Food for Thought Friday: Are Our School Libraries Working?

Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Nass, Downingtown West High School Librarian. Today’s article has been reposted with permission from her blog, Adventures in Library Land.

by Michelle Nass
Scholastic has recently released the 2016 Edition of School Libraries Work!, a compendium of research that compiles results from three major studies on school libraries implemented in South Carolina, our own Pennsylvania libraries, and Colorado.  It has been updated to provide highlights and new reports from 22 additional states.  In all, the research “continues to show that school libraries and school librarians are a powerful force in the lives of America’s children.”

Summary of Findings from the Pennsylvania Studies

(phrasing taken directly from the studies)

  • Students in schools with well-supported, resourced, and staffed school libraries achieved a higher level of academic success.
  • Consistently, reading and writing scores were better for students who had a full-time, certified librarian than those who didn’t.
  • Black, Hispanic, and students with disabilities or who were economically disadvantaged benefitted proportionally more than students in general.
  • The impact of school library programs was greater proportionally on writing than reading scores.
  • Staffing libraries with certified librarians can help close achievement gaps among the most vulnerable learners.

Awesome!  Now that we know how much of an impact a staffed school library can have on its population, how do we ensure that we have effective programs?

School libraries have maximum impact when they:

  • Have collaborative reading programs
  • Select and provide resources that meet the learning needs of all students
  • Assure seamless integration of technology, teaching, and learning
  • Provide resources to support state and national standards
  • Offer resources that enhance leveled classroom collections
  • Encourage students to independently seek, access, and use information

Certified school librarians have maximum impact when they:

  • Promote reading advocacy by matching students to books in all formats, including print, audio, and e-books
  • Teach information skills
  • Collaborate with teachers to meet the intellectual needs of students
  • Organize, manage, and maintain a collection of valuable resources
  • Provide resources and activities for students that are meaningful now and in the future
  • Share the findings of reading research with teachers
  • Promote resources and activities that spark student interest in reading, learning, and achievement throughout the school years
  • Maintain a supportive environment in the library and network environment to increase student satisfaction and achievement
  • Collaborate with teachers regularly to provide resources and activities for course, unit, and lesson integration
  • Provide leadership in the school for achieving school missions, objectives, and strategies
  • Manage information by providing intellectual and physical access to information in print, media, and online resources, either local or web-based

Quality school library programs have maximum impact when they:

  • Encourage classroom teachers to integrate literature and information skills into the curriculum
  • Offer opportunities for teachers and school librarians to collaborate on projects that help students use a variety of resources, conduct research, and present their findings
  • Are supported fiscally and programmatically by the educational community to achieve the mission of the school

Great, but how does that apply to me?

We’d like to encourage you to work with us towards these goals.  We have wonderful library programs here at DASD, but they can always improve.  Look at the bullets above– is there an area where you could collaborate with your librarian? Invite your librarian into your classroom?  Use the library resources and instruction a bit more?  We are always looking forward to collaborating with you to help our students be successful in all curricular areas and are excited to continue these conversations at each of our schools!

If you wish to read the entire compendium, please visit this site to receive a free download of the full study. 

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