What does Mike Miles have against libraries?

I do not care for this.

Superintendent Mike Miles, appointed in June by the Texas Education Agency to lead Houston ISD, will eliminate librarians and media specialists from the 28 campuses under his New Education System and an additional 57 aligned schools that opted into a version of the whole-scale systemic reform plan that aims to lift student achievement and improve the quality of instruction.

Miles said the former library spaces at most NES and NES-aligned campuses will instead be converted into “Teams centers” — formerly called Zoom rooms — where students who misbehave in the classroom will be sent to watch the lesson virtually and others can work alone or in groups for differentiated instruction.

The book collections will remain on the shelves at the schools with no librarians, according to the district, with students able to take them home through an honor system or access them during before and after school hours.

The new policy marks a big departure from the priorities outlined by the previous HISD administration led by former superintendent Millard House II, who aimed to put a librarian or media specialist at every campus in the district under his five-year strategic plan and invested millions of dollars in pandemic relief funding to purchase new library books.

“There was this great surge of improvement and excitement about the libraries, so it was so discouraging to take that step backwards,” said Anne Furse, a library advocate and co-founder of a group called Friends of HISD Libraries.


Miles said the staffing model for NES and NES-aligned schools does not include a librarian because the district must prioritize resources to meet specific outcomes, including closing the achievement gap, raising student proficiency and preparing kids for their future. His administration is raising teacher salaries and providing incentive bonuses to teachers and administrators at the campuses targeted for reform.

“Right now, we are going to try to raise achievement, we’re going to try to have high-quality instruction, so the focus is on those teachers who can do that,” he said. “If you have to prioritize resources, then you want to get a teacher who can deliver the science of reading versus a librarian.”

Miles questioned whether the House administration’s plan to expand librarians to more campuses was tied to any specific outcome, noting that schools should be judged by their results rather than their “inputs.”

“Any big initiative needs to come with metrics for success,” he said. “We’re not doing things that are just popular. We’re not doing things that we’ve always done, we’re not doing things that are just fun, we’re not doing things that are just nice to have or good, unless we can measure its success.”

At the most basic of levels, I can see where Miles is coming from on this. Libraries and librarians cost money, his NES program costs a lot of money, and you can only fire a bunch of central office staffers once. Disruptive kids need a place to go, so the now-repurposed libraries can serve for that. And if there isn’t a bunch of data showing a correlation between libraries and test scores, we know what will be prioritized. I get it.

But come on. Why can’t the libraries just serve the function of being a good place for the kids? One that can at least complement the laudable effort to improve reading scores by, you know, providing books for the kids to read. Not everything has to be laser-focused on the bottom line. Quality of life matters, too.

And you can use Miles’ logic to eliminate all kinds of other things that make school more than just test preparation. Music, art, theater, gym, recess, lunch – what empirical evidence do we have that those things improve outcomes? What data are we even using to evaluate the libraries?

I keep coming back to this point, but even if what Miles is doing has the effect of maximizing student gains in the short to medium term, if people don’t like the things he did to make that happen, they’re not going to support continuing to do them when he and the Board of Managers are out of here. He and the Board need to build trust and get the buy-in from the community. Moves like this don’t help that. I’m beginning to think Mike Miles did not learn this lesson from his experience as DISD Superintendent. Which, I have to say, does not add to my confidence in him as a leader.

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23 Responses to What does Mike Miles have against libraries?

  1. Jeff N. says:

    I grew up in a fundamentalist working class community in the rural south. My grandparents didn’t finish high school and my parents didn’t enter college. But my mother was an avid reader. I loved books and my elementary school library opened up the world of literature, history, science, baseball, and everything I care about today. The school librarian was the curator of my reading experiences. This decision seems very wrong to me.

  2. Flypusher says:

    So basically it’s “teaching to the test” on steroids. Also there’s lots of evidence for music education having a positive impact on the rest of the learning process:


    As a band geek I approve, and point out that band was what made middle school bearable. There are also studies that point to reduced hearing loss in older people who played music as schoolchildren (musical training builds up the hearing “software” in the brain). Better hearing in turn slows cognitive decline.

    Test score are a means, not the ends in education. I agree, this is not how you build trust.

  3. I’m in my mid-50s, so I agree with you guys. In my youth, I spent most of my lunch periods reading in the library. Still, most kids today prefer to do their reading on tablets, laptops, computers, and smart phones. Other than the school textbooks, most older kids don’t carry around or read paperback books anymore. I know that, in the computer age, we really don’t need huge shelves filled with tons of paper-back books anymore, or all the associated staff (librarians) necessary to maintain them. While I don’t like it, I understand why Miles decided to pre-purpose some of that library space for the disruptive kids. At least he left most of the library books there for the kids who want to read them (provided the “honor system” actually works).

