Quality of Schools

Impact of School Libraries on Learning: Critical Review of Published Evidence to Inform the Scottish Education Community

The report examines the evidence that school libraries have on learning and skill development. The study by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) covers the review of UK and international evidence. The material, published since 2001, links school libraries to educational achievement. The results will inform SLIC school libraries in secondary education in Scotland.

Research consistent: students perform better with an endorsed librarian

The research on school librarians and their association with students’ test scores is remarkably consistent in its findings: regardless of how rich or poor a community is, students tend to perform better on reading tests where, and when, their library programs are in the hands of endorsed librarians. Furthermore, at schools where library programs gain or maintain an endorsed librarian when school budgets get tight, students tend to excel. At schools where library programs lose or never had an endorsed librarian, students suffer as a result.

Librarians positively correlate with reading scores with poverty as control variable

In this instance, both endorsed and non-endorsed librarians were positively correlated with advanced CSAP reading scores and negatively correlated with unsatisfactory scores. In other words, with poverty utilized as a control variable, both endorsed and non-endorsed librarians had positive and statistically significant correlations with reading scores. Notably, however, these relationships are stronger for endorsed librarians than non-endorsed ones. What did not change was the lack of relationship between non-endorsed library assistants working without a librarian and reading scores. Apparently, library assistants working without supervision do not have any impact on reading scores, either advanced or unsatisfactory.

Reading scores rise with a full-time endorsed librarian

In 2011, schools with at least one FTE [ full-time equivilent] endorsed librarian averaged significantly higher advanced CSAP reading scores (8% vs. 6%) and significantly lower unsatisfactory scores (9% vs. 11%) than schools with less than one FTE endorsed librarian [a library assistant or non-endorsed librarian]. 

Significant relationship between reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing

There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trendsSchools that either maintained or gained an endorsed librarian between 2005 and 2011 tended to have more students scoring advanced in reading in 2011 and to have increased their performance more since 2005 (45% and 49%, respectively) than schools that either lost their librarians or never had one ( 33% and 29%). Conversely, schools that either lost a librarian during that period or never had one (33% and 39%) tended to have fewer students scoring advanced in 2011 and to have seen lesser gains—or indeed, losses—since 2005 than schools that maintained or gained a librarian (23% and 18%).

Libraries are essential to the academic enterprise

Academic staff members spent a large portion of their work time on scholarly reading. They value the outcomes this reading has on their research and teaching. The amount of time they spend on reading from the library’s collections is evidence of the importance of library-provided scholarly materials to academic work. The value academic reading has on the work of the university is apparent, and the university library, especially for article readings, is essential to the quality of the academic enterprise (p. 122). 

Library materials are crucial to academic institutions

Once [the respondents] became aware of the last article they read, we asked where they obtained the article. Of the 1189 responses to the question, almost two-thirds (775, 65.2%) of the readings are obtained through a library subscription. Many respondents praised the importance of library sources, including one respondent who summed it up as, “Accessibility of scholarly journals and other library resources is crucial to the standing and effectiveness of a university and is a key discriminator between world-class universities and less prestigious institutions” (p. 40). 
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