The Importance of School Libraries
Substantial research indicates that a school library with appropriate staffing, adequate funding, and a rich collection of materials in various formats makes a positive impact on literacy as well as on overall academic achievement. Summaries of current research related to school libraries are available on the Library Research Web page and the American Library Association Web page.
The school library plays an important role in preparing students to live and learn in a world of information. Since 1988, the mission of school library media programs across the country has been to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information by taking the following steps:
- Providing intellectual and physical access to materials in all formats
- Providing instruction to foster competence and stimulate interest in reading, viewing, and using information and ideas
- Working with other educators to design learning strategies to meet the needs of individual students (Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, 1998)
While these are still roles of the school library, with the increased use of technology at an ever younger age, coupled with implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), access to strong school library programs is now even more important. In our schools today the teacher librarian has the unique ability to impact the CCSS implementation process by sharing the vision of the school library program as the center of teaching and learning. To attain the goal of every student being on the path to college and career readiness requires a group effort on many levels. The teacher librarian and school library program must play an active role in this process by working collaboratively with school leadership to move the CCSS forward and to make the essential instructional and cultural shifts within their school environment. (Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the School Librarian, 2013)
With the implementation of the CCSS, and very soon the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the education process is moving from teacher and content-driven learning to student inquiry-driven learning. Students must now understand the information and defend their position, rather than simply know the information. Despite growing up with mobile devices, there does not appear to be a corresponding increase in the ability of students to evaluate and integrate information. Strong library programs are the key to assisting our digital natives to become discriminating users of information and technology. In addition, teacher librarians who also possess a Special Class Authorization may teach information/digital literacy skills as the teacher of record, within their own, stand-alone classes.
With the shift in funding to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) it is important for LEAs to acknowledge and recognize the critical need for more and better books, in a variety of formats and levels for students to read and to help meet the demands for implementation of the CCSS. Studies show a positive relationship between library quality (school and public) and the amount read, as well as a relationship with reading competence. Better libraries mean more literacy development for younger readers as well as for high school students. The English–Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools calls for students to read extensively on their own (one-half million words annually by grade four; one million words annually by the end of middle school; and two million words annually by the end of grade twelve).
Statistical Snapshot of California School Libraries
The California Department of Education annually collects information about school libraries using an online survey process. In 2011-12, 3,623 California schools completed the survey representing 36 percent of schools. The following statistical snapshot is based on these data as well as data collected by the California Basic Educational Demographic Survey (CBEDS). When possible, previous and national data are provided for comparison.
Number of libraries
Among California public schools responding to the library survey, 99 percent have a place designated as the library, although staffing, collections, and programs range from exemplary to substandard. One percent of the schools responding do not have a library.
Approximately 8 percent of California schools have a credentialed teacher librarian on campus part time or longer; the majority of professional staffing is found at the high school level. A teacher librarian has both a California teaching credential and a California teacher librarian services credential. Although the national ratio of teacher librarians to students in the fall of 2009 was 1:940 (the most recent national numbers available; Digest of Education Statistics Tables and Figures 2009, National Center for Education Statistics . California continues to rank at the bottom of professional library staffing numbers. In 2012, the California ratio was 1:7,374 (2011-12 CBEDS Report). The following table reviews the ratio of teacher librarians to students from 2000 to the most recent numbers available. In 2011-12, 81 percent of California public schools reported classified staff in the library.
Teacher Librarians in CA Schools
Total CA Public School Enrollment
|Ratio of Students per Teacher Librarian|
|2012-2013||804||Data not yet available||Data not yet available|
|2009-2010||Data not available||6,113,464||Data not yet available|
The latest figure for the average number of school library books per student kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) as reported in the 2011-12 CDE Online School Library Survey is 18.9, an increase of 0.2 over the previous year. In 1986, the number reported per student was ten. To find a national comparison, it is necessary to look at the average size of collection. The 2012 School Libraries Count reports the average number of books as 13, 517. During the same time period, California K-12 schools report the average number of books as 13, 285. “Books” includes both print and digital formats.
According to the third-annual 2012 Ebook Usage in U.S. School (K-12) Libraries , “The likelihood that a school library will offer ebooks increases by grade level. While only 33 percent of elementary school libraries currently offer ebooks, 50 percent of middle-school libraries, and 63 percent of high school libraries do. A lack of access to ereading devices was described by 64 percent of respondents as the leading barrier to ebook adoption by their library. A lack of funds for ebooks was listed second, by 53 percent of respondents, while 37 percent said that they were waiting to see what the best platform would be for adoption.”
Age of collection
The age of the library books is as important as the number of books available to students. In 1995 the average copyright date of a California school library nonfiction book was 1972 or 23 years old. In 2004-05, with new state funding, the average copyright date rose to 1993 where it remained through 2011-2012. It is important to note the average copyright date is still 19 years old. The average copyright date is measured in the nonfiction section and includes both print and digital books.
The average cost of a children’s title hardcover book in 2013 was $19.03, a decrease of 47 cents from 2010. The average cost of a young adult title hardcover book in 2013 was $20.82, a decrease of $7.38 from 2010. Trade paperbacks for children’s and young adult titles were $7.38 and $10.97 respectively in 2013.
