Burbank educators announced a plan this week to install Wi-Fi in all school libraries, weed out old resources and purchase more fiction and nonfiction books.

The plan, the first comprehensive strategy in nearly a decade, comes several months after school board members learned that some elementary libraries had been shut down since the beginning of this school year.

Though the school board must still vote on specific aspects of the project, members approved of the idea for the 2014-15 academic year in concept.

Due to union contract rules neither teachers, volunteers nor other staff members who lack library duties in their job descriptions could assist students with returning, checking out or shelving books.

After years of budget cuts, each elementary school had grown used to relying on its own funds or donations to pay for library assistants. But with volunteers and teachers unable to staff the libraries under the contract, the district adopted a temporary plan through the end of this current school year to pay for library assistants or clerks at each of the 11 elementary schools.

Now under the proposed plan, school officials will continue to staff the libraries at all the schools with district funds.

The annual cost to maintain five full-time library coordinators at each of the high schools and middle schools would be $150,000.

Another 11 library assistants or clerks hired to work in the elementary schools would cost Burbank Unified $299,000 each year, according to the plan.

Tom Kissinger, who is director of elementary education for the district, estimated that it would take additional funds — at least $5,000 per elementary school and tens of thousands of dollars at the secondary schools — to replace outdated books and print materials.

According to one district report, new books and materials most often come to the schools through donations and fundraising or money raised by collecting late fees.

Another $30,000 annual cost would go to hire a library coordinator who would work with schools across the district.

But school board member Roberta Reynolds suggested hiring a certificated librarian instead — someone with both teaching and library science studies under his or her belt — to work with schools.

Until 2009, the district funded a full-time librarian, as well as a part-time one, responsible for supervising the collections at all schools.

"I think the lack of a certificated librarian is something that is just a little bit of a hole," she said.

Fellow school board member Larry Applebaum agreed.

"I'll just say ditto," he said.

But Kissinger said that a request for one so far has not come up among educators.

"If there's a real need, certainly, we're willing to put that in the plan and work with that, but what I've been hearing mostly is the [need for] support for library coordinators...and not a centralized district person to do that," he said.

School board President Dave Kemp welcomed the initial plan.

"This is really on track with what we'd like to see done," he said, adding, "We have to be fair with everything across the district to achieve the goals we're trying to achieve."

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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