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After 50 years, South Carolina Department of Education will no longer partner with librarian association

Despite a 50-year partnership, Ellen Weaver has decided to break up the Department of Education and the SC Association of School Librarians.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A 50-year partnership is officially over in the state following State Education Superintendent Ellen Weaver's decision to cut ties with the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.

According to Tamara Cox, a current member and former president of the association, the partnership was started to create a conversation between important policymakers and librarians in South Carolina schools.

"Our organization provided that window into what our members need and what the librarians across the state need. Anytime a library question would arise, the department of [education] would usually come to us and we would help," she says.

On August 25th, Ellen Weaver sent this public letter to the organization's current president stating the department would no longer be utilizing the organization for those services.

The letter reads in part, 

"A key priority of all educators and especially librarians should be to foster strong cooperative relationships with parents to leverage their resources with a goal of maximizing student achievement." 

It goes on to say,

"Regrettably, a number of SCASL's recent communications via its website (such as the American Library Association's Advocacy Toolkit), in testimony regarding library "censorship" before members of the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Taskforce, and most recently in a letter sent to local school board members undermine that vital objective."

Cox says the organization made mention of censorship via public testimony at the department's teacher retention and recruitment task force meeting. She says it comes out of fear they wouldn't be able to properly educate students otherwise.

"We spoke to that task force, at their invitation, and they wanted to know what the challenges were for educators in South Carolina. And for librarians, one of the most difficult things we've been dealing with is the personal attacks that accompany book challenges. We thought it was important that the task knew about those things," She recalls.

In response to Weaver's letter, the SCASL said in part, "We avidly encourage and support parent engagement and volunteering, which strengthen schools immeasurably. School librarians regularly plan and lead literacy nights and events throughout the school year to foster relationships within their school community." In addition, the association claims it is requesting a meeting with Weaver's office to discuss the situation further

Cox says the news came as a surprise and has her worried about the future of education in South Carolina.

"Even the response that we've seen today, from certain groups, has also been very hurtful. One of the things that was mentioned was a relationship with parents. Well, many of us, the majority of us are also parents," she said.

Weaver adds the department still sees librarians as a vital role in education and will "plan to continue to communicate with them directly, as we seek to provide ongoing professional development and support to foster an atmosphere of cooperation between our schools, parents, and the broader community."


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