OGDEN -- School library advocates hope lawmakers keep funds available for books, technology and staff.
"The school library supports the curriculum," said Sharly Smith, who can be found on Capitol Hill most days as she volunteers her time to advocate for school libraries.
Smith, a retired educator, worked for the Utah State Office of Education as the library media specialist for a number of years before teaching at University of Washington Information School.
She wants to see funds added to school libraries not just to buy books, but because the centers are used to help teachers teach and students learn.
Greg Lewis, executive director of the Ogden School District curriculum department, said library media centers are not used solely for students to find books to read or for story time.
The centers are used to teach students how to use books and technology to research topics, either for an assignment or for pleasure.
About 70 percent of the information students find in the media centers is nonfiction material, Lewis said.
Smith said school libraries are also more specialized for students, which makes them different from public libraries, which are for the community and for all ages.
Those in charge of media centers do not just help students find a book to read -- they also teach curriculum to the students, as well as work with teachers to find the best books or media to help students learn more about a subject.
Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, said school libraries were budgeted as a separate line item for several years.
In 2006, lawmakers allocated $2 million for school libraries, which helped many to update basic reference books and science collections.
Last year, lawmakers had eliminated school libraries as a line item, but it was added back with $25,000 before the session ended. When other lawmakers saw it and "realized we thought it was important, they added another $400,000," Cosgrove said.
But it is all up for grabs again.
Ideally, a school library has a certified teacher librarian, but because of the recent economy, most schools in Utah do not, Smith said.
Because of budget cuts school districts have sustained over the past few years, Ogden School District and others are struggling not only to buy new materials for their students, but to replace materials that are used or lost, Lewis said.
"What we received last year doesn't even cover what we need to replace, and we're losing ground," Lewis said.
Donna Corby, community relations director for Ogden School District, said they, like all educators in Utah, understand lawmakers have to cut 7 percent of the base budget for 2011-12.
What they will receive is anyone's guess, Corby said, but "we'll just look forward."
In Davis School District, educators are concerned that if budgets for libraries are slashed even more, it will be more difficult to have every student reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Davis School District cut librarian hours in elementary schools to meet budget cuts for the 2010-11 year, said Belinda Cuck, curriculum supervisor over libraries.
Most elementary schools do not have their libraries open before or after school, eliminating times when students can check in or check out books, Cuck said.
"Every class has time during the week to come into the library, but that's not a lot of time to check in or check out books," Cuck said.
Cuck said it would be nice to think that every book that was checked out "was treated lovingly and kindly when it is thrown in a backpack, but we know that doesn't happen."
The district currently spends $6.52 per secondary student on library materials, Cuck said. Davis District spends a bit less per student for elementary library materials.
Books for libraries cost from $15 to $20 each, because they need special bindings that help them last longer.
Yet, with the budget cuts school libraries have had, those in charge have been able to use the funds they've received to buy collections or items to help students in different areas.
Junior high and high schools in Davis School District have been able to add to their collections, including buying "playaways," which are books that can be downloaded to iPods so students who need the extra help can follow along. Other schools have bought materials to help students improve their scores on Advanced Placement tests.
"When you have good readers, you create lifelong learners," Cuck said.