Teens 13-18

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Public Libraries | School Libraries

QUICK FACTS & STATISTICS

   Public Libraries

Teens need easy access to quality library resources and trained library professionals in order to master the critical literacy and technology skills they need in order to lead successful careers and personal lives. Free access to books, the Internet, information technologies and other library resources that reflect a wide range of topics and opinions also helps prepare teens to become informed, active participants in a democratic society.

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 almost 35.6 million/year in 1993, to 54.6 million/year in 2005, to 60.9 million/year in 2008. 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)

Three-quarters of Americans believe it is a high priority for local public libraries to offer a safe place where teenagers can study and congregate. (Public Agenda 2006)

Public libraries can help high schools prepare students for college or 21st century careers.

High schools are struggling to provide the skills that students need if they are to achieve success in college and in today’s workplace. In a 2006 poll of over 400 companies, researchers found that “new entrants to the U.S. workforce generally disappoint those who would like to give them their first job. High school-educated workers lack the level of ability employers seek in everything from writing and work ethic to oral communication.” The most important skills cited by employers fall into the area of applied or “soft” skills: professionalism and work ethic, oral and written communications, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are also essential to college success. (Schoeff 2007; Casner-Lotto and Barrington 2006)

Students gain important critical thinking and career-building skills at the public library.

A survey of more than 430 human resource officials, conducted in 2006 by the New York City-based Conference Board, found that 72% rated recent hires as deficient in basic English writing skills, such as grammar and spelling, and 81% rated them as deficient in written communications more broadly, such as memos, letters, and complex technical reports. In a 2005 survey conducted for the National Association of Manufacturers, 84% of respondents said schools were not doing a good job preparing students for the workplace, with more than half citing specific deficiencies in mathematics and science and 3% citing deficiencies in reading and comprehension.
The lack of applied or “soft” skills—everyday social skills, work ethic, verbal and nonverbal communications, attendance, interview abilities, time and workload management, working productively with others, and attitude—dominated the complaints of business leaders. People who score higher on “measures of complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and fluency with ideas have higher mean earnings in the labor market, across all levels of education.” (Casner-Lotto and Barrington 2006; Olson 2007)

Public libraries can help students prepare for the demands of college life.

High schools are too focused on test taking and covering material to prepare students for the demands of college life. Key cognitive strategies needed for a smooth transition into college include: intellectual openness; inquisitiveness; analysis; interpretation; evidence-based reasoning and argumentation; and problem solving. Unfortunately, the development of these strategies “is often overshadowed by an instructional focus on the de-contextualized content and facts necessary to pass exit examinations.” Academic knowledge and skills such as writing and research skills, as well as the skills that come from deep exposure to content areas such as math, social studies, English, science, and foreign languages are also given short shrift in today’s high school classrooms, which are focused on moving quickly through subject matter. Academic behaviors that students need to be ready for college include independent time management and independent study skills. They also need contextual skills and awareness to figure out how to complete college and financial aid applications and handle personal finances, as well as life skills necessary for surviving the transition from the highly structured world of high school to the independence of college. Jobs (paid and unpaid) and other experiences at the public library can help prepare teens for the demands of college life. (Conley 2007)

Public libraries create a bridge for teens across the digital divide.

High-speed Internet access is increasingly necessary for full participation in educational, cultural, and employment opportunities. Students from low-income families are less likely to have adequate Internet access than their wealthier peers. In its most recent report on Internet access, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce found that as income increases, higher percentages of Internet users have access to broadband service at home. Internet users with broadband access at home are also more likely to be daily Internet users (66.1%) than those without broadband at home (51.2%). Additionally, users without access to broadband service at home make up 90% of non-Internet users; of these, 75.3% of non-Internet users have no access to the Internet at home. This is a significant disadvantage when employers increasingly prefer (and some require) applicants to apply online. Access to the Internet is frequently a crucial step in the job search process.
Further, in a 2007 study [Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study 2006–2007], 73% of public libraries reported that they were the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities. Surveyed libraries said the three Internet services most critical to their community were online educational resources and databases for K–12 students (used by 67.7% of visitors); services for job-seekers (44%); and computer and Internet skills training (29.8%). (United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration 2004; American Library Association (ALA) 2008; ALA and Florida State University 2007; Davis et al 2008)

Public libraries play a particularly important role in providing Internet access to minorities and teens in lower-income households.

Sixty percent of teenagers who go online use public library Internet access. For example, in households earning $75,000 or more per year, 99% of teens use the Internet from home, while 74% go online from school, and 57% go online from a library. By contrast, in households earning less than $30,000 per year, just 70% of teens go online from home, but 75% have access at school and 72% go online at the library. “For many minority and lower-income teens, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access. While 93% of teenage Internet users go online from more than one location, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access for many minority and lower-income teens.” (Lenhart et al 2008)

School Libraries    

A well-staffed, adequately funded school library media program is an integral component in a student’s education. Through these programs, students develop the all important learning for life skills, as well as an appreciation for the written and spoken word, and visual image.

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)

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)

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 2000)

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. (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

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)

Library media specialists have an important role to play regarding the use of technology to support teaching and learning in their schools. Seventy-four percent of respondents provide guidance to students in the use of digital resources at least once a week. (Small, Snyder and Parker 2008)

Four out of five responding library media specialists reported the occurrence of various activities on at least a weekly or monthly basis. These included: teachers asking the library media specialist for instructional design resources (78%). Three out of five reported … teachers asking for help in learning new information-seeking skills (57%). About half of library media specialists reported that, on a weekly or monthly basis, they provide in-service learning opportunities to teachers (48%). Across grade levels, better-performing schools tended to be those whose principals placed a higher value on having their library media specialist provide in-service opportunities to classroom teachers (65.57% passing for essential or desirable vs. 50.63% passing for acceptable or unnecessary—a proportional increase of 29.5%). (Lance, Rodney and Russell 2007)

Library staff in the top high schools spent more time on … collaboration … activities than library staff in the bottom schools. They are particularly more active in providing staff development to teachers and staff (1.31 vs. 0.35 hours per week). (Smith and EGS Consulting & Research 2006)

Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (e.g., pictures, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. As a lifelong learning skill, reading goes beyond decoding and comprehension to interpretation and development of new understandings. (American Association of School Librarians 2007)

School libraries provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the resources and tools required for learning in a warm, stimulating, and safe environment. School librarians collaborate with others to provide instruction, learning strategies, and practice in using the essential learning skills needed in the 21st century. (American Association of School Librarians 2007)