Workforce

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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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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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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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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Public Library Salary Spending Compares Unfavorably with Average Teacher Pay

According to Public Library Standards for Colorado 1997, public libraries serving populations under 2,500 should have directors employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week, those serving 2,500 to 9,999, 30 hours per week, and those serving 10,000 and over, 40 hours per week. This standard implies that, in general, libraries should be open and staffed for such hours.

To estimate what staffing public libraries at such levels would cost—allowing for differences from one jurisdiction to another—the average salary for one public school teacher in the same area was used as a benchmark—indeed, a very conservative one.

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Library Media Specialists & Technology 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 67 (seven percent) 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:

  • their schools have state-endorsed library media specialists?
  • their school library media specialists are supported by aides?
  • their library media specialists play a vital instructional role, complementing the work of classroom teachers?

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Creating Change in Challenging Times: Marketing Skills for School Library Media Specialists

During 1997, the Colorado Library Marketing Council sponsored a series of workshops to develop the marketing and customer service skills of school library media specialists and to encourage them to adopt “internal locus of control”—i.e., to understand that the status of their positions can be attributed largely to factors under their own control. Recently, having allowed an interval of 6 months to elapse since the last in the series of workshops, the Library Research Service conducted a follow-up survey of participants to assess the impact of these events. Twenty out of 25 questionnaires were returned, for an 80 percent response rate. The accompanying table (see the full report) presents the results of that survey, including the number and percentage of participants marking each response.

Answers to most of the questions indicate that the workshops were highly successful:

  • Virtually all of the responding participants (95 percent) indicate 1) that they are now more likely to attribute the status of their positions in their schools to factors they can control, 2) that they have integrated improved marketing and customer service skills into their jobs, and 3) that they have actually changed what they do based on their own market research projects.

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School Library Media Programs in Colorado Typical of Nation, 1995-96

Recently released national statistics on school library media (LM) programs for the 1995-96 school year suggest that LM programs in Colorado are fairly typical of the nation. In their biennial survey for School Library Journal, Miller and Shontz report figures on 5  topics for which comparable state data are available. Those topics are: staffing, spending, holdings, technology, and planning time.

How Colorado Stands Out

  • Elementary and combined schools less likely to have LM specialists.
  • Elementary and middle schools not as well funded.
  • More likely to have fax capability and computers with modems.
  • LM specialists spend a third less time planning with teachers.

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The Status of School Library Media Programs in Colorado, 1994-97

Library Media Staffing
The practice of librarianship is becoming de-professionalized in Colorado schools. From 1994 to 1997, the number of library media staff per 100 students dropped only slightly from .31 to .30 full-time equivalents (FTEs). During the same interval, the number of endorsed library media specialists per 100 students for the typical school library media program fell from .12 FTEs to .08 FTEs—a 33 percent cut. Library media specialists have been displaced by other staff, such as library media aides—who are not endorsed—and BOCES and contract library media staff—who may or may not be endorsed. In 1997, the statewide total hours per typical week for BOCES and contract staff was 61 hours. Barely 1.5 FTE statewide, these staff served 65 schools. That amounts to 56 minutes of “professional” staff attention per typical week to the library media program in each school.

1994-97 Highlights

  • Overall staffing static. Endorsed library media specialists cut. BOCES/contract staff spread thin.
  • Book collections holding in size, but periodical collections declining.
  • Reduced spending and inflationary prices of books and periodicals mean aging collections.

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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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