Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

School Libraries, Teacher-Librarians and Student Outcomes: Presenting and Using the Evidence

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

School Libraries, Teacher-Librarians and Student Outcomes: Presenting and Using the Evidence

Article excerpt


The future viability of school libraries and teacher-librarians depends in large part upon reliable evidence of their positive impact on student outcomes. Evidence of this kind is essential to securing adequate and continuing funding for school libraries, especially when school budgets are severely stretched and administrators face multiple, competing needs. For school-based management, school principals and leadership teams require this evidence to support informed decision-making about the library. Teacher-librarians also need this evidence to guide their professional practice and demonstrate their contribution to student learning.

Evidence about library practice can take many forms (Gillespie, 2013; Koufogiannakis, 2011). This review presents evidence from formal research that involved purposeful data collection and rigorous analysis. It espouses principles of evidence based practice in seeking to provide best available evidence of what works, coupled with a focus on evidence of outcomes and impacts of services in relation to the goals of the educational environment in which it is situated (Todd, 2009, p.88).

This review, which arises from recent Australian research (author, 2013), collates international and Australian research about the impacts of school libraries and teacher librarians. It has two purposes: to strengthen the evidence base; and to recommend how this evidence can be best used to advance school libraries and teacher-librarians and enhance student learning. It is in five main parts:

* Need for evidence

* Presenting the evidence: International research

* Presenting the evidence: Australian research

* Using the evidence to advance school libraries

* Appendix: Overview of international and Australian research


The following terms are used consistently in this literature review:

* school library includes resource centre, school media centre, etc.

* teacher-librarian denotes a professional with dual teaching and library qualifications and, where applicable, includes school librarian, school media specialist, etc.; teacher-librarian is hyphenated to indicate the inter-connected elements of the dual role

* school library programs encompass all educational activities provided by a school library, such as information literacy, research support and reading promotion

* principal includes school administrator

* literacy: "listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts" (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.)

* information literacy: "The ability to process and use information effectively [as] a basic survival skill for successful learners in the 21st century ... to find, analyse, evaluate and ethically use information for a given purpose in a variety of formats" (Australian School Library Association & Australian Library and Information Association, 2009). It includes ICT capability (ACARA, n.d.) and digital literacy since information literacy is the most common term used in the reviewed literature

* NAPLAN: National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy is an Australia-wide annual assessment program for school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 (ACARA, 2012).

Need for Evidence

Government departments, employing authorities and school administrators need reliable data to support policy and decision-making about school libraries. Given their responsibility for staffing within schools, it is concerning that school principals are often unaware of the full potential of school libraries and teacher-librarians (Hartzell, 2002; Henri & Boyd, 2002; Ragle, 2011). This is one likely reason for diminishing library budgets and teacher-librarian positions.

Consequently, there is a critical need for what Ross Todd (2009, p. 89) calls 'evidence for practice' that focuses on "the real results of what school librarians do, rather than on what school librarians do. …

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