From time to time, Education World reposts articles with important messages. This article, originally posted in 2000, makes a point worth revisiting about the importance of school libraries and librarians.
Last month, site-based management teams at 11 elementary schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan, chose to cut their budgets for the 2000-2001 school year by eliminating the position of school librarian. Did they make the right decision? A new study indicates that what they made was a big mistake! Included: Results of a recent study show that students at schools with strong media centers scored significantly higher on standardized tests than students at schools with less-well-equipped and staffed libraries.
Last month, site-based management teams at 11 elementary schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan, chose to cut their budgets for the 2000-2001 school year by eliminating the position of school librarian. Did they make the right decision? A new study indicates that what they made was a big mistake!
According to a recent study conducted by Colorado's Library Research Service (LRS), students at schools with strong media centers scored significantly higher on standardized tests than students at schools with less-well-equipped and staffed libraries. The results of the study, which examined the relationship between the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and certain characteristics of school media centers, replicated those of earlier studies conducted in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Alaska.
Those results, detailed in the report How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, revealed that statistically significant CSAP increases were related to five characteristics of school media centers:
SUPPORT YOUR SCHOOL LIBRARIAN
"The school media center is not just a place, it's a program," Lance said. "The librarian is the best support classroom teachers could hope to have. [Librarians] can provide educational resources to students and teachers. They can teach teachers how to use informational technology to access additional resources. They can teach information literacy to both teachers and students. They can provide design and support to the curriculum. Eliminating professional school librarians for the purpose of increasing teacher-student ratios in classrooms, for example, handicaps every teacher and is extremely counterproductive."
The report offers the following recommendations to help school systems maximize the benefits of their school media centers:
In addition, according to Lance,
IS TECHNOLOGY ENOUGH?
A 1994 report on School Library Media Centers, from the National Center for Education Statistics, indicated that although 96 percent of U.S. schools had library media centers, 52 percent of schools did not have a full-time, state-certified librarian. The report revealed that 11 percent of secondary school students and 40 percent of elementary school students attended schools that lacked a full-time, state-certified librarian. According to Julie Walker, executive director of the AASL, not much has changed since that early report. This latest study, for example, found that professionally trained librarians run only about half the elementary school libraries in Colorado.
At a time when school systems are allocating more and more money to technology, it appears that not enough attention is being paid to the important role library media centers and library media specialists play in determining the value of those resources. According to Lance, "The people who think that computers can create a library-less society are the same people who thought computers would create a paperless society. The value of computer network technology is directly related to the extent to which it provides access to all library media center resources. Everything worth knowing isn't on the Internet."
School Libraries Work
The school library is critical to the learning experience and student academic achievement. [archived copy]
Benefits of School Libraries
This resource provides a handful of links to excellent resources that describe how school libraries benefit students achievement.
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