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Duval Schools face 20% vacancy in media specialists, the only staff who can approve books

Mandarin Middle School is one of 67 schools without a certified media specialist.
Screen capture, DCPS
Mandarin Middle School is one of 67 schools without a certified media specialist.

The Duval County public school district is asking retired school librarians to come back part time, as it scrambles to comply with new Florida book laws that make the position vital to keeping books in kids’ hands.

“Only certified media specialists can review and approve books,” the district said in a letter to retired staffers in February. “We would greatly appreciate your expertise!”

The request comes as the district also grapples with a 20% vacancy rate in media specialist positions. Media specialist is the state’s title for what is historically known as a school librarian, and they’re a rarity in Duval Schools.

Duval used to have media specialists in most of its schools, but that changed in 2013 with budget cuts. Now, due to the cutbacks and current vacancy rate, just 33 elementary and K-8 schools have a full-time media specialist, and 45 split their librarian with other schools. There are no media specialists in the district’s middle or high schools, according to district data.

Read the rest of this story at Jacksonville Today, part of WJCT Public Media.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.