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The Canadian study The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries was recently released, revealing a less than ideal state of school libraries in English Canada. A new survey paints an equally dire picture of Quebec’s school libraries. In Enquête sur la situation des bibliothèques scolaires, (French only), the Quebec federation of teachers’ unions, (FPPE – Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec), depicts a rather somber situation regarding Quebec school libraries.

A number of schools are still without a library. Schools that do have a library often misuse the space: it may be used as a cafeteria, meeting room or as a place for unruly students to settle down. In addition, the state of the collections of books is troubling: books are often outdated, in bad condition or inappropriate for young readers. There is an almost total lack of digital resources.

This state of affairs is partly due to a widespread ignorance of the role librarians play. Too often, school libraries are the responsibility of well-meaning employees or volunteers who do not possess the expertise to manage a library and acquire and promote various collections of books.

In 2008-09, the Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport implemented measures to promote the hiring of school librarians. With these measures, the number of school librarians increased to 107 in 2012, a significant improvement over the situation prevailing in the 1990s. Nonetheless, while schools boards have all the financial means to hire them, 19 school boards still do not have librarians and a total of nearly 100 school librarians are needed throughout the province. The FPPE is therefore recommending maintaining the measures promoting the hiring of school librarians.

This situation is grim, as it does nothing to foster a joy of reading among students. As Johanne Pomerleau, FPPE president, stated: “Reading promotes success at school and socially among young people. Quebec students deserve that investments be made to create and maintain reading habits that will stay with them for a very long time”. We could not agree more.

For more details, please refer to the survey Enquête sur la situation des bibliothèques scolaires (survey on the state of school libraries, in French only).