- Less than 50% of New York City public schools have librarians.
- Less than 40% of Chicago Public Schools have librarians; only 32% of the high schools have them, and when the majority of a school’s population is African American, the figure falls to 15%.
- Less than 10% of California public schools have librarians.
- The worst: Philadelphia’s public schools have 8—that’s not 8%, that’s 8 people. One of the nation’s largest school systems—a district with 220 schools and 134,000 students—has only 8 certified, full-time school librarians. The State of Pennsylvania doesn’t require K-12 public schools to have libraries. Prisons must have them. Barber and cosmetology schools must have them. They are compulsory in nursing programs. But in public schools they are optional.
At a time when schools are expected to produce 21st century citizens capable of competing in the global economy, these situations are ignoring one simple fact: more than 50 years of research demonstrates a high correlation between student achievement and having a certified school librarian. The School Library Impact Studies show a positive relationship between libraries and student achievement in 21 different states for over two decades, especially between school library programs and students’ reading test scores. Here are some specific findings:
- A librarian impacts student achievement more than:
- per-pupil spending
- teacher/pupil ratio
- minority education
- adult education level
- Only poverty has a higher correlation to student achievement, and there’s evidence that school librarians can even prevail over poverty:
- Students who are poor, minority, and have IEPs, but who have full-time librarians, are at least twice as likely to have “Advanced” writing scores as their counterparts without full-time librarians.
- Hispanic students with a full-time School Librarian are three times as likely to earn “Advanced” scores on writing tests than their peers without access to one.
- Flexible access to the library during the school day and extended hours before & after school
- Collaborative lesson planning between the school librarian and teachers
- Increased library visits for whole classes & for individual students
- Currency & range of book collections and online subscription services
- Digital literacy training from the librarian for both students and teachers
WHO ARE SCHOOL LIBRARIANS?
School librarians are often the most misunderstood and least appreciated folks in a school. Most colleagues—even principals—don’t realize that librarians must have teaching certification and experience before they can earn their school library certification. Most secondary-level school librarians also have a master’s degree in Library Science. Why do school librarians need a master’s degree?
School librarians need a master’s degree because having a teaching certificate and years of experience just isn’t enough to manage a whole-school library program:
- We must have an in-depth understanding of national/state curriculum standards to fully integrate library skills into classroom activities.
- We must know how to build an extensive collection of library materials in a variety of formats to meet the needs of every teacher’s curriculum, and to meet individual students’ reading needs and preferences.
- We must have a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use guidelines for purchasing a variety of materials and to advise teachers & administrators on their proper use.
- We must have the specialized technology skills to manage and use audio/video/digital equipment & applications.
- We must have financial skills to administer a budget and take advantage of outside funding opportunities.
- reading for pleasure & for information
- research & problem-solving skills
- safe & proper Internet use
as well as offering them the opportunity for:
- design thinking
- media production
- and just some good old-fashioned hugs and conversation.
Here are websites where the above information and more can be found:
- How Cuts and Closures of Elementary School Libraries Are Hurting Our Kids
- Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement
- Librarians Are A Luxury Chicago Public Schools Can’t Afford
- National Library Week – The Fight for School Librarians
- The Number of Librarians in Philly Continues to Dwindle
- Philadelphia’s Librarian Dilemma
- Philadelphia School District librarians: a species nearly extinct?
- School Libraries Are Under Attack
- School Libraries Impact Studies – Library Research Service
- We Need Librarians More Than Ever Before