Impact of School Library Media Programs on Academic Achievement. (Proof of the Power)

Article excerpt

BY MID 2001, RESEARCHERS AFFILIATED WITH THE LIBRARY Research Service of the Colorado State Library and the University of Denver had completed four state-wide 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, and

* 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 six decades of research related to the impact of school library media programs on academic achievement.

Information Power

The latest edition of the American Association of School Librarians' Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998) identifies three roles for school library media specialists (LMS). In a learning and teaching role, the LMS advances the instructional goals of the school. As a provider of information access and delivery, the LMS develops collections and services and facilitates their use. And, as a program administrator, the LMS serves as the library media center (LMC) manager as well as a school-wide advocate and trainer for information literacy.

Previous Research Findings

Over the past half-century, there have been about 75 studies on the impact of school library media programs on academic achievement. Each of the study reports summarized herein contains an exhaustive review of this literature to that date. For that reason, only a thumbnail summary of that review is provided here.

Learning & Teaching

Many early studies of this topic demonstrate the value of the mere presence of a professionally trained and credentialed library media specialist. Such correlations, however, beg the question of what the LMS is doing that makes a difference. In more recent studies, the LMS's contributions as a creator of and a collaborator in a learning community have been the focus. These studies indicate that students perform better academically where the LMS:

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

* teaches information literacy, and

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

Information Access & Delivery

One of the most consistent strands of research on this topic is comprised of 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, and

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

Program Administration

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, the LMS is not only the manager of the LMC, but also an advocate for information literacy with the principal, at faculty meetings, and in standards and curriculum committee meetings. In addition to being an advocate, the LMS is a trainer who provides 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, the LMS must:

* have support staff who free him or her from the LMC to participate in important meetings,

* win and keep the support of the principal,

* manage networked technology, and

* raise funds successfully. …