Ridgeview High School in Redmond is closing its library.

A notice to school employees circulated in April said the school library will be closed as of June 30 and cleared out, with the room being repurposed at a later date. The reason for the closure is to “maximize our resources in a more effective manner as we seek to live out our school purpose, to have every student be college ready, career ready and life ready,” according to the notice.

“We are always looking to re-evaluate and maximize our resources, and our library hasn’t necessarily been utilized,” said Ridgeview High Principal Lee Loving. “In the last two years only 3 percent of our books have been checked out. We had some internal conversations, and staff and students think that while it’s great to have, we don’t use it. There’s not much in that library that isn’t available at their fingertips.”

School staff will be installing a few of the library’s bookshelves in a high-traffic area of the school where students will be able to self-check out a variety of books through an “honor system,” Loving said. The single library staffer will be relocated to the career center as a graduation support specialist.

The library was previously moved to what used to be the career center, though no library resources were condensed, said Karen Tompkins, office manager at Ridgeview High. The original library space became the school’s career center.

It is too early to know what library resources will be available to students with the closure of the library space, Tompkins said.

“We need to maximize the employees we have, and we are already providing those educational opportunities in the classroom with Chromebooks,” Loving said, referring to internet-enabled laptop computers that run a Chrome-based operating system. “Teachers are in place to help maximize those resources. They can help students to think critically about resources and what is real or what is misleading information.”

The closure doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“Libraries are supportive of career planning for lifelong jobs, and closing the library seems at odds with that goal,” Redmond resident Patricia Givens said.

Givens, 58, works at Barber Library at Central Oregon Community College in Bend. She has had multiple children and grandchildren go through Redmond public schools and knows the importance of having school libraries available for students, she said.

“Libraries are a great asset to communities,” she said. “They enrich people’s lives. It’s important for students to have access to library resources and not just books, but databases and sources for information. It’s important to have a trained library staff to help guide them and evaluate websites determine their credibility.”

Ridgeview High School is not the first public to school in Central Oregon to shift library resources. Culver High School dramatically reduced its school library in 2016-2017, said alum Levi Mault.

Mault, 19, of Culver, was a student when the library redistributed many of its resources, and the impact was felt by the students, he said.

“There were a few people, myself included, who practically lived in the library, but (other) people weren’t as invested,” Mault said. “I got my job (at the Deschutes Public Library) because of my involvement in my local library. I think students are relying more on web theories or social media to influence their thoughts, and they will be missing out on books they can use as reference points for credibility. I hope this doesn’t become a continuing trend.”

Closing a school library is harmful to students because it limits educational opportunities, especially for those students who don’t have the means of transportation to get to the public library, said Heather O’Neal, youth services manager for Deschutes Public Library.

“I think it’s a misunderstanding about what (a library) can accomplish,” she said. “To take away that richness, that multitude of choice and to take away that person that is going to guide them to the book that will get them excited about reading is like saying only technology matters. There’s so much more to education than technology.”

O’Neal, 66, of Bend, has been a librarian for more than 40 years and is in her 19th year with the Deschutes Public Library. In her experience, libraries are more than a room full of books, she said.

“When you Google something, you get 5,000 hits,” O’Neal said. “Librarians are experts at finding exactly what students need. Literacy has been key to success and yet we are saying that it’s not. What message does this send to students?”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, acolosky@bendbulletin.com

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