School Libraries Can Make a Difference to Student Learning
In 2000, the Colorado State Library published How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards: The Second Colorado Study. In 2010, the third Colorado study, School Librarians Continue to Help Kids Achieve Standards, examines the impact of school libraries and librarians on academic achievement, and is the second study to examine their impact on student performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests. The findings of this latest study are consistent with those of the two previous studies on several key points. Students tend to perform better on achievement tests where school libraries have more full-time equivalents (FTEs) of staffing; larger collections of periodicals and instructional videos; better-networked online resources made accessible via computers in the library as well as in classrooms, labs, and offices; higher total library expenditures; and heavier use, as indicated by both library visits and circulation. Between 2000 and 2009, similar findings have been generated by studies in 17 other states (Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin) as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. Many of these studies also present evidence that the relationships between library programs and test performance cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions. Here is a summary of what some of those studies say just about the literacy aspect.
A new summary of the research (2011) is categorized by Mansfield University graduate students by threads running through the studies.
A review of the research in Australia, Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement, concluded “a strong library program that is adequately staffed, resourced and funded can lead to higher student achievement regardless of the socioeconomic or educational levels of the adults in the community.” (Lonsdale, ACER, 2003)
Lonsdale goes on to state there is evidence to show that:
- collaborative relationships between classroom teachers and school librarians have a significant impact on learning, particularly in relation to the planning of instructional units, resource collection development, and the provision of professional development for teachers;
- test scores are higher when there is higher usage of the school library;
- a print-rich environment leads to more reading, and free voluntary reading is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary growth, spelling and grammatical ability and writing style;
- the extent to which books are borrowed from school libraries shows a strong relationship with reading achievement whereas borrowing from classroom libraries does not;
- integrating information literacy into the curriculum can improve students’ mastery of both content and information-seeking skills;
- libraries can make a positive difference to students’ self-esteem, confidence, independence and sense of responsibility in regard to their own learning; (Lonsdale, 2003, p.1)
Studies such as “Student Learning Through Ohio School Libraries” , show “that an effective school library, lead by a credentialed school librarian who has a clearly defined role in information-centered pedagogy, plays a critical role in facilitating student learning for building knowledge” (Dr. Ross Todd, 2003).
Indeed, a California study has shown the difference having a school librarian can make to students attending college. And this New York schools study demonstrated that students attending schools with certified school librarians scored almost 10 points higher in their English Language Arts test.
Scores of studies have demonstrated that “More reading is done where there is a school library and a qualified teacher-librarian” (Haycock, The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries: The Case for Reform and Reinvestment ,2003). Haycock goes on to to cite the research linking quality school libraries and qualified teacher librarians with improved student learning and increased cultural identity for Canadians. He provides an outline for best practice in supporting collaboration, flexibly scheduling library use, clarifying and promoting the role of the teacher librarian, educating teacher librarians, with subsequent recommendations for provincial ministries of education.
One response has been “Connections: Policy and Guidelines for School Libraries in Saskatchewan” (2008) which “describes the contributions of school libraries to student learning and presents a renewed vision for school libraries in the province. It is based on research and is intended to provide assistance to school divisions and school staff in planning for effective school libraries that will meet the needs of students and teachers into the future.”
The 2006 study, School libraries & student achievement in Ontario, shows a link between school libraries and students’ reading achievement. In this unique study, commissioned by the Ontario Library Association, researchers from Queen’s University’s Faculty of Education collaborated with People for Education to examine data from Ontario’s EQAO testing body, and data from People for Education’s annual school survey. Among their findings
- Grade 3 and 6 students in schools with teacher-librarians are more likely to report that they enjoy reading.
- Schools with trained library staff are more likely to have a higher proportion of grade 6 students who attained level 3* or higher on reading tests.
- Schools without trained library staff tend to have lower achievement on the grades 3 and 6 reading tests (both in terms of average achievement and attaining level 3 or higher) (page 5)
Recent research by Lyn Hay, “Student learning through Australian school libraries” Part 1 and Part 2, confirms that “the school library plays a critical role in supporting student learning.” As Lyn has stated, “Students and their learning has become the core business of school library programs. Information literacy – understanding how to access, use, create information effectively – is at the core of lifelong learning” (CSU ETL401 resource PPT on the TL Role).
The US research foundation paper which brings together the results of 20 empirical state and provincial studies and position papers, School Libraries Work!, updated in 2008, affirms that school libraries, staffed by qualified teacher librarians, do make a measurable difference on student achievement.
The most significant role of teacher librarians in this information age is as teachers. They teach students to become effective users of ideas and information, to critically think, evaluate, synthesize and create meaning, to construct their own knowledge and understanding.
“Effective school libraries are much more than books. They are learning hubs, each with a full range of print and electronic resources that support student achievement….School libraries have the most significant impact on learning outcomes when they are supervised by a library media specialist, who works collaboratively with teachers, to help all students develop a love of reading, become skilled users of ideas and information and explore the world of print and electronic media resources.” (School Libraries Work!, page 6)
Ross Todd has given us permission to link to an extensive powerpoint he has used in workshops which presents the evidence and encourages thinking about the School Library of the Future, School Libraries: Making Them a Class Act. (Scroll down the page and click to download the 59 slide ppt)