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Schools must choose between teachers, librarians

CINCINNATI (AP) - Some school administrators in Ohio say tight budgets are forcing them to choose between classroom teachers and library staff when cuts must be made.

More than 200 librarian jobs have been eliminated in the past two years, said Suellyn Stotts, past president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association.

Since 2001, schools haven't been required to have a library staffed by a librarian, aide or volunteer, although students must have access to media and information technology programs during regular school hours.

Cincinnati's public schools have cut 18 library positions since 2000. About 20 of the district's 79 schools don't have a librarian.

Some school libraries share space with a computer lab, where the technology coordinator teaches research skills. In some districts, smaller elementary schools share librarians. At Williamsburg Elementary in southwest Ohio, a teacher's aide splits her time between the library and a classroom so the library can be open part time.

''The library is the focal point of any school curriculum,'' said Mark Ault, assistant superintendent at Three Rivers School District in Hamilton County. ''But we're trying to preserve the classroom student-to-teacher ratio.''

Bonnie Mathies, associate dean for the College of Education and Human Services at Wright State University, which licenses school librarians, said the number of people applying for the school library media specialist credential has remained steady.

But only three state-funded and private universities in the state offer the credential: Kent State University, Wright State University and Ohio Dominican University. Two decades ago, most institutions offered the certification program, she said.

Some educators are trying to preserve libraries despite budget problems.

At Mount Washington School, Principal Judy Szilagyi launched a book drive to add 7,000 book titles, in addition to about 1,300 already purchased through donations, to fill her half-empty shelves over the next five years.

Szilagyi said she brought back the library, which had been converted into a music room when the school's librarian was cut, because she wanted to inspire a love of reading and learning in her students.

''I don't want them just to know how to read, but I want them to love to read,'' said Szilagyi, who raised about $11,500 in donations. ''If they love to read, then they will always have a thirst for knowledge.''