Washington Dad Foils Plan for School “Librateria”

Washington Dad Foils Plan for School “Librateria”

A Washington State parent has convinced officials of the Federal Way (Wash.) Public Schools that students who will attend a school still on the drawing board will benefit from a dedicated space for a media center that is separate from the lunchroom. PTA member Dave Bomgardner coined the word “librateria” to describe the rejected joint-use proposal for the future Lakota Middle School. “You might as well just tell me that they’re going back to the one big open-room classroom for all the grades,” asserted Bomgardner.

“It’s a $34-million brand-new school. You don’t want them to build it wrong,” he told American Libraries, explaining how he became aware of the combined-space plan after seeing a “library?” note posted next to school blueprints displayed for faculty input in the present Lakota Middle School. The discovery led to Bomgardner and another parent looking at the configurations of three other area schools and speaking with the media specialists there. “We came away with the conclusion, ‘That’s insane.’ You are basically eliminating the library if you combine it. It’s a space, it‘s a place, it‘s a sanctuary, and [the planners] either never understood that or lost sight of it somewhere along the line,” Bomgardner declared.

In less than a month, Bomgardner and other concerned parents had introduced the issue at a Lakota open house, testified before the school board, and persuaded officials to delay approving the architectural plans for two weeks. At an October 24 community meeting pulled together with a week’s notice, Lakota Principal Pam Tuggle vowed to find space within the flexible interior design for a library; on November 4, she and Bomgardner’s group did just that, identifying 1,300 square feet for an integrated learning center. Tuggle and the parents group got the school board’s approval for the modified blueprints at a November 12 meeting.

Praising the “sustained engagement” of Federal Way parents with school district officials, Fund Our Future Washington cofounder Lisa Layera Brunkan cautioned, “This is not the last ‘librateria’ we’re going to hear about.” One of three library boosters who inspired Washington State lawmakers in March to appropriate an unprecedented $4 million for FY2009 media-center funding, Brunkan told American Libraries that “there’s a great opportunity for teacher-librarians around the country to talk about the library’s indispensability” whenever they encounter a budget-maker who seems to believe that libraries will soon be obsolete.

The Spokane moms have gained an ally in Bomgardner; they are awaiting a state legislative report due December 8 recommending changes in Washington’s definition of basic education—the only thing that written into the state constitution that the state government has to provide,” he explained. “We’re extremely optimistic that libraries won’t be invisible this time,” Brunkan told AL. A woman of her word, Brunkan posted on the FOFW blog an open letter she e-mailed November 11 to President-elect Barack Obama at his new change.gov website asking him to “please champion a federal initiative that stewards in the 21st century by making information literacy equitable for all of our children” and ensures that “the school library makes it to the end of this century.”

Posted on November 19, 2008. Discuss.