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The Importance of School Libraries

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The Advocate's Toolbox | School Librarian, Where Art Thou? Most everyone in our profession is aware that school librarian numbers have dipped, but we haven’t known the numbers or a time line for these losses. What has been happening to school librarianship? The well-accepted story in the field is that it has been shedding jobs, which is inarguable. But there has been too little overarching analysis to help describe the true state of the profession.

To address that gap, it’s useful to illuminate when the job losses began, and at what rate, and to explore some of the factors impacting the national data. Between the 1999–2000 and 2015–16 school years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the profession lost the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-time school librarian positions nationwide. That translates to a 19 percent drop in the workforce, from 53,659 to 43,367. The most rapid declines happened from 2009–10 to 2013–14. The year-to-year trend is even clearer (Chart 2). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us - kappanonline.org. When schools have high-quality library programs and librarians who share their expertise with the entire school community, student achievement gets a boost.

Since 1992, a growing body of research known as the school library impact studies has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016). Data from more than 34 statewide studies suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs. Further, when administrators, teachers, and librarians themselves rated the importance and frequency of various library practices associated with student learning, their ratings correlated with student test scores, further substantiating claims of libraries’ benefits. Skeptics might assume that these benefits are associated mainly with wealthier schools, where well-resourced libraries serve affluent students. Librarians and student achievement References DEBRA E. Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement.

By Debra E. Kachel and Keith Curry Lance on March 7, 2013 Illustration by David Flaherty. Imagine trying to teach kids how to swim in an empty pool. That’s exactly what Baruch Kintisch envisioned when he took a hard look at the effects of his city’s deep education cuts. Philadelphia’s “schools are underfunded; classrooms are crowded; libraries, labs, and special-education services are outdated or nonexistent,” writes Kintisch, the director of policy advocacy and a senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center (see the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “City Schools’ Real Problem,” August 9, 2012).

Simply put, students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, we’ve found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians. He’s right. Even wealthy suburban districts find library reductions acceptable. Background Research and key findings Quality school library programs significantly impact the most vulnerable students.