School

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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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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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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Proof of the Power: A First Look at the Results of the Colorado Study and More!

The Latest Statewide Studies
During 1998 and 1999, three statewide studies of the impact of school library media centers on academic achievement have been conducted. The forthcoming reports on these studies are:

  • Information Empowered: The School Librarian as an Agent of Academic Achievement in Alaska,
  • Measuring Up to Standards: The Role of Library Information Programs & Information Literacy in Pennsylvania Schools, and
  • How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards (a.k.a. the second Colorado study or Colorado II).

The Information Power Model & Previous Research Findings
The Information Power model developed by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) focuses on three major themes for library media (LM) programs—collaboration, leadership, and technology—and three major roles for library media specialists (LMSs)—learning and teaching, information access and delivery, and program administration.

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A Salary Comparison of Library Agencies

One could say that comparing the salaries of public, academic, school and special librarians is like comparing football with hockey. A full-time school librarian works ten months out of a year. A special librarian can be anyone from a Ph.D. in a Fortune 500 company to a law librarian in a small town firm. In addition, each type of library survey has many differences. The data collected for public and academic librarians breaks them into categories of jobs (e.g., director, branch manager, cataloger). Public school data includes data by enrollment figures and per pupil expenditures. But there are two ways to logically compare these distinct types of positions: how beginning librarians are paid and how much salaries change for all professional levels from the previous year.

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Librarians, Teachers, & Librarian/Teacher Ratio in U.S. Public Schools: State Variations & Trends, 1989-95

A consistent finding inresearch about school libraries is the importance of cooperation and collaboration between “librarians”1 and teachers in fostering high academic achievement among students. The extent to which such teamwork is possible, however, depends on the accessibility of these personnel to each other. Presumably—within reason—the higher the number of librarians relative to the number of teachers the better.

National Parameters. In 1995, public schools nationwide employed an average of only two librarians for every 100 teachers—Wyoming (2.03), Alaska (1.99), and Colorado (1.98) were the most typical states in this respect. Arkansas and Montana topped the list at approximately 3.5 (3.60 and 3.45, respectively) librarians per 100 teachers. California ranked lowest on this statistic, with less than 1 librarian for every 100 teachers (.39 per 100).

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Colorado Library Media Programs Mirror Nation’s Schools on Internet Access for Students

According to Nua Internet Surveys, a recent study by Quality Education Data (QED) found that 39 percent of U.S. schools that provide students access to the Internet use filtering software and 80 percent have some kind of acceptable use policy in force.

Similar data on school library media programs in Colorado for 1998 indicate that 32 percent of LMCs that provide access to the  World Wide Web filter some or all of their terminals and that 82 percent have policies specifying the conditions under which students can use the Internet.

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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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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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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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