Quality School Libraries Lead to Higher Student Achievement
Institute for Public Administration
Over the past two decades, the relationship between the quality of school libraries and student performance has been the focus of dozens of state-level studies. Simply stated, these studies confirm that access to high-quality school library services results in better student performance. The declaration used in the title of this report, Quality School Libraries = Higher Student Achievement, is not a speculative statement. Research affirms this equation. Most research indicates that the following characteristics of school libraries lead to improved learning outcomes for students: • A full-time certified/qualified librarian at the building level • Adequate support staff to enable the librarian to perform professional duties • Adequate expenditure for new resources to ensure student access to recent, relevant content • High level of collaboration between librarians and teachers and librarians and students • Flexible scheduling that enables the librarian to interact with teachers and students • Access to up-to-date technological infrastructure and online resources • Access to professional development and networking opportunities for library staff Unfortunately, school libraries in Delaware are, in general, understaffed, underfunded, and unequipped of up-to-date collections and resources. Librarians that do work in schools, in many cases, are unable to carry out professional duties because they must complete day-to-day tasks related to library management and additional staffing/instructional assignments. Oftentimes, librarians are unable to participate in professional development opportunities and to collaborate with teachers and students due to their fixed schedules (Focus Groups, 2015). The current state of school libraries in Delaware is dire, which creates a situation where students are unable to receive the measurable benefits of quality school libraries. Of even greater concern, the quality library gap is growing rather than shrinking so that equitable access to resources and technology is not available for all students in the state. A comparison among Delaware’s school districts shows that the 10 districts in which less than 40 percent of the students are from low-income households have added 13 librarians since the 2005–2006 school year. The nine districts in which more than 40 percent of the students from low-income households have cut 16 librarians since the 2005–2006 school year (Delaware District and School Profiles). Delaware’s students from low-income households are facing reductions in the services needed to improve their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.