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The Status of Library Media Center Staffing and its Effect on Student Achievement

The study How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards found that school library media centers are instrumental in students’ academic achievement, including getting higher CSAP scores. In addition to the library media center’s collection and funding, key factors impacting student performance include adequate staffing of library media centers and the professional role of the endorsed library media specialist as an educator and leader.

Highlights

  • More than 1 in 3 public schools have either no library media specialist or one who works less than half-time. For elementary schools, that proportion is 2 out of 5.
  • Statistics from 2000 indicate a trend to staff LM centers with the equivalent of 1 full-time person, moving away from more than 1, as well as less than 1 full-time equivalent.
  • Almost 1 in 5 public schools is staffed by less than 1 full-time LM center employee. In addition, close to a quarter of elementary schools have less than 40 hours a week of such staffing.
  • The total LM center staff-to-student ratio dropped 24 percent in the last six years from 5 per 1,000 students in 1994 to 3.8 in 2000. However, LMS-to-student ratios remained relatively stable, going from 1.4 in 1994 to 1.7 in 2000.
  • Fewer LM center staff can mean that library media specialists are spending less time in the role of teachers and leaders, and as reported in How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, this can adversely affect student academic achievement and ultimately lower CSAP scores.

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Library Media Center Collections Suffer as Print Spending Drops

Over the past three years, school library media center spending on print materials (defined as all types of books) per student dropped 10 percent from an average of $12.90 in 1997 to $11.64 in 2000. Elementary schools experienced the biggest cut in expenditures with a 28 percent drop – taking their spending from the most per student to the least per student based on school level.

Highlights

  • From 1997 to 2000, library media center spending on print materials per student decreased by 10 percent, while book costs during the same period increased by 12 percent.
  • Extrapolating from the findings of the study, How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, a decrease in spending on print collections can adversely impact students’ academic achievement and as a result lower test scores.
  • For all school levels combined, the ratio of print volumes per student increased 14 percent from 1997 to 2000.
  • Middle schools had the greatest increase in the ratio of volumes per student with a rise of 18 percent from 17 volumes per student to 20.

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Future Trends in Pricing for Library Materials

For each person in your community, how much income does your public library earn? In Colorado the average local income per capita for public libraries in 1999 was $29.67. Now think how much an average hardcover book costs and how it will change between now and 2004. The 45th edition of the Bowker Annual reported the average retail price of a hardback book in 1997 as $34.57. You needed more than $100 per customer in income to buy 3 books at 1997 retail prices.

Of course, public libraries pay jobber prices for materials, not retail. The Public Library Price Index in the 2000 Bowker Annual lists jobber hardcover prices in 1997 as $14.43, trade paperback at $8.54 and mass market at $3.55. We took these jobber prices for all library materials and charted a trend line over 5 years using an exponential formula to forecast pricing for the next 6 years. Chart 1 (see full report) shows hardcover prices in 1998 at $14.35. By 2004, we can expect an average hardcover jobber price of $16.20 for a 13 percent increase.

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Availability of Public Access Internet Computers in U.S. Public Libraries by State and Size of Jurisdiction, 1999

How many computers does a public library need to provide equitable public access to the Internet?

There are a lot of ways to go about answering this question. One strategy is to consider the typical number of such computers found in libraries of different sizes and in different parts of the nation. To account for the enormous variation in the size of public library jurisdictions, it is also helpful to adjust for that factor by looking at the ratio of computers to a certain level of population—let’s say, 5,000 people.

Highlights

  • The average number of public access Internet computers per 5,000 served rises as size of jurisdiction drops: for 25,000 and higher, one; for 5,000 to 25,000, two; and for less than 5,000, three.
  • States reporting the most public access Internet computers per 5,000 served are: Wisconsin (4.6), Minnesota and Colorado (both 4.0).
  • States reporting the fewest such computers per 5,000 served are: Arkansas and Hawaii (both 0.8), South Carolina (0.7),  Connecticut (0.4).

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Larger Municipalities Fund Public Libraries Better

According to the Census Bureau’s 1997 Census of Governments, larger municipalities fund public libraries better on a per capita basis (see figure in full report).

The inability of many smaller municipalities to fund public library service alone on a viable basis may help to explain another trend revealed by the Census of Governments, the prosperity of library districts nationwide (see table in full report).

