Kindergarten–Middle School 6–12

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

15. Students’ academic success is fostered by a well-funded school library media program.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

At the elementary level, all other library program elements—hours open, collection size, budget, and total technology—were significantly, though weakly, related to English Language Arts CST scores in all bivariate and partial correlations. (Achterman 2008)

Students at schools with better funded LMCs tend to achieve higher average test scores, whether their schools and communities are rich or poor and whether adults in the community are well or poorly educated. (Lance, Welborn and Hamilton-Pennell 1993)

When LM predictors are maximized (e.g., staffing, expenditures, and information resources and technology), CSAP reading scores tend to run 18 percent higher in fourth grade and 10 to 15 percent higher in seventh. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2000a)

Elementary schools with better-funded libraries averaged 68 to 72 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced and 9 to 10 percent scoring unsatisfactorily. Schools with more poorly-funded libraries averaged 62 to 67 percent scoring proficient or advanced and 12 to 14 percent unsatisfactory. (Francis, Lance and Lietzau 2010)

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. (Rodney, Lance and Hamilton-Pennell 2002)

Between the elementary and middle school levels, there was a similar increase in the strength of the relationship between library spending and writing performance. Elementary schools that spend more on their libraries average almost 10 percent higher writing performance, and middle schools that invest more in their libraries average almost 13 percent higher writing levels. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2005)

Across grade levels, schools tended to perform better on the ISTEP+ tests where there were better-staffed, better-stocked, and better-funded school library programs. (Lance, Rodney and Russell 2007)

Fourth grade and seventh grade reading scores tend to be higher for Michigan schools whose school libraries report ... spending more on 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)

… [T]he Library Budget component was composed of six variables concerning money allocated to the libraries.
The analysis shows that the Library Budget component was significantly correlated with student achievement, represented by the Overall Weighted Average Map Index, when other variables were not present. (Quantitative Resources et al 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. 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)

[Keith Curry Lance’s] finding consistently report that students in schools with well-staffed, -stocked and -funded libraries score from 10% to 25% higher on standardised tests than students in schools with poorly resourced libraries. Furthermore, the more hours that the school library is open, the higher the achievement levels of the students. (Ontario Library Association 2006)

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)

Findings from a study among schools in British Columbia reinforce previous research suggesting that an easily accessed, well-funded, well-staffed, well-managed, well-stocked, integrated and heavily used school library correlated to higher student achievement. (Haycock 2011)

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)

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)

In Florida’s elementary schools, FCAT scores are higher where:

  • There is a certified, university-trained library media specialist.
  • The total number of paid staff is higher and there are more hours per week of staffing.
  • Circulation is higher.
  • Schools have access to the library media center catalog through the school’s computer network.
  • There are more books and videos.
  • There are more computers in the library media center and those computers provide Internet access.
  • There are more non-print materials purchased from the school budget.
In the middle schools, FCAT scores are higher where:
  • There are more certified, university-trained school library media specialists and the library media center is staffed more hours per week.
  • More materials are circulated.
  • There are more videos in the collection and more reference materials on CD-ROM.
  • More computers in the library media center provide access to the Internet.
(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)