Kindergarten–Middle School 6–12

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

13. Students achieve more academically when their teachers and school library media specialists plan and deliver instruction collaboratively.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

More than three out of four elementary schools (over 75 percent) spending an average or above amounts of time on cooperative planning were schools with higher-achieving students. (Lance, Hamilton-Pennell and Rodney 2000)

At the fourth grade level, there were significant positive correlations between English Language Arts CST scores and fourteen library staff services. The two strongest associations were with informal instructing students in the use of resources,… and communication proactively with principal…
At the eighth grade level, there were also fourteen services that were significantly related to English Language Arts CST scores, with the three strongest being communicating proactively with principal, offering a program of curriculum-integrated information literacy instruction, and total services… (Achterman 2008)

A library media center should be staffed by an endorsed library media specialist who is involved not only in identifying materials suitable for school curricula, but also in collaborating with teachers and others in developing curricula. This involvement in the instructional process helps to shape a larger—and, presumably, more appropriate—local collection. Students who score higher on norm-referenced tests tend to come from schools where this instructional role is more prominent. (Lance, Welborn and Hamilton-Pennell 1993)

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;
  • 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
(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.
(Rodney, Lance and Hamilton-Pennell 2002)

At the middle school level, the percentage of students with advanced reading scores was 12.6% higher for schools with administrators who considered librarian-teacher collaboration (in design and delivery of instruction) essential (vs. less than essential). (Lance, Rodney and Russell 2007)

Schools at every grade level tended to have more students scoring at the advanced level on both reading and language arts if their administrators had assessed highly the teaching of ICT standards. This is perhaps the most important finding of this study, because those self-assessments also tend to coincide with administrators placing a high value on key library-related practices and desiring that their libraries play certain roles. Those practices include:

  • instructional collaboration between teachers and librarian,
  • regular meetings between principal and librarian
Notably, librarians credentialed as library media specialists (LMSs) were more likely than their non-LMS counterparts to report at least weekly activities associated with these practices. Indeed, LMS librarians were three times as likely as non-LMS librarians to report at least weekly instructional collaboration and provision of in-service professional development. (Lance, Rodney and Russell 2007)

School librarians are instructional consultant from whom classroom teachers can learn of more numerous, more authoritative, and more current books, articles, and databases than they would ever find on their own. While elementary and middle school library staff typically spend only two or three hours per week helping to improved instruction in this way, it appears to be making a difference in reading performance at those grade levels (increases of almost eight and seven percent, respectively). The payoff of this type of librarian-teacher cooperation is more students meeting or exceeding ISAT writing standards at those grade levels (almost 10 and 13 percent, respectively.) (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2005)

Key to a truly exemplary library program was that the teacher-librarian took on a broader educational role within the school, providing support for classroom teachers through partnering and collaboration, supporting all students through shared teaching and cross-curricular support or integration of curriculum.
One of the benefits of partnering cited by the teachers was that each teacher could bring his or her own strengths to the partnership. Similarly, teachers assisted each other in building skills in areas where they themselves may be less knowledgeable.
The teacher-librarian was considered a key teacher who was knowledgeable in many fields, could see the big picture and was capable of tapping into many resources inside and outside the school. (Klinger 2009)

In the five programs visited, the library media specialists not only help teachers make their curriculum resource-rich, but work with teachers to revise existing units and develop new innovative units. The results of these efforts enhance the curriculum, refresh teachers, raise expectations, and increase student interest. (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

Library-media specialists do so much more than order books, organize materials, keep track of the stacks, teach research skills and keep the media in working order for classroom teachers. They are partners with classroom teachers in providing a comprehensive literacy program where the cognitive skills of reading and the affective attitudes toward reading are seen as tandem parts of literacy. Both are needed. If the autobiographies of these pre-service teachers are any indication of the memories of others who have experienced the impact of librarians, the classroom teacher is seen as the one who teaches students “how” to read, but the librarians are seen as a primary force in schools of developing a “love” of books and of reading… The library-media specialist is able to focus on literature and see the many ways that narrative and expository text can enrich the lives of individual children and classroom instruction of that content area. The partnership between the two professionals allows each to add a valuable part to every child’s educational experience. (Collier 2007)

… [T]he results indicated that the way libraries were used differed between successful and unsuccessful schools. Successful schools schedule more class time in the library, spend more time allowing students to check out materials, have more individual student research hours, offer more time for reading incentive programs like Accelerated Reader, are used more frequently by faculty members for professional growth and classroom support, and are open more hours beyond the school day. (Roberson, Schweinle and Applin 2003)

When library media specialists work with teachers to support learning opportunities with books, computer resources, and more, students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without good libraries. (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)

School library media specialists in “A” elementary schools

  • Are more likely to work with individuals visiting the media center than with groups.
  • Spend more time planning for lessons taught independently of teachers.
  • Spend more time working collaboratively and teaching with teachers.
  • Spend more time involved in reading incentive activities and programs.
(Baumbach 2003)

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)

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)