As a Library Media student at PCC and long-time library volunteer, libraries and education have been my focus for several years. In the course of my work with PCC and public libraries, I’ve come to see a significant connection between the importance of libraries and the educational impact they have on their communities. This led me to wonder what kind of influence libraries have specifically within the educational sphere and helped me formulate my research question:
What is the impact of cutting libraries and librarians from public schools?
My research was shaped by my work in the public library and through my experiences at PCC talking with other Library Media students and educators. When I started researching, I was surprised by what I learned; the impact that libraries, and school libraries in particular have on education and academic success is huge! There are currently a lot of expert voices in the field who are just as concerned about this issue as I am and there was plenty of statistics and data to support my hypothesis that cutting school library funding is something we should all care about.
Part 1: The Research
Sullivan, Maureen. “State of America’s School Libraries.” Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. , 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 May 2013.
- In this article (“State of America’s School Libraries.”) American Library Association president Maureen Sullivan discusses the major school library budget cuts occurring throughout the United States and the potentially negative effects of these losses. This is a credible source because the ALA conducts frequent research on the state of American libraries (through statistics, surveys, etc.) and collaborates with other research institutes. This article is written by the association’s president which lends it authority.
Glover, Sarah. “School District Librarians May Become Obsolete .” NBC10 Philadelphia. NBCUniversal Media, LLC., 17 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013.
- This article (“School District Librarians May Become Obsolete.”) covers the proposed budget cuts to Philadelphia’s school district which would eliminate the district’s school libraries and librarians. The article includes information about recent studies correlating academic performance with access to school libraries and the presence of school librarians. This piece is authoritative because it cites specific academic research and provides direct quotes from experts in the library and educational fields.
Rosales, John. “Checking Out.” nea.org. National Education Association, n.d. Web. 28 May 2013.
- “Checking Out” details the importance of school libraries and librarians as related to academic success. The article mentions specific state research and statistics and discusses the detriments to school libraries and education as a result of budget cuts. Authoritative because it is published by the National Education Association and contains citations to external research.
“School Libraries.” ala.org. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 28 May 2013.
- “School Libraries.” Is a segment excerpted from the American Library Association’s 2013 “State of America’s Libraries” report and deals specifically with the state of school libraries and the effects of nation-wide budget cuts on educational outcomes. The report cites several statistics and expert evaluations of the current issue. As the ultimate authority on library affairs, this is a highly credible resource.
Owen, Wendy. “Beaverton School District librarians will not be shushed as they fight for their jobs in face of budget cuts.” Oregonian 08 Apr 2011, n. pag. Web. 13 Jun. 2013.
Part 2: The Public Writing
To address the issue constructively and keep the conversation alive, I decided to start a blog called “libraries matter” on edublogs. This is my first post:
Why Preserve School Libraries?
In today’s tech-driven classroom in which students conducting research can simply “Google” their answers and cross-check them on Wikipedia, we may be tempted to ask what need there is for school libraries or librarians, especially when schools are seeking ways to cut budgets without increasing class sizes or creating more furlough days. In such economic times as we find ourselves, school library programs are often thrown on the chopping block with the idea that libraries are among the most expendable, with their resources becoming outdated and librarians no longer necessary. As rational as these ideas seem in theory, research in recent years has conclusively shown strong connections between school libraries and academic success. As cited by ALA President Maureen Sullivan in a recent article on the Huffington Post, over 60 separate studies have concluded that “School library media programs staffed by a qualified school librarian have a strong and positive impact on student academic achievement.”
This statement is echoing loudly through the academic world as teachers and librarians alike argue the importance of school libraries as learning environments, essential extensions of the classroom which are used to help teach students 21st century technology skills & concepts, an issue which is gaining national concern after the latest adaptation of Common Core Standards. National education standards are becoming more heavily reliant on technology and research skills and teachers are already overworked, running on extremely tight schedules and hard-pressed to fit more into their lesson plans. For this reason, school librarians and library media specialists are employed to help teach these valuable skills, streamline the research process and offer technical assistance. Aptly worded by Oregonian reporter Wendy Owen:
“As never before, students and teachers are buried under an onslaught of information through the Internet, email, databases, Facebook and every conceivable online newsletter, blog or book. Librarians guide students on how to sort through and make sense of the overwhelming pile of information.”
Another vital function of school libraries is to help promote and support reading and learning. Many school libraries are the starting point for students to explore their first books, with librarians acting as guides to help students discover what types of books they can use and enjoy. School libraries help develop and foster reading skills and cultivate an enthusiasm for learning. These skills can most certainly be established in the classroom, but without a directly accessible place for finding and choosing books, young readers may never cross the threshold from reading and learning as a requirement to reading and learning as enjoyment. As library media specialist Douglas Achterman explains, “A strong library allows for student-centered learning, this is tied to goals for students to become life-long learners.” (Rosales) School libraries also provide a quiet place for students to study and conduct research without the distractions they may encounter in the classroom or elsewhere. Having libraries available for students helps ensure that the assistance and resources they need are available and that there is an appropriate environment in which to utilize them.
With all of these consequences to consider, the question we should ask ourselves should not be: why preserve school libraries?, but rather, can we afford not to?