Baltimore skylineAn editorial published in the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday calls the city’s school libraries “a disgrace.” Its author, Michael Corbin, who teaches at the Academy for College and Career Exploration – a Baltimore public high school that has no library or librarian (as, ironically, many of the special “academies” in urban school systems do not) – points to the NEA’s new study “To Read or Not to Read.”

The NEA study demonstrates that, particularly at the high school level, students are reading fewer books that ever. Baltimore’s schools, cash-strapped in the way big urban school systems always are, has avoided its commitment to provide good school libraries, says Corbin:

Only 139 of the city’s more than 190 schools report having a library, and many of these libraries are inadequate. The Maryland State Department of Education’s report “Facts About Maryland’s School Library Media Programs 2005-2006” notes that of schools that reported having libraries, only 3.6 percent of city schools met state collection-size standards and only 29.9 percent met state staffing standards.

Most Americans hate paying taxes (duh), and the No Child Left Behind law does not put any pressure on schools to provide cash for libraries that will really make a difference to children – to urban children in particular – and so limited funding is used in the areas where NCLB exerts the greatest pressure, such as tutoring underachieving kids in those all-important test subjects. Libraries? Oh, we’ll get to them one day.

I’m encouraged, though, to see the Sun running an article about the need for better libraries – a topic the media in most places typically cruises right past.