Between 1986/87 and 1996/97, the expenditures of library districts in the U.S. more than quadrupled from $0.4 billion to $1.4 billion. At the same time, the expenditures of library districts as a percentage of all special district expenditures doubled from 0.8 to 1.6 percent.

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The Status of Library Media Center Support of Student Achievement

How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, a.k.a. the second Colorado Study, found that well-staffed, well-stocked, and well-funded library media (LM) programs are an essential component of successful schools. This issue of FAST FACTS examines the status of school library media services that support student achievement.

Highlights

  • Two out of 5 public schools have either no library media specialist or one less than half-time. That proportion is almost half for elementary schools.
  • The same proportions of all schools and elementary schools have less than one staff member dedicated to the LMC.
  • Since 1994, LMS staffing relative to enrollment has dropped more than 10 percent and total staffing more than 25 percent.
  • During the same interval, the size of LMC collections and annual spending on them has dropped by one-third. Relative to total per pupil spending, expenditures on LM collections have dropped by half.
  • While more and more information is available electronically, the limited number of networked computers in most schools does little to compensate for shrinking collections.

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Service to Seniors: Meeting the Needs of a Growing Segment

A recent PublishersWeekly.com feature states that one American turns 50 years old every 7 minutes. Although it is not news that a large segment of the population is “graying,” it may be surprising to learn how large the mature adult population in Colorado grew recently and is projected to grow in the next 5 years. People tend to think of Colorado as a “young” state. While it is true that Colorado ranks 47th in the country in its resident population older than 65, it will still soon see a major population shift. Since 1997, Colorado’s population older than 60 increased by 5 percent. In the next 5 years the over-60 group is projected to increase over 17 percent! See Table 1 in full report.

With the senior population comprising 13 percent of the total in Colorado, public libraries already notice an increase in services to this segment of the community. Results from a USA Today survey in 1999 showed that people older than 65 spend more time reading than any other age group—more than 1 hour and 15 minutes per day. Many seniors on fixed incomes rely on their public libraries to supply this reading material, often in large print editions.

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The State of Intellectual Freedom in Colorado Public Libraries and School Library Media Centers

Every year the Library Research Service surveys public libraries and school media centers in Colorado. These surveys include items concerning the number of challenges received and policies and practices related to Internet filtering. Such data have been collected from school library media centers for the last two years and from public libraries since 1994. Chart 1 (see full report) shows the history of Colorado public library challenges. The 1994-95 peak was largely attributable to the Madonna book, Sex.

Highlights

  • Public libraries saw the number of challenges almost double from 1996 to 1998.
  • A similar jump in school media center reconsiderations was observed from 1998 to 1999.
  • The majority of items challenged remained in collections with no change in status.

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Public Library Statistics: How Colorado Ranks

In 1997, Colorado ranked in the top half of the states on most public library statistics. Five of the top-ranked statistics clearly demonstrate how popular public libraries are with Coloradoans.

  • Colorado ranks in the top tier of statistics that demonstrate how much and how often residents use their libraries:
    • 7th in the number of visits per capita
    • 8th in the number of reference questions per capita
    • 11th in the circulation transactions per capita
  • Coloradoans back up their enthusiasm with local dollars, as shown by these national rankings:
    • 8th in local income per capita
    • 11th in operating expenditures per capita

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Trends in Library Paraprofessional Employment

The outlook for paraprofessionals in the library field is favorable in Colorado and most of the region. While employment opportunities are expected to grow faster than average for technical assistants and library assistants, wages remain low (see full report for occupation definitions).

In 1994, average wages for Colorado library technicians and assistants were $10.75 and $9.20 per hour, respectively. By 1998, a technical assistant in Colorado earned an average wage of $11.24 for an increase of only 4.6 percent in a four-year period. A library assistant’s mean wage in 1998 was $8.71 for a LOSS of 5.3 percent! The average annual wage for technical and library assistants in 1998 was $23,390 and $18,110, respectively.

Highlights

  • While wages remain low, the average paraprofessional in Colorado earns more than staff in the surrounding states.
  • Demand for technical assistants is high in Colorado.
  • A significant undersupply of library assistants is estimated to occur through 2006.

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