The ever-present budget cuts and faculty reductions that plague schools across the country have sparked questions about which services and staff members are crucial for students to receive an adequate education. New research from Library Research Service does a lot to answer these questions with evidence that one particular staff position drives up reading skills in students of all ages: the full-time librarian.
“There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends,” according to the report.
The study analyzed data from the Colorado Student Assessment Program to determine reading skills and involved students in grades three through ten. According to an article in School Library Journal, 45 percent of students who attended schools with librarians tended to increase their test scores over the course of a school year, compared to just 29 percent of students who had never had a school librarian on campus.
These findings debunk the myth that parent volunteers or library aides can replace a full-time, professionally trained school librarian. They simply don’t have the skills or time to adequately explain research methods, answer library-related questions or foster a love of reading in students as well as a librarian can. And libraries today don’t just house books: librarians now must be experts in all kinds of digital media, including online databases, resources and multi-media presentation formats.
Additionally, usage of both public and school libraries is rising, making it even more crucial for school districts to retain or hire qualified librarians. I think the presence of a librarian is most important in elementary schools, where basic reading skills are built. If a student doesn’t learn to read well in high school, he or she faces immense challenges farther down the road.
I hate to think of any school programs being cut, because each facet of education — whether it is science, math, history, art or music–is so important for students. But if budgets are really coming down to the wire, parents and community members need to speak up for the well-being of the students: keep the librarians.
Photo from jeshua.nace via flickr