Susan Peterson will be part of a wave of school librarians calling it quits over the next dozen years.
"I'd like to retire in the next five to 10 years," said Peterson, Hillcrest School's library media specialist and a 30-year veteran of elementary libraries in the Lawrence district.
Nearly half the nation's 125,000 school librarians are expected to retire by 2014. Replacing them may be tough because of stiff academic requirements :quot; all 50 states require a teacher's license as well as library certification. Many of today's librarians have a master's degree.
"The profession has changed so quickly," said Nancy Horner, the Lawrence district's information resource specialist. "Many people have the image of the nice lady behind the desk waiting for someone to show up."
School libraries have evolved into media centers, she said, with rows of computers accompanying the shelves full of books.
"I've kept the same job, but it's changed all around me," she said. "I'm finding myself on occasion : running a computer lab and using teaching techniques unheard of in the '70s."
A shortage of qualified librarians in U.S. public schools will hurt student performance, Horner said.
"Districts with strong library programs have a direct impact on student achievement on standardized tests," she said.
The two-dozen librarians in Lawrence schools routinely provide instruction on computing and research techniques. That's in addition to the time-honored tradition of helping students find interesting things to read.
Horner said the advantage in meeting new federal testing standards for student achievement would go to districts that maintain good libraries and provide flexible scheduling that allows librarians to get into classrooms and help with teaching.
It's possible the Lawrence district can be shielded from a national shortage by the distinguished library science program at Emporia State University. The program is among a handful in the Midwest approved by the American Library Assn.
Horner urged education students to consider a career as a library media specialist: "The library job is the best. It's variety. It's cutting-edge. It's exciting."