Teens 13–18

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

16. Students learn how to evaluate and use information—not just how to find and access it—from school library media specialists.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

At the high school level… [t]he relationship between English Language Arts CST scores and library services was very similar in strength to that of U.S. History CST scores… The strongest bivariate correlations included total services… providing teachers with information about new resources… and informally instructed students in the use of resources… (Achterman 2008)

Strong correlations between test scores and the instructional roles regularly provided by library media specialists at the high school level also offer some indicators for certified staff and their administrative supervisors about how to allocate library work time. Providing reference assistance, instructing students in research strategies, use of resources and information literacy; and communicating proactively with the principal were among those activities that were most strongly related to student achievement. (Achterman 2008)

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)

…[R]esponding high schools report 16 weekly group visits, 10 of which are for information literacy instruction… For high schools that average more individual and group visits as well as more group visits for information literacy instruction, eleventh-grade ACT score gains averaged three to five percent over schools with less frequently visited libraries. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2005)

The findings from our study can be roughly summarized by educational level as follows:

  1. At each grade level school library programs improve MCAS scores.
  2. At each grade level students score higher on MCAS tests when there is a higher per pupil book count.
  3. At each grade level student use of the library produces higher mean MCAS score;
  4. At each level hours open make a difference in MCAS scores.
(Baughman 2000)

Overall, the qualitative responses of the participants collectively show the contribution of school libraries to the development of the whole child. The school library is portrayed as an agency for intellectual development, for social and cultural growth of students as they grow up in a complex and diverse information world. According to the evidence provided by the school librarians, the school library works to meet core content standards, to develop a wide range of information handling competencies and to provide students with the intellectual and technical scaffolds they need to learn and be ethical and productive users and consumers of information.
School librarians in New Jersey clearly do engage in a range of information literacy instruction initiatives. This instruction primarily centers on knowing about the school library, knowing about difference sources and formats, with sound levels related to understanding the different strategies in doing effective research, learning how to use the resources, evaluating information for quality, and learning to use information ethically. (Todd, Gordon and Lu 2010)

Librarians and library programs appear to positively influence students’ research-skills development and motivation for research and inquiry, particularly in the use of information technologies such as databases and the Web. (Small, Shanahan, and Stasak 2010)

… [T]he school library plays an important role in helping students determine the quality of information, particularly with the availability of information, misinformation and disinformation on the Internet. 92.8% of student indicated help in this aspect.
The data of this study show that the school library considerably helps students know how to use the different information sources, and the different purposes of these sources in the research process. The students, both in terms of managing projects to completion, and accessing quality information, value this instructional intervention. (Todd and Kuhlthau 2003)

Principals, teachers, library media specialists, and students recognize the connection between students academic achievement and the skills and knowledge students derive from the library media program… The program gives students research and information technology tools and skills that they can use in all content areas. It develops their critical thinking ability and opens their eyes to a wide range of resources and information. It increases interest in reading and excitement about learning. (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

Library media specialists play an essential role in the learning community by ensuring that students and staff are efficient and effective users of ideas and information. (Scholastic 2008)

Teens are regular and enthusiastic patrons who continue to visit and utilize the public library at increasingly greater rates.
In a 2007 poll, it was found that one-third of teens between the ages of 12–18 visited the public library ten times a year or more. Seventy-eight percent of teens who consider themselves “regular library visitors” borrow books and other materials for personal use from the public library on a frequent basis. From 1993 to 2005, the numbers for attendance at programs for children and young adults have steadily increased, from over 35.6 million/year in 1993 to 54.6 million/year in 2005. Computer and online games have become part of the mix at many public libraries, and some use gaming to attract new patrons. Libraries’ response to gaming demonstrates the institutions’ flexibility and willingness to innovate in their response to changing audience interests. The Public Library Association’s 2007 Public Library Data Service Statistical Report, which tracked young adult service trends in public libraries, found that nearly 90% of the public libraries surveyed offer young adult services; over half (51.9%) employ at least one full-time equivalent staff person dedicated to fostering young adult programs and services. Compare this to 1994, when just 11% of libraries had a young adult librarian; 58% of librarians considered the lack of staff a barrier to increasing services for young adults and 61% indicated that insufficient services, resources, and programs were moderate or major barriers to increasing services and resources for young adults. | (Harris Interactive 2007; Chute and Kroe 1995; Chute and Kroe 2007; American Library Association 2008; Public Library Association and Public Library Data Service 2007; Heaviside 1995)

Participation in library programs for kids under 18 has been rising steadily in recent years, from almost 35.6 million/year in 1993, to 60.9 million/year in 2008 (the last year for which these statistics are available). | (Chute and Kroe 1995; Henderson et al 2010)

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, Snyder and Parker 2008)

Students in better staffed programs [i.e., those with more library media specialists and more LMS hours] scored 8.4 to 21.8 percent higher on ACT English tests and 11.7 to 16.7 percent higher on ACT Reading tests compared to students in schools where library media programs had fewer resources. | (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

Both high school FCAT and ACT scores are significantly higher where there is increased library usage (visits by individuals to the library media center). (Baumbach 2003)

… [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)