LANSING — State Reps. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) and House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) introduced a package of bills to require staffed libraries in every public school in Michigan in response to the state’s staggering illiteracy rates and in honor of April as School Library Month.

“Every student has a right to read, yet not every public school is required to offer students a library to help them grow and develop,” said Rep. Camilleri, a former high school social studies teacher. “Even our state’s prisons are required to have a library with a certified librarian.[1] If we can ensure our state’s prisoners have a library available, surely we can work to provide our state’s young minds with access to this vital resource.”

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. At the same time, however, the need for services provided by school libraries with certified media specialists is growing. In 2017, 56 percent of third-graders failed the reading test included on the state’s assessment.

“Michigan is no doubt experiencing a literacy crisis, and it is clear we need to be more creative in our efforts to reverse this trajectory before it is too late,” said Rep. Zemke, Democratic vice chair of the House Education Reform Committee. “We are at a critical moment in our state when we must choose whether to take significant steps to improve our schools, or face the consequences of continued educational decline. It is crucial we do all we can to help put our state’s students on a path to success.”

Specifically, the three-bill package would do the following:

  • House Bill 5909: Require every public school in Michigan to offer a library beginning in the 2018-19 school year that meets certain criteria. (Rep. Zemke)
  • HB 5910: Require a school district board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by that district beginning in the 2018-19 school year. (Rep. Camilleri)
  • HB 5911: Require a principal or other appropriate administrator to designate an individual to supervise students in a school library when a certified media specialist is not present. (Rep. Greig)

“In honor of Reading Month, my colleagues and I spent all of March traveling throughout our districts sharing our love of reading with students,” Rep. Greig said. “Rather than focusing on reading one month of the year, we must recommit ourselves to providing Michigan’s students with the best literacy resources and instruction possible all year long. We hope our colleagues will understand the necessity of this legislation and the crisis Michigan’s students are facing, and support this important set of bills.”

“Certified school library media specialists provide vital services to their students and school communities. They are integral to reading, technology integration, and information literacy and have a high impact on student achievement,” said Kathy Lester with the Michigan Association for Media in Education. “I commend Representatives Camilleri, Greig and Zemke for recognizing that our students deserve equitable access to this essential resource.”