Need for books
The Internet does not replace the need for books and often increases the demand for up-to-date library materials. Library resources come in various formats—both print and electronic—and are selected based on the best format for the intended user and use. In a school library today, many of the resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS expect students to engage with a wide variety of informational and literary texts in English language arts/literacy.
Electronic access to resources
Eighty-five percent of the school libraries responding to the survey reported the use of an electronic catalog and automated circulation system. Eighty percent reported providing access to the Internet. Internet access increases with grade levels: 73 percent of school libraries reported offering access at the elementary school level, 94 percent at the middle school level, and 98 percent at the high school level (CDE Online School Library Survey for 2011-12).
The average number of hours that a California school library is open to students is 24 hours per week. Seventy-two percent of school libraries reported being open during breaks, 67 percent during lunch, and 53 percent before school. Four percent of schools reported having the library available some evenings and some weekends.
Since the demise of the School and Library Improvement Block Grant, the primary source of library funding for 51 percent of California schools comes from fund-raising activities.
California School Library Funding
A Brief History
|Time Period||Funding Source||Statewide Amount|
|Prior to 1994||No state funding was allocated for school libraries. Funding was determined at school and district levels.||N/A|
|1994||California Public School Library Protection Fund—a tax checkoff option for California tax payers. Goals 2000 Funding added to the taxpayer donations||
$266,000 (funded 53 grants)
California Public School Library Protection Fund--tax checkoff
|$345,000 (funded 68 grants)|
|1996||California Public School Library Protection Fund
NOTE: Legislature added $12 million to taxpayer donations
|$12,300,247 (funded 2,433 grants)|
|1997||California Public School Library Protection Fund||$316,454|
|1998-2001||California Public School Library Act--ongoing state funding for all California school libraries apportioned on a per pupil basis.( AB 862)||$158.5 million (or approx. $28.88 per ADA)|
|2002-2003||Library Act funds--reduced 87% during midyear budget adjustment process. From 1998 to 2003, the California Public School Library Act was reduced 92%||$21.5 million (or approx. $3.46 per pupil)|
|2003-2004||Library Act funds--reduced additional 5%||$8.8 million (or approx. $1.51 per pupil)|
|2004-2005||Library Act funds||$4.2 million (or approx. $0.71 per pupil)|
|2005-2006||New funding model begins: School and Library Improvement Block Grant (AB 825).The School and Library Improvement Block Grant combined two programs: that formerly known as School Improvement Program (SIP) and the California Public School Library Act (Library Act). It is distributed on the basis of a district’s proportional share of the original two funds and is dispersed within the district according to school site councils. (AB 825)||$422, 421,000
Estimated amount used for library functions is $22,868,858.
|2006-2007||School and Library Improvement Block Grant||$447,348,872|
|2007-2008||School and Library Improvement Block Grant||$465,265,365|
|2008-2009||School and Library Improvement Block Grant||$472,836,000
2/09 Tier 3 flexibility
|2009 February-2013||SBX3 4 (Chapter 12, Statutes of 2009) generated Education Code Section 42605 which allowed flexibility in the use of 38 categorical programs including the School and Library Improvement Block.||N/A|
|2013-2014||Local Control Funding Formula goes into effect. The 2013–14 budget package replaces the previous K–12 finance system with a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). For school districts and charter schools, the LCFF creates base, supplemental, and concentration grants in place of most previously existing K–12 funding streams, including revenue limits and most state categorical programs.||N/A|
Comparative analysis of school libraries nationwide
The following sites contain statistical information about school libraries across the country:
2013 Ebook in US School (K-12) Libraries
Free download of School Library Journal's 4th annual survey of Ebook Usage in U.S. School (K-12) Libraries.
Digest of Education Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
The Digest of Education statistics provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from prekindergarten through graduate school. The Digest includes a selection of data from many sources, both government and private, and draws especially on the results of surveys and activities carried out by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Library Research Service, Colorado
Research and Statistics About Libraries
LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education, which designs and conducts library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs.
Library Statistics Program
National Center for Education Statistics
In 1989 the NCES began collecting nation-wide library statistics that include a School Library Media Center Survey. Among the topics covered in this survey are staffing, services, expenditures, and collections.
Research and Statistics, American Association of School Librarians
An online clearinghouse for school library research and statistics collected by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) including research conducted by AASL as well as links to outside research and statistics.
For Additional Information
Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the School Librarian, is an action brief developed by Achieve and the American Association of School Librarians as a starting point for school librarians to gain a deeper understanding of the standards and their implementation, visit the Achieve Web page.
Planning for strong school library programs: For links to planning guides, rubrics, and related articles, visit the American Library Association Web page.
Academic achievement and school libraries: For links to current research reports, summaries, and articles, including studies conducted in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Massachusetts, visit the American Library Association Web page.
School Library Research Summarized - A booklet compiled by graduate students at Mansfield University
Locations of effective school library media programs in California: Visit the California School Library Association Web page and view recent issues of “Good Ideas.”
Teacher librarian credential information: Visit the Teacher Librarians
section on the CDE School Libraries
Special Class Authorization in Information and Digital Literacy: Visit the Commission on Teacher Credentialing
For more information on school libraries, contact Renée Ousley-Swank, School Library Technology Consultant, Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division, at 916-319-0449 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. See the CDE School Libraries Web page for more information.