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Librarians, Teachers, & Principals Agree: “Power Libraries” Lead to Higher Student Test Scores

Since 1998, selected Colorado school library media programs have been paired to encourage their mutual development. School library media specialists with “high performance” LM programs mentor “mini-grant” (or developing) schools. These LM staff, classroom teachers, and principals have made commitments to the improvement of their own LM programs. The high performance schools, in turn, take a fresh look at their own programs and recommit themselves to the support of those programs.

Recently, the Colorado State Library surveyed library media specialists (LMSs), classroom teachers, and principals at both high-performance and mini-grant schools to assess the impact of this program. While the samples are small, the message from the respondents is resounding. Librarians, teachers, and principals agree that Power Libraries in schools lead to higher student test scores.

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Growth in School Librarian Positions Fails to Keep Pace with Growth in Teacher Positions, 1993-98

From 1993 to 1998, growth in the number of school librarian positions failed to keep pace with growth in the number of classroom teacher positions. This was true at both the state and national levels, although the situation was more extreme for Colorado than the nation. This trend is an issue for concern because research has shown that professionally-staffed library media programs have a significant positive effect on academic achievement of students, as measured by standards-based tests like the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP).

Throughout the U.S., between 1993 and 1998, the number of school librarian positions grew a scant 3.3 percent. At the same time, the number of classroom teachers nationwide grew by 10 percent——more than three times the growth rate for librarian positions (see Chart 1 in full report).

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GUI Grants Make a Dent in the Digital Divide

If you are from the metro area, broadband (high-speed) Internet access is probably a given in your local library. In fact, you probably don’t think twice about web pages downloading quickly and having access to sound and video over the net. Unfortunately, in rural areas, this is often not the case. Exorbitant costs, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and lack of vendors have made it difficult, if not impossible, for some rural communities to get broadband Internet access.

Since implementation of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) grant, a $250,000 two-year LSTA grant, 57 public and school libraries that lacked Internet access, or only had dial up, now have some form of broadband Internet access. The GUI grants helped to purchase computers and to offset telecommunications costs by paying for first-time installations and one year of Internet access fees for libraries receiving GUI grants.

What were the far-reaching effects of these grants? Has improved Internet access made a difference to those libraries receiving GUI grants?

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The Status of Salaries for School Library Media Specialists & Aides in Colorado, 1999

In 1999, the median salary for a full-time endorsed school library media specialist in Colorado was $35,750. This salary is on a par with what the state recommended for housekeeping supervisors and plumbing inspectors.

Half of these LM specialists earned between $28,900 and $41,900. At the low end, this salary range is comparable to state-recommended pay for traffic signal technicians and lottery sales representatives. At the high end, this pay level is comparable to recommended pay for food service managers.

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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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