The impact of libraries

A team from my campus just returned from visiting two respected Illinois schools, New Trier, and Adlai Stevenson.  One comment I’ve heard from those attending the site visit is how large the library staffs were at both campuses(one campus had 8 librarians and at least 4 assistants, and one had 6 librarians) ;  in fact, one campus had a librarian specialist for each subject area. 

Given that our campus has 2 librarians (one in our ninth grade library facility, and I’m in our 10-12 facility), I’ve now concluded that we should obviously be receiving 3 times our salaries 😉   But all kidding aside, hearing this information and reading a post by Annie, prompted me to spend some time looking through some of the recent studies headed by Keith Lance  of effective libraries and their impact on achievement scores.

Studies in many states now show that a well-staffed, well-stocked, and collaborative library has a significant impact on student achievement scores.  It strikes me that one area some underperforming schools could spend time looking at is how to beef up their library programs. (There was a great movement in NYC schools to revamp some of the school libraries several years ago). 

I know a local school district, when faced with budget cuts, rightly chose to keep their staff over their budget for “things.”  But should libraries be having to make this choice, when the studies clearly show that BOTH library staffing and library budgets have an impact on student achievement.

On her blog, Crazy4Kidsbooks, Annie Teich highlights a new bill moving through Congress, called the SKILLS Act(Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Libraries and Learning), which is well worth supporting.  It’s aim is  to support schools nationally in adhering to strong library staffing and standards, as well as providing money for professional training for librarians.   

Annie points out that AASL is also looking at studies regarding student achievement and libraries.   As she writes:

“It’s amazing to me that anyone would be startled by this news. The more access kids have to quality reading materials and good information sources, the better they learn.”

When we know that staffing and funding work, and we’ve known that for a long time, why don’t we fund libraries that can have such a profound impact on the success of students?

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