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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Absurdity of Cutting Ohio School Librarians/Media Specialists

I taught high school English and Writing at Valley High School in Lucasville, Ohio, for decades. I found our wonderful librarian to be a teacher's best resource for many reasons. Perhaps, most importantly, school libraries help prepare students to live and learn in a world of information. Also, the broad mission of school libraries is to ensure that students and staff are able to use ideas and information. Libraries provide access to materials in all formats, and they help increase students' interest in reading, viewing, and using information and ideas.

Firmly believing that the school librarian is an irreplaceable, crucial asset, I was shocked to discover that Ohio does not require that a school district, much less a school, have a library/media specialist (Ohio Administrative Code 3301-35-05). In some districts, the only licensed librarians on staff have to cover several schools a week, spending a few hours at each.

In fact, the Ohio Department of Education data shows 923 school librarians in the 2013-2014 school year, down 43 percent from 1,628 in the 2004-05 school year. Many school districts are now replacing licensed librarians with aides, volunteers or substitute teachers. Those replacements often aren’t qualified to teach subjects such as media literacy and database research, or they aren’t licensed to teach at all.

Librarians are really public education's "Jacks of all trades." Responsible administrators, teachers, and parents rely upon them to be important contractors for constructing bridges of lifelong learning.
Information-literacy skills have been emphasized as an essential competency needed to succeed
in school and to become a lifelong learner.

Angela Wojtecki, a librarian in Nordonia Hills City Schools near Cleveland and president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, says, “Unless you’re in the library, you don’t see the impact we make. We’re the first place kids go when they need something.”

“Some school administrators believe that students have access to Internet so they don’t need a library,” says Debra Kachel, professor of school libraries and information technologies at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. “That’s delusional. It’s a cop-out.”

Kachel explains that librarians help negotiate the Internet. She continues, “Somebody has to teach kids how to do that. If we aren’t preparing students to know how to find and use reliable and accurate information, they’re simply not going to be successful. No one teaches that except certified school librarians.”

Susan Yutzey, past president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association and former librarian in Upper Arlington schools, explains:

"A library is not just a room full of books, and a librarian is not just the clerk that checks them in and out. Librarians are usually responsible for teaching classes in digital literacy and research skills, often collaborating with teachers from every grade. As information -- a librarian’s bread and butter -- moved to the Internet, librarians became the experts in that arena."

Evidently, this misunderstanding of the Internet making a librarian expendable, coupled with shrinking school budgets, is leading districts to cut full-time jobs and close school libraries. Kachel claims the situation is even worse for poorer communities -- the same communities that benefit more from increased exposure to librarians, she says.

“Really poor communities have very underfunded and under-resourced schools, and they cut school-library budgets and staffing,” Kachel says. “It’s not fair to kids that live in communities that can’t afford these things. We continue to perpetuate this system of inequity.”

(Reis Thebault. "School districts in Ohio cutting librarians."
The Columbus Dispatch. July 27, 2015.)

In many cases, school libraries make all the difference in the lives of her poorer students because disadvantaged children may not have books in their homes.

Kids without school librarians and school libraries miss out on fundamental parts of their education, said Nona Lindquist, a media specialist at Pickerington High School North. Lindquist explains ...

“It’s the exposure to the reading. That’s what makes the kids understand literature. And when they understand it, they have fun. And, when they have fun, they succeed. When kids don’t have access to those materials, it’s detrimental to the learning process."

(Reis Thebault. "School districts in Ohio cutting librarians."
The Columbus Dispatch. July 27, 2015.)

It makes no sense to cut librarians and library resources as feasible budget considerations -- even in districts desperate to streamline appropriations. Although the effects of poverty still remain a primary force in determining student academic success, state after state showed that such socio-economic conditions could not explain away the impact of school library programs, especially school library staffing, funding, and quality collections.

For example, the Wisconsin study of 2006 found that at the high school level the impact of a robust library program was almost seven percentage points greater than the impact of the socio-economic variables.


Quality school library programs impact student achievement. since the 1990’s when standardized tests became a major indicator of student learning, numerous studies have been conducted to confirm the educational gains that school library programs provide in student learning.

The most universal finding is the presence of full-time, certified school librarians and appropriate support staff who implement a quality, school-integrated program of library services. in addition, it has been shown that incremental increases in the following can result in incremental gains in student learning:
Increased hours of access for both individual student visits and group visits by classes;
Larger collections of print and electronic resources with access at school and from home;
Up-to-date technology with connectivity to databases and automated collections;
Instruction implemented in collaboration with teachers that is integrated with classroom curriculum and allows students to learn and practice 21st century skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication of ideas and information;
Increased student usage of school library services;
Higher total library expenditures; and
Leadership activities by the librarian in providing professional development for teachers, serving on key committees, and meeting regularly with the principal.

(Debra E. Kachel. "School Library Research Summarized." Graduate Students of LSC 5530 School Library Advocacy School Library & Information Technologies Department. Mansfield University, Mansfield, PA. 2013)

Recent studies in three states reveal that, despite socioeconomic level, racial or ethnic composition or disability status, in schools with licensed school librarians the following is supported:

* The library’s provision of a technological infrastructure, instruction in its use, and the provision of information technology tools are highly valued. In the ohio study, over 88% of faculty confirmed that the school library helped students to use the internet better and over 80% of students stated that computers have helped them find information inside and outside of the school library (Ohio 2003).

