Librarians in Mesa want the school district to know they will not go quietly.
They're joining a statewide movement to educate the public about why they believe certified librarians are important and why school districts should reconsider eliminating their positions.
With chants of "A, B, C - support your library!" about 60 librarians and other community members attended a rally before the Mesa Unified School District governing board meeting Tuesday night to launch a petition advocating more support for school librarians in Arizona.
Mesa media specialist Amy Schaumburg said she attended the rally because "what we do matters."
"Studies show students with access to media specialists learn better, as shown by standardized testing," she said.
In addition to attending the school board meeting, Mesa librarians have organized a campaign to e-mail or fax letters to Mesa district governing board members, urging them to reject an administrative proposal to remove school librarians.
Ann Ewbank, coordinator for Fund Our Future Arizona, the group organizing the rally and petition, said it chose to launch its campaign in Mesa because it is Arizona's largest school district.
"The wholesale elimination of librarians is setting a precedent that's not good for Arizona," she said. "Other school districts might look at Mesa, who has had a really great track record in supporting their certified teacher librarians, and possibly follow their lead."
She said Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills and Tucson school districts, as well as others, are scaling back their library staffs this year.
"It's reached a critical mass," Ewbank said. "The coalition was formed in response to not only what Mesa is considering, but also this snowball effect."
She said a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics shows an 8 percent decline in the number of certified teacher librarians in Arizona schools in recent years.
In addition to Tuesday's rally, Mesa librarians are asking that staff at specific schools organize an awareness campaign.
At Zaharis Elementary, for example, librarians are considering having parents distribute fliers during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups, urging people to call or write board members or attend governing board meetings.
They're also hoping people will educate themselves on what they say is a need to have certified teachers running school libraries.
Rachel Bisanz said she attended Tuesday night's rally because she has an 8-year-old son at Sirrine Elementary and a daughter who just graduated - and the district's librarians introduced them to a love of books.
"I know what librarians do," she said. "And I don't understand how there can be no cuts in services when we are replacing two people with one who won't have the same (educational) requirements."
The Mesa district recently announced a plan to phase out full-time, certified librarians over the next three years.
Librarians, and some aides at the high school level, would be replaced by one new position, a resource center specialist, a full-time, noncertified position. Also, the media center specialist and audiovisual clerk position will be combined into one new position.
The Mesa school board met in a study session following its meeting Tuesday so board members could ask staff about the library proposal.
Based on the size of the school, the number of aides may be reduced at the elementary and junior high levels.
Administrators say the district is facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall for the coming year, and they expect similar challenges over at least the next three years.
The district is looking to cut about $20 million from the budget initially.