Teens 13–18

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

13. Disadvantaged students have a better chance of succeeding academically when they attend schools with strong library media programs.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

It is clear from the findings that there are some highly effective school libraries in Delaware—school libraries that are strongly integrated into the learning fabric of the school and which contribute to student learning outcomes. These school libraries have a common set of characteristics:

  • a state-certified, full time, library media specialist in the building;
  • the availability of para-professional staff who undertake routine administrative tasks and free the library media specialist to undertake instructional initiatives and reading literacy initiatives;
  • a library program that is based on flexible scheduling so that library media specialists and classroom teachers can engage in collaborative planning and delivery of information literacy instruction;
  • an active instructional program of information literacy integrated into curriculum content, and targeted towards learning curriculum content and skills;
  • a school library that meets resource recommendations of 15-20 books per child;
  • the provision of professional development on information literacy and technology literacies to the teaching faculty;
  • a budget allocation of $12-$15 per student per year to ensure currency and vitality of the information base;
  • a strong networked information technology infrastructure that facilitates access to and use of information resources in an and out of school.
(Todd 2005)

Library media specialists (LMSs) exert a complex web of effects on the LM programs. Findings about these effects are summed up in the following description of a strong LM program. A strong LM program is one

  • that is adequately staffed, stocked, and funded. Minimally, this means one full-time library media specialist (LMS) and one full-time aide. The relationship, however, is incremental; as the staffing, collections and funding of LM programs grow, reading scores rise.
  • whose staff are actively involved leaders in their school’s teaching and learning enterprise. A successful LMS is one who has the ear and support of the principal, serves with other teachers on the school’s standards and curriculum committees, and holds regular meetings of the LM staff. Students succeed where the LMS participates with classroom teachers and administrators in making management decisions that encourage higher levels of achievement by every student.
  • whose staff have collegial, collaborative relationships with classroom teachers. A successful LMS is one who works with a classroom teacher to identify materials that best support and enrich an instructional unit, is a teacher of essential information literacy skills to students, and, indeed, is a provider of in-service training opportunities to classroom teachers. Students succeed where the LMS is a consultant to, a colleague with, and a teacher of other teachers.
  • that embraces networked information technology. The library media center of today is no longer a destination; it is a point of departure for accessing the information resources that are the essential raw material of teaching and learning. Computers in classrooms, labs and other school locations provide networked access to information resource—the library catalog, electronic full text, licensed databases, locally mounted databases, and the Internet. Students succeed where the LM program is not a place to go, apart from other sites of learning in the school, but rather an integral part of the educational enterprise that reaches out to students and teachers where they are.
(Rodney, Lance and Hamilton-Pennell 2002)

At the high school level, ACT scores average almost seven percent higher for schools [that] spend more on their libraries compared to those that spent less. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2005)

Increases in eleventh grade reading scores are usually reported by Michigan high school libraries that have:

  • higher numbers and weekly hours of librarian and total library staff;
  • more total weekly hours of operation, and more weekly hours for flexible access/scheduling;
  • librarian spending more time supporting school computer networks;
  • larger collections of print volumes and video materials; and
  • access to more computers—both in the library and throughout the school—that provide links to Access Michigan, library catalogs and licensed databases, and the Internet and the World Wide Web; and
  • more frequent individual visits to the library; and
  • more money for library operations.
(Rodney, Lance and Hamilton-Pennell 2003)

There is a statistically significant relationship between higher reading scores and larger school media center budgets. Students taking the reading tests in grades 5, 7, 8, and 10 scored between 3 and 6 points higher on those tests in schools with higher media center expenditures. (Baxter and Smalley 2004)

The current study found evidence that student achievement tended to increase as the amount of money spent on books and other print materials from the school budget increased. (Burgin, Bracy, and Brown 2004)

The school libraries in the high-performing schools spent over two and a half times as much money per 100 students on electronic access to information (e.g., online database searching, Internet access) than did those in the low-performing schools. (Burgin, Bracy and Brown 2004)

Oregon reading test scores rise with increases in:

  • total staff hours per 100 students (including both professional and support staff),
  • print volumes per student,
  • periodical subscriptions per 100 students, and
  • library media expenditures per student.
(Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2001)

Higher achieving schools often spend twice as much—or more—on their school library programs as lower achieving schools. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2000b)

