I created this Pecha Kucha for a class in my doctoral program. My problem statement is the title. I’m thinking of changing my research focus from that exactly, because as I say below, the research has been done. This is a settled question. The problem now becomes how to get that message to stakeholders? That feels a little squishy to me to be my research because I’m so close to it, as IASL Past President and Advocacy Chair, and the chair of ILA’s Governmental Affairs Committee. So who knows. But here it is, and at the bottom as a video:
People have argued for centuries about the purpose of school. Is it to guide students to be good citizens and future leaders? Or to help them gain job skills so they can support a family? Is it to give students a true liberal arts education?
Whatever the case, it seems the central role of school is to educate young minds. So it’s only fitting that the school library – a repository of information, after all – should be the metaphorical if not physical center of the school.
Now, when I say “school library” you may have an outdated vision in your mind. Let me assure you, today’s school libraries – and the teacher librarians who lead them – belie that stereotype. School libraries can, should, and must be “safe, vibrant, energized information-rich environments” (Lewis & Loertscher, 2014, p. 48), led by professionals specially trained in information literacy.
And the state Department of Education knows it. Their Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries reads, “Iowa’s best schools have library programs that engage the entire school community to elevate the learning experience for all.” It describes how teacher librarians teach students critical thinking and research skills, and how they “nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life (Iowa DE, 2013, para. 8).
In order to have that sort of impact, school library programs must be lead by full time certified teacher librarians. Impact studies in many states, including Iowa, have demonstrated an increase in students’ standardized test scores and pleasure found in reading when a school has a full time teacher librarian (Lance, Schwartz, & Rodney, 2014; Lance & Hofschire, 2012; Lance & Hofschire, 2011; Lance, Rodney & Schwartz, 2010; Lance & Schwarz, 2012; Rodney, Lance, & Hamilton-Pennell, 2002). Many of these studies show these increases cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions.
Many of these impact studies were conducted by library consultant Keith Lance. In 2009 he looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics, “to document the impact of librarian layoffs on fourth-grade reading scores between 2004 to 2009 . . . Fewer librarians translated to lower performance – or a slower rise in scores – on standardized tests” (Lance & Hofschire, 2011, p. 29).
Denice Adkins from the University of Missouri combed through PISA data and found that school libraries can positively impact poor students at such as degree as to help level the playing field. But she states, “Merely having a dedicated library space is insufficient to serve the needs of students. What is more important, especially for low performers, is having resources available and staff who can provide support” (Adkins, 2014, p. 17).
One review of the literature stated, “The existence of a positive link between school library services and academic achievement is a practically inescapable conclusion” (Chan, 2008, p. 7).
In a study commissioned by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, only 8 of the 331 responding districts – 2% – had at least one full-time teacher librarian per attendance center, which is considered best practice. Five percent of the respondents – 158 schools – had no teacher librarian whatsoever (Feuerbach, 2014).This is a problem for Iowa’s schools, teachers, and most importantly, Iowa’s students. Academic achievement is harmed when school libraries are inadequately staffed.
Adkins, D. (2014). U.S. students, poverty, and school libraries: What results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment tell us. School Library Research. Retrieved from ERIC database. (EJ1043360)
Chan, C. (2008). The impact of school library services on student achievement and the implications for advocacy: A review of the literature. Access 22(4): 15-20.
Feuerbach, S. (2014). Ratio of teacher librarians to school buildings in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.
Iowa Department of Education (2013). Vision for Iowa’s school libraries. Retrieved from https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/learner-supports/school-library#Vision_for_Iowas_School_Libraries
Lance, K.C., Schwartz, B., & Rodney, M.J. (2014). How libraries transform schools by contributing to student success: evidence linking South Carolina school libraries and PASS & HSAP results. Retrieved from http://www.scasl.net/assets/phase%20i.pdf
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2012). School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 to 2011. Teacher Librarian, 39(6), 15-19.
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2011). Something to shout about: new research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores. School Library Journal, 57(9), 28-33.
Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Schwartz, B. (2010). Idaho school library impact study – 2009: How Idaho school librarians, teachers, and administrators collaborate for student success. Retrieved from http://libraries.idaho.gov/doc/idaho-school-library-impact-study-2009
Lance, K.C., & Schwartz, B. (2012). How Pennsylvania school libraries pay off: Investments in student achievements and academic standards. Pennsylvania School Library Project. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED543418)
Lewis, K. R., & Loertscher, D. V. (2014). The Possible Is Now. Teacher Librarian, 41(3), 48.
Rodney, M.J., Lance, K.C., & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2002). Make the connection: Quality school library media programs impact academic achievement in Iowa. Bettendorf, IA: Iowa Area Education Agencies. Retrieved from http://www.iowaaeaonline.org/pages/uploaded_files/Make%20The%20Connection.pdf