PROOF OF THE POWER: Quality Library Media Programs Affect Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

The evidence is mounting! By early 2000, researchers affiliated with the Library Research Service of the Colorado State Library and the University of Denver--myself included--had completed four statewide studies on the impact of school library media programs on the academic achievement of U.S. public school students:

* "Information Empowered: The School Librarian as an Agent of Academic Achievement in Alaska"

* "Measuring Up to Standards: The Impact of School Library Programs and Information Literacy in Pennsylvania Schools"

* "How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, The Second Colorado Study"

* "Good Schools Have School Librarians: Oregon School Librarians Collaborate to Improve Academic Achievement"

Philosophically, these studies are rooted in the "Information Power" model espoused by the American Association of School Librarians and the findings from 6 decades of research related to the impact of school library media programs on academic achievement.

The latest edition of Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998) identifies three roles for school library media specialists. In a learning and teaching role, library media specialists advance the instructional goals of the school. As providers of information access and delivery, they develop collections and services and facilitate their use. And, as program administrators, they serve as library media center managers as well as school-wide advocates and trainers for information literacy.


Over the past half-century, there have been about 75 studies on the impact of school library media programs on academic achievement. For the three state studies we've chosen to highlight in this article--Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Colorado--each report contains an exhaustive review of this literature. For that reason, we'll only provide a thumbnail summary of that review here.

The Learning Teaching Role

Many early studies of this topic demonstrated the value of the mere presence of a professionally trained and credentialed library media specialist. Such correlations, however, beg the question of what the library media specialists are doing that makes a difference. In more recent studies, their contributions as creators of and collaborators in a learning community have been the focus. These studies indicate that students perform better academically where the library media specialist:

* is part of a planning and teaching team with the classroom.

* teaches information literacy.

* provides one-to-one tutoring for students in need.

The Information Access and Delivery Role

One of the most consistent strands of research on this topic is evidenced by studies that demonstrate the value of:

* quality collections of books and other materials selected to support the curriculum.

* state-of-the-art technology that is integrated into the learning/teaching processes.

* cooperation between school and other types of libraries, especially public libraries.

The Program Administration Role

A key role of the library media specialist, but one that has only been the subject of research for a decade, is program administration. In today's schools, library media specialists are not only managers of the library media center, but also advocates for information literacy with the principal, at faculty meetings, and in standards and curriculum committee meetings. In addition to being advocates, they are trainers who provide in-service programs for teachers on resource-based learning, integrating information literacy into the curriculum, and getting the most out of technology, as well as teaching students.

To be a successful advocate for information literacy, research shows that library media specialists must:

* have support staff who free them from the library media center to participate in important meetings. …