education for the students of Pittsburgh that they have access to libraries. With all of the benefits that libraries provide to students, it would truly be a shame to see further cuts to an already crippled system.