* Reading scores are consistently better for students who have a full-time certified librarian than those who do not. With a full-time librarian, students are more likely to score "advanced" and less likely to score "below basic" (Pennsylvania 2011).

* On average, the percentage of students scoring “advanced” in Writing is 2½ times higher for schools with a full-time, certified librarian than those without one. Additionally, in schools where libraries are staffed with both full-time, certified librarians and support staff, the percentage of students scoring “advanced” in Writing is almost twice as high as those with full-time, certified staffing alone (Pennsylvania 2012).

* Elementary students in schools with certified school library media specialists are more likely to have higher English and language arts achievement scores than those in schools with noncertified school library media specialists (New York 2010).

* Appropriate instruction for information literacy is particularly stressed at the high school level to help students be prepared for their postsecondary education and career (e.g., Burhanna and Jensen 2006; Kovalik, Yutzey, and Piazza 2013).

* In spite of the importance of information-literacy skills, research has revealed that information-literacy instruction is not adequately embedded in the school curriculum and high schoolstudents do not possess sufficient abilities to find and manage information (Haras 2011; Julien and Barker 2009; Smith et al. 2013; Varlejs, Stec, and Kwon 2014).

* In a study of 3rd and 6th grade students, the presence of a school librarian was the single strongest predictor of reading enjoyment. Also, 3rd and 6th graders in schools without trained library staff tended to have lower achievement on reading tests. (Ontario 2006)

* A study established a strong positive relationship between school library budgets and test scores in language arts and history. The library program was a stronger predictor of success --  better than other school variables and better than community variables including parent education and poverty levels (California 2008).

*  A study found that elementary schools which spend more on their libraries average almost 10 percent higher writing performance. For middle schoolers the average was 13 percent higher (Illinois 2005)

* A study discovered a statistically significant relationship at the elementary level between higher reading scores and larger school library budgets a (Minnesota 2004).

* From 2005 to 2011, students at schools that gained or maintained certified librarians
averaged higher reading scores and higher increases in those scores than students without
a librarian. This association could not be explained away by local economic conditions. Research found that library assistants working without the supervision of a trained school librarian had no impact on reading scores (Colorado 2012).

* From 2006-2009, when school librarians’ hours were reduced or eliminated at a school building, there tended to be a negative influence on student learning and achievement as evidenced in the reading, math, science, history/government, and writing test data at all three educational levels—elementary, middle, and high school. This may suggest that the stability of librarian staffing may matter almost as much as the level of staffing. Changing the full-time equivalent (fte) allocation every year or two may have a disruptive effect on student achievement (Kansas 2012).

* Teachers were three times more likely to rate their literacy teaching as excellent when they
collaborated with librarians (Idaho 2009).

* Across grade levels, better-performing schools also tended to be those whose principals
valued collaboration between librarians and classroom teachers in the design and delivery
of instruction (Indiana 2007).

(Debra E. Kachel. "School Library Research Summarized." Graduate Students of LSC 5530 School Library Advocacy School Library & Information Technologies Department. Mansfield University, Mansfield, PA. 2013)

It is evident. Studies confirm that quality school library programs with full-time, certified
librarians and library support staff are indicative of and critical to student achievement. School leaders must consider this glowing research and, if at all possible, they must increase appropriations for school librarians and school libraries. 21st century education demands that districts support their library programs in order to give their students of all ages a better chance to succeed.

Works Cited For This Article and Beyond

AK lance, Keith Curry, et al. Information Empowered: The School Libraries as an Agent of Academic Achievement. anchorage, aK: alaska state library, 1999.

CA1 farmer, lesley. “degree of implementation of library media Programs and student achievement,”
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CA2 achterman, douglas l. Haves, Halves, and Have-Nots: School Libraries and Student Achievement in California. diss. university of north texas, 2008. UNT Digital Library.

CO1 lance, Keith Curry, lynda Welborn, and Christine hamilton-Pennell. The Impact of School Library Media Centers on Academic Achievement. denver, Co: Colorado dept. of education, 1992. ERIC.

CO2 lance, Keith Curry, marcia j. Rodney, and Christine hamilton-Pennell. “executive summary.”
How School Libraries Help Kids Achieve Standards: The Second Colorado Study. spring, tX:hi Willow Research and Publishing, 2000. 1-8. Library Research Services.

CO3 briana hovendick francis, Keith Curry lance, and zeth lietzau. School Librarians Continue to Help Students Achieve Standards: The Third Colorado Study (2010). Library Research Services. nov. 2010.

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ID  lance, Keith Curry, marcia j. Rodney, and bill schwarz. The Idaho School Library Impact Study-2009: How Idaho Librarians, Teachers, and Administrators Collaborate for Student Success. Idaho Commission for Libraries. 2010.

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OR lance, Keith Curry, marcia j. Rodney, and Christine hamilton-Pennell. Good Schools Have School Librarians: Oregon School Librarians Collaborate to Improve Academic Achievement. terrebonne, or: oregon educational media association, 2001. executive summary. Oregon Educational Media Association.

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PA 2  lance, Keith Curry, and bill schwarz. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. n.p., oct. 2012.

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WI smith, ester. Student Learning Through Wisconsin School Library Media Centers: Case Study Report. madison, Wi: Wisconsin department of Public instruction, 2006. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
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