Friday, February 6, 2009

Boards get cash to restock libraries

The Record: 2009 February 6

Coming soon to a school near you: some new books.

The provincial government is providing extra funding to school boards to restock elementary school libraries.

Waterloo Region's Catholic board is getting $180,428, and the public board, $422,920. This is on top of their regular budget allocation for libraries.

There's a base amount of $1,500 per school, plus $7.50 per full-time student. That means about $2,200 for a small school like St. Boniface and more than $6,000 for a larger school like St. Luke.

All the money must be spent by March 31, and any money not spent has to be returned to the Ministry of Education, said Catholic board spokesperson John Shewchuk.

"It's a short timeline but as always we're very grateful for the money," said Shewchuk. "It will certainly benefit the students in our school system."

Across the province, the ministry is spending $15 million on books, said spokesperson Patricia MacNeil.

The government has also negotiated bulk discounts with 73 vendors, who are offering savings of between five and 50 per cent. The discounts will make the money stretch further.

"It's quite a significant savings for boards," said MacNeil.

The funding is for school libraries only, not classrooms, and can't be spent on textbooks, teacher resources or software, said Shewchuk. Fiction, non-fiction, e-texts and graphic novels are all acceptable.

The books have to be bought through the approved vendors, the full list of which won't be available until the end of the month. That forces boards to decide between ordering through the vendors already listed and waiting until the full list is available to see if there might be greater savings, said Shewchuk.

Not everybody is thrilled about the funding. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario called it "putting the cart before the horse" in a news release. It points out most elementary schools don't get enough funding for a full-time teacher-librarian.

A recent report by People for Education and Queen's University, commissioned by the Ontario Library Association, also emphasized the important role of a teacher-librarian.