LOCKPORT, N.Y. — According to the American Library Association, certified library media specialists are teachers, instructional partners, information specialists and program administrators. They collaborate with students and educators to create a place of resource learning.

“Libraries are magical places and school librarians open doors to new worlds,” said Laura Rizzo, Fricano Primary School library media specialist.

In a letter to the Starpoint Board of Education and Parent-Teacher Association, Rizzo said:

 “As I near retirement, I am disheartened and dismayed to learn that the students in Fricano will no longer receive the services of a certified school library media specialist, but that a 21st-century skills teacher will be based in the library.

“Library media specialists take courses, including cataloging and collection development. Books do not magically appear on the shelves. There is a process for building and maintaining a collection and a catalog - something I have prided myself on in my 29 years here.”

Some parents of Starpoint Central School District students, like Lisa Blas, were shocked to hear that the primary school may no longer have a library media specialist in the future.

“I thought of it a lot from a business standpoint cause I owned a physical therapy practice myself, and thought I would never replace a physical therapist with a respiratory therapist," Blas said. "I mean I wouldn’t think in the school we would replace a school nurse with a custodian so I thought why replace a library media specialist with somebody that is less than adequate."

Starpoint Central School District Superintendent Dr. Sean Croft says when there are retirements, such as Laura Rizzo’s upcoming retirement, school districts look at what students today need to know in order to function in today’s society and adjust their education based on those needs. He says the teacher who will teach the 21st-century skills class has a degree in elementary education and a literacy specialist degree.

"So if any parents are worried about a teacher working with their students that doesn’t have a really robust knowledge base of reading, a literary specialist degree is probably the highest degree you can get in the area of reading and they also have a special education degree, so this is a person who is trained to meet the needs of all students," said Croft.

Lisa had two children begin their education at Starpoint. Her daughter attended until eighth grade, and her son will graduate this year. She says they were already taught the 21st-century skills by library media specialists and believes having such a specialist in addition to library classes made her children stronger researchers and helped prepare them for college.

“I think it’s even more important that they may have not even been introduced to books that they might not have even chosen to read on their own, but their librarian suggested to them," she said.

Dr. Croft says the change will allow for more classes dedicated to physical education, which students currently are getting 80 of the 120 minutes mandated by the state. Classroom teachers make up for the rest of the 40 minutes. He says the library class won’t be completely eliminated.

"It’s gonna be a hybrid course of kids learning 21st-century skills while also learning those important library media skills," Dr. Croft said.

Dr. Croft says there are two library-certified media specialists in the district, and they are confident that they can assist the K-2 and 3-5 building and their libraries at any point as they have been doing for the last six years for the 3-5 building.