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Teens Credit Librarians with Influencing Their Book Purchases

If you are a young adult librarian, have you ever considered how many of your clients may be looking to you for book purchasing recommendations? According to a recent Publishers Weekly poll of 12- to 17-year-olds nationwide…

  • Librarians rank fourth after friends, teachers, and parents as the people they most credit with influencing their book-buying choices.
  • After parents, librarians are the individuals to whom teenage boys are almost as likely to turn as teenage girls are. (Gender differences for friends and teachers are dramatic, as the chart at the full report illustrates.)

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State and National Data Link Circulation of Children’s Materials from Public Libraries & Reading Test Scores

Relationships between public libraries and school library media centers (LMCs) are somewhat difficult to observe and assess. Consequently, distinguishing between the effects of public libraries and school LMCs on children’s performance in school is problematic. Several recent issues of FAST FACTS have presented evidence of the contributions of LMCs alone and their collaboration with public libraries.

The latest data available for both Colorado (1997) and the United States (1994) indicates that public libraries themselves contribute to academic achievement.

Highlights

  • In Colorado school districts scoring in the highest third on the 1997 CSAP reading test, circulation of children’s materials per capita by public libraries was 50 percent higher than in school districts scoring in the lowest third.
  • Similarly, in states scoring in the highest third on the 1994 NAEP reading test, circulation of children’s materials per capita by  public libraries was more than a third higher than in states scoring in the lowest third.

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Better-Funded Public Libraries Provide More Service to Individual Users

As for all tax-supported enterprises, a perennial issue for public libraries is the relative merit of smaller, lower-budget operations and larger, higher-budget ones. The former claim to be able to provide more personalized service, because they are closer to their clients. The latter claim to create “economies of scale” that enable them to provide more, cheaper services. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that the latter argument has some validity.

Highlights

  • Compared with lowest funded public libraries, highest funded …
    • handle almost three times as many reference questions per capita,
    • receive almost half again as many visits per capita, and
    • generate almost a third higher circulation per capita.
  • Within peer population groups, higher funded public libraries consistently “out-produce” lower funded ones.

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World Wide Web Access via Library Media Centers in Colorado Public Schools, 1998

During the 1997-98 school year, access to the World Wide Web via library media centers in Colorado public schools was widespread, though there were important differences by school level and enrollment range.

In the state’s high schools, web access was almost universal. Virtually all LMCs provided web access to library media staff, teachers, and other school staff, and 9 out of 10 provided web access to students. Availability of web access declined with school level. Only about three-fourths of elementary and junior high/middle school LMCs provide staff access to the web, and only two-thirds provide it to students.

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Well-Managed Library Media Programs That Cooperate with Local Public Libraries Linked to Higher CSAP Test Scores

In 1997, Colorado fourth graders were the state’s first public schoolchildren to be tested on reading via the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). Average test scores for a stratified and weighted random sample of 74 (8%) of Colorado’s 908 elementary schools were combined with data about their library media programs to answer the following questions:

Are students likely to earn higher reading scores if:

  • there is a plan for the development of their school’s library media program?
  • there is a collection development policy that guides the library media specialist’s selection of learning resources?
  • there is a relationship between the school library media program and the local public library?
  • public library staff visit the library media center to present book talks?
  • the local public library provides a summer reading program to prevent the loss of reading skills progress during the break between school years?

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Student Use of Library Media Programs Key to NAEP Success

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released the long-awaited results of its latest survey on school library media programs, School Library Media Centers: 1993-94 (NCES 98-282). Though access to the resulting data file is severely restricted, some of the report’s summary tables by state permit some rudimentary impact assessment when combined with average state reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).1

Combined, three variables—the ratio of students to library media specialists, weekly LMC visits per student, and weekly circulation per student—explain 51 percent of the variation in NAEP reading test scores for 1994.

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The Colorado Library Card: A Resource Sharing Success Story

In Spring 1998, 133 (85 percent) of the 156 public, academic, and special libraries participating in the CLC program responded to an evaluation survey. By sector, the response rates were: public, 99 out of 112 or 88 percent; academic, 23 out of 29 or 79 percent; and special, 11 out of 15 or 73 percent. The results indicate that the Colorado Library Card program is an overwhelming success.

  • Colorado Library Card libraries generally extend the same borrowing privileges to other Coloradans as to their primary clientele. This is the core principle of the CLC agreement signed by participating libraries.
    • At 9 out of 10 CLC libraries, non-resident2 users can borrow books and audio books on the same terms as residents, as well as return materials borrowed from other libraries. Among the respondents, such privileges are almost universal among public and special libraries and are extended by 3 out of 4  academic libraries.

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Public Library Statistics: How Colorado Ranks

In 1996, Colorado ranked in the top half of the states on most public library statistics. Three statistics on which the state ranked in the middle among the lowest are noteworthy:

  • Colorado was one of only a half dozen states in which public libraries received no regular income from state government. In every other state, equity of access to public library services is guaranteed by a reliable, annual program of state funding. Among the vast majority of states with such programs, the level of support averaged two dollars per capita.
  • Colorado ranks in the middle of the 50 states and D.C. on several statistics:
    • Colorado is 18th in staff per 25,000 served
    • Colorado is 19th in visits per capita
    • Colorado is 23rd in ILLS received per 1,000 served

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Smaller Secondary Schools Less Likely to Meet North Central Association Staffing Requirements for Library Media Programs

One of the few categories in which the North Central Association specifies quantitative requirements for middle and secondary schools is staffing. Among the categories of staffing included is library media.

The requirements are, by almost any definition, extremely modest: a half-time library media specialist in schools with enrollments of 1,000 and less, and a full-time specialist only in schools with enrollments exceeding 1,000. Statewide, 1 out of 3 Colorado middle and secondary schools does not meet these requirements.

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Almost 7 Million Americans “Unserved” by Public Libraries

According to 1996 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (with some corrections from a few state library agencies), 6,908,844 Americans in 24 states live beyond the legal service area of any public library—roughly the equivalent of the entire Washington, DC, or San Francisco metropolitan area. These individuals are “unserved,” as there is no public library legally responsible for meeting their needs for reading matter, information, and access to the “information superhighway.” Reasons for this situation, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • In many U.S. counties, there are only municipal libraries, and no provision is made for countywide service that covers residents of unincorporated areas.
  • Some units of government (e.g., counties, cities, towns, townships) that are not part of larger units of service (e.g., library districts, county library systems) cannot afford to support libraries.
  • A few local governments have even closed public libraries due to fiscal problems.
  • Beyond such circumstances, which explain the actual absence of any public library service, some public libraries are so inadequate in terms of local support, staffing, hours of service, or the like, that they are not recognized by the state library agency as a public library.

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