AASL survey results show lagging economy hit high poverty schools the hardest

For Immediate Release
Wed, 10/13/2010


Melissa Jacobsen

CHICAGO – According to the results from the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) 2010 School Libraries Count! survey, the educational resources of students in high poverty schools have been most affected by last year's economic downturn. Overall survey results show that school expenditures on information resources were approximately $12,260 in 2010 compared to $13,525 last year. While 2009 figures are slightly higher, the difference is statistically insignificant, indicating that expenditures remain consistent to last year. However, average spending on information resources in high poverty schools decreased 25 percent, or $3,557, on average compared to 2009 survey results.
In addition, the survey found that high poverty school libraries have also seen significant declines in collection size. When compared to low poverty schools that saw slight increases in most areas of collection size, high poverty schools reported a 4 percent decrease in books, 22 percent decrease in periodical subscriptions and 11 percent decrease in video materials. Audio materials were the only collection area to report an increase of 3 percent, compared to low poverty schools who reported a 12 percent increase.
"All students deserve equal access to information tools and resources," said AASL Research & Statistics Chair, Marcia Mardis. "Depriving students in high poverty schools of a well resourced school library program is setting them up for failure."
The survey also found total library staff hours on the decline, with an average of 2.4 fewer hours reported in 2010 than 2009. Declines are even greater than average in some regions, most notably the Northeast, reporting 5.3 fewer hours, and the Midwest, reporting 3.1 fewer hours. When certified school librarians are separated from the entire school library staff there is a 0.8 hour increase in work hours per week reported.
There is a continued positive trend in electronic access to school library resources. While the average number of computers in school libraries is consistent with 2009 results, access to school library resources outside the walls of the library is expanding. Respondents report school computers outside of the library with networked access to library resources jumped over 8% and remote access to school library databases increased 3% overall.
The School Libraries Count! National Longitudinal Survey of School Library Programs aims to gather data on changes in the field to gain understanding of the state of school library programs nationally. While national estimates are developed on the basis of survey responses from a stratified random sample of public schools, all K-12 schools, public and private, were invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Private schools were included in the survey with the endorsement and support of AASL's Independent Schools Section (ISS). This year's survey had 5,191 respondents. Data on this and previous School Libraries Count! longitudinal studies can be found at www.ala.org/aasl/slcsurvey.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.