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reading scores increase in the following characteristics of school library information programs: staffing, information technology, and integration of information literacy into the curriculum. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2000b)

TAAS performance was associated with different library factors at each educational level. Library variables found to be important were:

  • Library staff per 100 students
  • Library staff hours per 100 students
  • Library hours of operation per 100 students
  • Volumes per students
  • Current subscriptions to magazines and newspapers per 100 students
  • Planning instructional units with teachers
  • Providing staff development to teachers
(Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2001)

The conclusion to be drawn is that, within the present sample, students in schools that invest more of their per-pupil expenditure in library-related resources tend to perform better on standardized tests at several grade levels. (Roberson, Schweinle and Applin 2003)

A school library program that is adequately staffed, resourced, and funded can lead to higher student achievement regardless of the socioeconomic or educational levels of the community. (Scholastic 2008)

Better-funded school library media programs help to close the achievement gap for poor and minority students and poor and crowded schools. There is a positive relationship between total library expenditures in high schools and both PSAE reading scores and ACT scores of eleventh-graders persists, despite community income, per pupil spending, the teacher-pupil ratio, and student’s race/ethnicity. | (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2005)

The library media programs in the 25 top scoring high schools [based on tenth grade performance on standardized reading tests] had … 14.9 percent more operating dollars per student [than the 25 lowest scoring schools] ($29.19 vs. $25.40). Students in high school library media programs with larger operating budgets scored [almost eight percent] better on ACT Reading and [more than 18 percent better on ACT] English than students in high schools with library media programs with smaller budgets. [T]he library media programs in the top [25 elementary] schools [based on fourth grade performance on standardized reading tests] had … 7.7 percent more library media program dollars per student [than the 25 lowest scoring schools] ($27.80 vs. $25.80).The library media programs in the 25 top middle/junior high schools [based on eighth grade performance on standardized reading tests] … had … 19.3 percent more operating dollars per student [than the 25 lowest scoring schools] ($24.76 vs. $20.76). | (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

At the secondary level… Nine out of ten schools (over 90 percent) with full-time librarians had more students who earned proficient or above proficient test scores. Among [secondary] schools with only part-time librarians, almost seven out of ten (almost 70 percent) had more high-achievement students—a lower proportion than for schools with full-time librarians, but a higher one than for schools with no librarian at all. Among the latter group of schools [i.e., no librarian at all], only about half (just over 50 percent) had more high-achievement students. | (Lance, Hamilton-Pennell and Rodney 2000a)

In elementary schools with a certified (vs. non-certified) library media specialist, students have significantly higher achievement scores on the 4th grade ELA test. | (Small, Shanahan, and Stasak 2010)

In Florida high schools, FCAT scores are higher where:

  • The library media center is staffed more hours per week.
  • There are more certified library media specialists.
  • There are more paid library media staff members.
  • There are more interlibrary loans provided to other schools in the district.
  • There are more visits to the library media center to use technology.
  • There are more networked computers in the school and more computers with Internet access.
  • There are more computers in the library media center and more computers have Internet access.
(Baumbach 2003)

Compliance-related activities accounted for 14.6 percent of the variance in principles correlated with student academic achievement. The individual principles included: intellectual freedom (the single most important factor within that factor), followed by legal practices, curriculum-supportive collection, and program assessment. (Farmer 2006)

Thus, based on this study, for library media programs to optimize the correlation with student academic achievement, the following conditions should be in place: develop, implement and assess a strong library media program in collaboration with the school community; have a solid collection that supports the curriculum; provide optimal access, including flexible scheduling; plan and teach in collaboration with classroom teachers; obtain concrete administrative support; and participate actively in learning communities. (Farmer 2006)

… [H]aving an accessible high-quality collection correlates positively with reading comprehension and vocabulary, but it is not sufficient for overall academic achievement as measured by API scores. For that latter to occur, teaching and administrative principles also need to be implemented. (Farmer 2006)

Collaborative planning and instruction accounted for 17.7 percent of the variance in principles correlated with student academic achievement. The individual principles included: collaborative planning (the single most important factor within that factor), modeling effective teaching, integration of information literacy, facilities for learning, program planning assessment of student academic achievement, administrative support, and communication about the program. (Farmer 2006)