    Like you guys said, Superintendent Miles should have explained what he intended to do, and why, BEFORE he actually did it.

  4. J says:

    Libraries are such important spaces for kids, and librarians are the guardians. As an abused, unwanted child whom even the teachers didn’t care about, my discovery of the safe library space saved me. With a librarian there no one can bully you as you discover new worlds and exotic places. These safe spaces must be preserved.

  5. D.R. says:

    Everything is digital so no need for print books and expenses associated with a library. Plus a lot of these kids can’t even read based on the poor literacy rates. Get those rates up and then we will talk. Houston public libraries are still available for them. Discipline and safety come first and that’s a better use of the library in 2023 when digital and ebooks is the world.

  6. C.L. says:

    The vast majority of US kids 12 or older have no interest or need to peruse the Dewey Decimal Card cabinet at a school or local library to read a book. 30 yrs ago, yes. 2023, not so much. Buy it at Amazon and download it to your Kindle.

    What’s next, the sell off of HISD-owned vacant land ? I may have a case of the vapors !

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    The Dewey Decimal system is antiquated and long ago the Library of Congress system replaced it.

    But libraries are no longer needed in our bright, blinking, online future of digital and virtual existence, and keeping the public tied to a screen which advertisers can infect. That’s the new normal. YOU voted for it.

  8. Manny says:

    Get rid of sports, before closing libraries.

  9. Ken says:

    What does Abbott and his minions have against education? Republicans hate an educated populace. Fearful and ignorant people are easy to control and manipulate. Get them when they’re young.

  10. D.R.: says:

    Can we do both? HISD can eliminate sports for all teams that went winless last season or won less than 10% of their games . Students who want to play can transfer penalty free to another school that still has the sport that was cut.

  11. J says:

    Gosh, what was I thinking? Of course they can just buy the ebook on Amazon and download it using the extra money that all kids have in abundance. And what is next? Well once they have gotten rid of those damned libraries and their subversive books the new discipline centers they have installed in their place can be easily converted into guidance centers once chaplains have been hired to replace school counselors.

  12. Manny says:

    No D.R., one would eliminate all sports regardless if they have winning teams.

    Everyone owns a Kindle, really?

    What world do you’ll live in? Not everyone is digital. If yes, why are they trying to improve the internet in rural areas?

    Libraries are more than books. My god, they are even known to have digital books that can be checked out. I use the City’s library occasionally to check out books.

  13. Manny says:

    check out digital books

  14. David Fagan says:

    Would it be a Mannyism to say “only the fascists will have libraries now?” Strange turn of events.

  15. Pingback: Mayor Turner criticizes HISD’s library removals – Off the Kuff

  16. Manny says:

    Copying is one of the greatest source of flattery, David.

  17. David Fagan says:

    Copying is just plagiarism. I think the word you are looking for is ‘imitation’. But here’s another word for you- irony. I expect a three point essay on it’s meaning and use from you Manny. I’ll even provide you with an example:
    But here’s another word for you- irony. I expect a three point essay on it’s meaning and use from you Manny. I’ll even provide you with an example:
    But here’s another word for you- irony. I expect a three point essay on it’s meaning and use from you Manny. I’ll even provide you with an example:
    But here’s another word for you- irony. I expect a three point essay on it’s meaning and use from you Manny. I’ll even provide you with an example:

    Don’t forget to feed the cat.

  18. Manny says:

    Mannyism rule:

    I need to start charging for living in some people’s brains.

    FYI, I meant copying, but imitation will work just as well.

    Imitation definition 2:

    a thing intended to simulate or copy something else.
    “an imitation diamond”

    Mannyism rule:

    They say that ignorance is bliss; you must be one happy camper.

  19. Jason Hochman says:

    @J—-the discipline centers that will be installed may have some value–instead of suspending or expelling troublesome students, they can be put in a separate room and still study, and keep up with their peers. Now, I wouldn’t want to be the teacher or staff member who has to supervise that group. You will have to pay someone a very generous salary for them to do that job.

  20. Manny says:

    I taught school for 20 years, but it was 30 years ago. There always seems to be a vacant room or a Temporary building could be brought it.

  21. Denise Gladney Hudson says:

    Chuck, I know you don’t personally believe in closing libraries, but I did want to point out that there is an abundance of evidence that school libraries staffed with certified librarians positively affect test scores. Any educator who says otherwise (*cough* Mr. Miles) is being willfully ignorant. School libraries aren’t just “nice to have,” or “fun.” Here are just a few of the sites showing data about a positive correlation (literally took me 5 minutes and Google, including cursory validity checks):






  22. Thanks, Denise. The point I was trying to make was that libraries have value even if there was no evidence to connect them with higher test score. I should have been more clear about that.

  23. Pingback: More criticism of HISD’s library policies – Off the Kuff

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