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Laid-Off Librarians Returning to Lakewood Schools

Superintendent Jeff Patterson said the first month of school has proved the position invaluable.

Following last year’s deep cuts to the staff in the Lakewood City Schools, the district found itself with only one remaining librarian.

Those reductions came after years of attrition at the position — technically referred to as a library media specialist. Each time a librarian retired, the post wasn’t filled, a move that has saved the district “several hundred thousands of dollars.”

Superintendent Jeff Patterson said that the district has already brought back two of those librarians who lost their jobs last year.

“As we’ve watched the operations over the past four weeks, we clearly knew that we needed to reinstate two at the middle school(s),” Patterson said.

He also said the district — pending school board approval — will look to add another library media specialist, who would be shared among the district’s seven elementary schools.

“We prioritized how we made reductions,” Patterson said of last year’s layoffs. “We wanted to make sure that the reductions we made didn’t affect class size — that was No. 1. We took advantage of the fact that there were a number of media specialists that were retiring.”

As recent as a few years ago, there was one library media specialist at each of the elementary schools.

Patterson said traditional librarians aren’t as common as they used to be as the digital age reduces the need for printed materials.

“That’s why we put a hold on ordering new textbooks in the district, because we should be migrating over to electronic versions,” he said, adding that the move has also saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“As soon as books are printed they’re out of date.”

There is one library media assistant at each of the elementary schools, but those non-teacher-union positions don’t necessarily have the authority to order library materials.

“It’s not like there’s not anyone there,” said Patterson, adding that the new library media specialist “will guide the work of those seven elementary schools.” 

There are still more than a dozen of other positions in the district — including several administrative posts — that haven’t been called back since last May, when the district announced 25 positions would be eliminated.

Last month, the school board voted to reverse the layoffs of 4.5 of those positions.

“At the end of this school year, we’re going to have 20 people retire,” Patterson said. “Most of those positions, we will probably replace. But we will replace them in a cost-effective manner so the district doesn’t have to lay off more people down the road.”

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