OGDEN -- Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith said Monday the district has found additional funding sources that will allow it to hire seven librarian/media specialists for the coming school year.
The seven librarians hired will be charged with creating a program to serve schools in the future.
The news follows the April 26 announcement that all 20 of the district's teacher librarian/media specialists would lose their jobs because their positions were being eliminated in a district effort to cut costs.
The Ogden district has a $2.7 million budget deficit, and Smith said it can't afford to fund the deficit with money from its shrinking "rainy day" fund.
"After the (position elimination) announcement was made, several people approached me to see if there was some way we didn't need to do that," Smith said Monday.
"They wondered what would be a better way to deliver that service. We took a look at the $491,000 we were expecting to spend and said, let's see if we can structure that and augment that with additional money."
The district had planned to staff school libraries with part-time assistants and to hire two media specialists at the district level.
The new plan calls for the $491,000 from the district's basic budget -- from which most teachers and administrators are paid -- to be combined with funds from two other sources.
The district will use $250,000 in Title funds, Smith said, within the requirements of Title funding, for the program. Because it is revenue from a federal source, the money may or may not be available beyond the 2013-14 school year.
The district also will use $250,000 in one-time Enhancement revenue, provided by the state to districts, to fund the new program the librarians will create. That gives the district $991,000 total, with some to fund the hiring of the part-time library assistants.
Librarians have been interviewed for the seven positions, Smith said, and some offers have been made. The positions pay an average of $74,315, according to information Smith shared with the Facebook site Focus Ogden.
"We are focusing on the real core of media center instruction, and particularly on the need to provide children with instruction in information technology that goes beyond anything we have ever done," Smith said in the letter posted by Focus Ogden.
Smith said he does not know how many of the librarian positions might continue after the 2013-14 school year or whether funding alternatives might appear.
Smith said librarians hired will start working immediately to create a districtwide media and information learning system, defining the types of library instruction to be offered, the nature of productive collaboration and a measurement system for librarian effectiveness.
Top priorities will be improving students' literacy and effective information use.
The seven also will develop a training program for media staff assistants and will participate in assistants' hiring and training.
Smith said any decision about assigning librarians to specific schools would be one the seven would make.
Shelly Ripplinger, until recently the teacher librarian at Polk Elementary School, has applied for one of those seven jobs. She is one of several librarians and others who approached Smith, and she helped put together a plan to use the skeleton crew of librarians.
Ripplinger said Smith listened to her concerns.
"In my mind, this is still an interim plan," Ripplinger said of the seven-librarian model.
The seven hired will have a big job ahead, Ripplinger said, but will also have the chance to show how vital school librarians are to their students, teachers and principals.
"It will be a powerful way to show what targeted instruction and collaboration with teachers can do for your school."
If hired, she hopes to share the enrichment program model Polk Elementary used, and information from the time she spent teaching classes how to do research and apply it to topics they were studying.
Former Odyssey librarian Angie Woodring, now a Weber School District employee, is glad to see more librarians being brought back to the district, but believes the seven hired will feel overwhelmed.
"There were always days when I left feeling like I had more to do at my school with 630 kids," she said. "I can't imagine how they will feel."
Going from 20 librarians to seven is a deep cut, Woodring noted, and research skills will be even more important with Utah's adoption of Common Core standards.
"The teachers can do that, but they really need some extra help in the library to make it really work," she said.
Woodring and Ripplinger both said they hope the seven hired will convince the district of librarians' value, which could lead to more hires in the future.
"I have always said they need to keep focus on getting those librarians back in every school," Ripplinger said. "But this is something to start with and an opportunity to show what teacher librarians can do for schools."