Kindergarten–Middle School 6–12

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Talking Points for
School Libraries

16. Students are more successful academically when their teachers benefit from professional development opportunities offered by their library media specialist colleagues.

Quick Stats Supporting This Talking Point

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;
  • the provision of professional development on information literacy and technology literacies to the teaching faculty
(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

  • 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 the elementary school level, the percentage of students with advanced scores averaged higher, if principals and other administrators considered it essential (vs. less than essential) for:

  • the librarian to provide in-service professional development to faculty (20.6% for the language arts, 17.8% for reading);
  • the librarian’s instructional role to be addressed in teacher hiring interviews (22.0% for language arts, 17.4% for reading)
  • the librarian to be appointed to school committees (16.8% for language arts, 13.8% for reading); and
  • the librarian and the principal to meet regularly (15.6% for reading only).
(Lance, Rodney and Schwarz 2010)

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:

  • flexible scheduling of library access,
  • instructional collaboration between teachers and librarian,
  • provision of in-service professional development to faculty by librarians,
  • regular meetings between principal and librarian,
  • the librarian serving on school committees, and
  • the librarian’s instructional role being addressed in teacher hiring interviews.
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 Schwarz 2010)

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)

Both elementary and middle schools tended to perform better on tests where LMSs took the initiative, on at least a weekly or monthly basis, to provide their teachers with resources needed to design instruction. (Lance, Rodney and Russell 2007)

Fourth grade and seventh grade reading scores tend to be higher for Michigan schools whose school libraries report:

  • high numbers and weekly hours of librarian and total library staff;
  • offering more weekly hours for flexible access/scheduling;
  • librarians spending more time planning and teaching cooperatively with classroom teachers, and providing in-service training to teachers;
  • larger collections of print volumes and video materials;
  • access to more library and school computers that connect to Access Michigan, library catalogs and licensed databases, and the Internet and the World Wide Web;
  • more frequent individual and group visits to the library; and
  • spending more on library operations.
(Rodney, Lance and Hamilton-Pennell 2003)

The data show that a substantial number of school librarians in New Jersey actively provide a range of information technology-related professional development activities to faculty. This is commendable, and shows a clear commitment to whole school development in term of effective use of information technology. The highest levels of involvement are in high schools, with lowest levels of participation among elementary school librarians. (Todd, Gordon and Lu 2010)

… [H]igher and lower scoring elementary schools are distinguished by the amount of time school library staff spend in teaching students and teachers how to access and use print and electronic information resources. At higher achieving schools library staff spend three days on such activities for every two by lower achieving schools… At higher achieving schools at all grade levels, library staff are involved in committees and provide in-service training to teachers. Library staff at lower achieving schools usually do not engage in these activities at all. (Lance, Rodney and Hamilton-Pennell 2000b)

Teachers view [library media specialists] as an indispensable source of ideas, help, and support and continuously seek their expertise. Teachers recognize that the assistance the LMS provides in identifying resources saves them countless hours. They are cognizant that even if they had the time, they would not have had the knowledge for identifying such an array of resources. (Smith and EGS Research & Consulting 2006)

Schools in which teacher-librarians were spending more hours offering student reading incentives, providing more information skill group contacts per week, and identifying materials for teachers were more likely to be higher achieving schools. High performing school teacher-librarians spent an average of 3.0 hours per week on reading incentive activities, twice that of counterparts at low performing schools. High performing school teacher-librarians also spent 2.8 hours per week identifying materials for teachers, more than double that of counterparts at low performing schools. (Haycock 2011)

… [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)

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)

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 media staff in the top performing middle schools spent 25.4 percent more time providing staff development to teachers or other staff than the 25 lowest scoring schools (1.48 vs. 1.18 hours per week). 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 Research & Consulting 2006)