If you haven’t signed and circulated the Honor Harlem Students’
Legal Right to School Librarians petition, join us today!


August 3, 2017

Dear Fellow New Yorker:

New York State Education Commissioner’s Regulation 91.2 requires that all public secondary schools provide access to a part-time certified school librarian in schools that enroll fewer than 700 students and one full-time librarian in schools that enroll 700 or more students. In early 2015, the Harlem Council of Elders found, and the NYC Department of Education verified, that over 77% of Harlem secondary schools were denying their students access to that resource.

While the overwhelming majority of Harlem’s mostly Black and Brown students, particularly those living in poverty, are denied expert support and instruction from library media specialists who could help them develop their online and print research skills, love of reading, and readiness for college, careers, and civic life, DOE schools in NYC’s Whiter and wealthier neighborhoods provide children with the distinct privileges and advantages conferred by library personnel. This discriminatory practice is shameful, illegal, and must end immediately.
This, despite the well-documented low average rates of literacy and college readiness among Harlem students (contrasted with their enormous academic potential).  



In March, the Harlem Council of Elders emailed and sent letters to Harlem’s elected officials, calling upon them to uphold state law and address longstanding violations of Harlem students' right to library media specialists. Over the past few months, a few of those leaders have reached out to learn more. Stay tuned for updates.


The NYC Department of Education continues to drag its feet regarding the Freedom of Information Law request that Community Education Council 5 parent leaders filed in April 2016 seeking an official accounting of District 5 students’ access to school library media specialists.

For well over a year now, month after month, DOE letters have claimed that looking up which of its District 5 secondary schools have librarians has proven extraordinarily difficult. This raises major questions about the DOE’s competence in managing our schools, as there are only 16 schools in District 5 serving grades 7-12.  

Over the past few years, has the DOE developed a plan to fix this problem throughout the affected districts? If so, it hasn’t made it public.  


On April 6, the State Education Department (SED) sent Community Education Council 5, a member of the Harlem Librarian Campaign Coalition, a librarian-staffing spreadsheet that clearly contradicts both NYC DOE data and statements made in public meetings by district principals, parents, and superintendents. CEC 5 parents have requested clarification, asking SED to identify the source of its data on this topic, but has not received a response. (If you know where SED gets its library staffing data, please let us know.)  


Meanwhile, last month, we discovered on a DOE website an updated "unofficial" list of library-media-specialist vacancies in Manhattan schools as of May 11, 2017 (see the "Directory of Member Schools"). Because the DOE refuses to release official information, we must rely on this version. 

Our new analysis, which now includes data for schools serving both elementary-school grades and grades 7 and 8 (the right to a library media specialist takes effect in 7th grade), reveals that 87% of Harlem schools (40 out of 46) serving students in grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and/or 12--across Districts 3, 4, 5, 6, and 75--are violating their students' right to certified school library media specialists.

Close to 10,000 mostly Black and Brown students are affected.  

On Saturday, June 24, as the 2016-2017 school year came to an end, 10 dedicated volunteers from the Honor Harlem Students’ Legal Right to School Librarians Campaign Coalition --which includes the Harlem Council of Elders; Community Education Council District 5; the Black Student Network at Teachers College, Columbia University; the Coalition of Latina/o Scholars at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Total Equity Now--gathered near the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street.   In less than two hours, our outstanding team educated nearly 300 community stakeholders of all ages about the ongoing violations of Harlem children's legal right to school librarians and collected 117 signatures on our petition calling upon New York's government and educational officials to immediately honor our children's rights .  

View the photo album: http://bit.ly/2vVNerG

Harlem does not give up on its young people. Unfortunately, the struggle continues.  


The Harlem Council of Elders
The mission of the Harlem Council of Elders, Inc., a volunteer-led, 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1993 by senior citizens with deep roots in the Harlem community, is to foster scholastic achievement among Harlem's youth, and mutual understanding among Harlem’s youth, senior citizens, and community leaders. The Council fulfills its mission by administering programs that serve Harlem students and by advocating for policies that promote the educational, social, and physical well-being of Harlem’s youth.