While the organizational shift was approved last month, public comment on the policy revisions was postponed the day before last week's school board meeting — when several librarians planned to speak about the proposed changes.

School officials said the policy, first introduced Feb. 19, was sent back to the school system's policy review committee for further evaluation in light of feedback received from library specialists.

Beard still addressed the board and recalled that in the 1990s, 35 Baltimore County principals decided to let their certified library media specialists go after the school district implemented "site-based management" that gave principals the authority to staff their schools. During that time, funding for per-pupil funding for school libraries plunged from $10.86 to $1.77, she said.

The losses were replenished by a renewed commitment from the district to fund the county's library program and a partnership with Towson University that provided more library specialists, Beard said. Those steady resources have ensured that shelves are stocked and that technology resources are adequate for students, teachers and families, Beard said. But, she added, the system needs an explicit policy to ensure it continues.

"There's a reason some things are spelled out," Beard said. "We have long memories."

Ballard agreed, saying that the county's librarians are raising "very legitimate concerns" about eliminating the language in the policy.

"I think that the language indicates their commitment to a shared vision, by saying that we recognize this program is not just a physical space, it's a 24/7, 365-[day] operation, with librarians' presence required not just in the classroom," she said.

"I would hope that the decision makers and policymakers reconsider."