Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries, Part 2: Faculty Perceptions of Effective School Libraries

Article excerpt

This article focuses on the perceptions of school principals and teaching faculty in relation to the school library and the helps it provides to students. Set against a brief review of current literature, it examines data provided by 879 faculty in 39 elementary, middle, and high schools in Ohio as part of the Student Learning Through Ohio School Library research study. In a parallel survey to the Impacts on Learning Survey for students participating in this research, the Perceptions of Learning survey sought to gather faculty's perceptions of the helps provided by the school library to their students. This article presents a summary of the findings, provides a brief comparison with the student data, and addresses the concept of evidence of school library helps as observed by the teaching faculty.

Introduction

Support of the school principal and teaching faculty is considered an essential factor in effective school library programs. This support involves principals as decision-makers and controllers of budgets, including library budgets; staff allocation; school schedules and timetables; and policies related to instructional integration, information technology provision, and use, all of which shape and influence the school library program. The support also involves teachers as both resource users and instructional partners in the design, delivery, and assessment of information literacy instruction (Hartzell, 2002).

There is some evidence from school librarians that school faculty generally do not understand the nature and dimensions of the role of the school librarian and that school librarians perceive a lack of value, importance, and appreciation of their role and a negative perception of their image. The consequence of this is that they are unable to perform at the desired level (Hartzell, 2002; Lau, 2002; Todd, 2001). Lau identified that although principals lack knowledge about the role of school libraries and their ability to improve student learning, ownership of this lack is not merely in their hands: school librarians need to make themselves more visible by articulating and enabling their vision. This is echoed by Henri and Boyd (2002), who found that school librarians were not consciously using the heuristics of influential people, that is, likeability, expertise, sensitivity, a controlled ego, and focused energy and effort. In contrast to Lau's study are the findings of Henri, Hay, and Oberg (2002). Their study found that the beliefs of principals and school librarians about the role of the principal were well aligned except where librarians were not also qualified teachers. Principals and school librarians differed most on their current and future perceptions of the role of the principal in advocating and facilitating the development of an information-literate school community.

To date, few studies have targeted the perceptions of classroom teachers toward libraries and school librarians. Nakamura (2000) found that the importance of the pedagogical role of school libraries and school librarians was acknowledged by most faculty. The findings of the De Witt WallaceReaders' Digest Library Power project undertaken from 1988 to 1999 (comprehensively documented in School Libraries Worldwide, 5(2), 1990) similarly showed that school faculty valued the library for meeting their instructional and resource needs and enabling effective learning outcomes. However, a gap in this literature particularly centers on understanding how teaching faculty see the school library more explicitly helping the students that they teach and how this help is evidenced in students' learning outcomes. Contemporary school librarianship literature is based on the assumption that there should be a strong and positive collaborative relationship with classroom teachers, with mutual planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of instructional interventions to ensure that students develop the appropriate cognitive, behavioral, and affective scaffolds for finding and using information in their learning tasks. …