Teens 13–18

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

8. Students learn 21st century learning skills through state-of-the-art school library media programs.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

At the high school level, the library factor accounted for 19% of the variance in English Language Arts CST scores and 21% of the variance in U.S. History CST scores. In both cases, Beta weights indicated that the library factor was a stronger predictor of scores than other school variable; in fact, the library factor was stronger than either school or community factors in predicting U.S. History CST scores. (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)

At every grade level, schools with more library and library-connected computers—particularly, in the latter case, Internet computers relative to the school’s enrollment—average higher test scores. The presence of more library computers is associated with percentage increases of:

  • 8 percent for fifth-and-eighth grade ISAT reading performance,
  • almost 11 percent for eighth-grade ISAT writing performance
  • just over 5 percent for eleventh-grade ACT scores.
(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.
Principals often perceive their librarian as the technology leader in the school. Librarians have an impact on both teachers’ and students’ technology use. (Small, Shanahan and Stasak 2010)

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)

The Texas Study demonstrated higher TAAS performance at all educational levels in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians. Over 10 percent more students in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations in reading. On average, 89.3 percent of students in schools with librarians compared with 78.4 percent in schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations in reading. (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2001)

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)

Effective school libraries are much more than books. They are learning hubs, each with a full range of print and electronic resources that support student achievement. (Scholastic 2008)

Students whose library media specialists played an instructional role—either by identifying materials to be used with teacher-planned instructional units or by collaborating with teachers in planning instructional units—tend to achieve higher average test scores. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2000a)

Ninety percent of the students recognized that the school library had helped to boost their confidence as proficient information seekers and users, enabling them to work independently; 91.8% of the students appreciated the school library’s help regarding working out the most important information, and sorting and analyzing information. (Todd 2005)

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)