National Education Association study finds substantial differences in student access to school libraries/media centers

The National Education Association published a report containing the findings of a study analyzing school library data collected between 2000 and 2013. The results show considerable differences in student access to school libraries/media center across the country.

At the time this study concluded, 9 in 10 (90%) U.S. public schools reported that they have a library/media center, a percentage that has increased slightly (by 1.4%) since 2003. Inner city schools were the only category to report a loss in the number of school libraries/media centers during the time of the study, while small town, rural, and suburban schools all reported increases in the number of public schools with libraries/media centers.

The total number of public school librarians/media specialists has also grown overall, increasing 8.8% during the time period studied. Currently, there is an average of one full-time, state-certified librarian/media specialist employed for every 2 public schools, or one librarian/media specialist for every 1,129 public school students. The librarian/media specialist to student ratio is substantially lower in charter schools, with one librarian/media specialist for every 4,397 charter school students. There is an average of about 4 school library/media center support staff for every certified librarian/media specialist across the U.S.

The percentage of students who belonged to ethnic minorities in public schools was a strong predictor of whether the school would have a library/media center. Districts with the most ethnic minority students averaged about 1 librarian/media specialist for every 7 schools, regardless of the districts’ poverty levels, while districts with few ethnic minority students averaged about 1 librarian/media specialist for every 3 schools. At the ends of the spectrum, the wealthiest school districts with low ethnic minority numbers had 5 times more librarians/media specialists per school than the poorest schools in districts with many ethnic minority students.

For more information, you can find the full report here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

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