The loss of media specialists is especially disconcerting in light of a recent study–the Public Library Association’s “2007 Public Library Data Service Statistical Report”–which found that nearly 70 percent of students ages eight to 18 use their school library more than once a month, and 60 percent also sought out materials for personal use from their school library.
“Students and their families have [fewer] economic resources to purchase what they need for school projects,” said Greco. “The school library allows students equal access, regardless of their personal economic situation, to complete academic tasks.”
Nickel agreed: “Students need to learn how to use and evaluate the internet as a resource. For some students, school is the only place they have internet access [combined] with [a] structure for learning [its] appropriate use. The media center becomes a level playing field for access and use of this resource.”
AASL believes eliminating the positions of media specialists who are certified and trained in 21st-century literacy and technology skills will cost school districts more in terms of academic achievement over time.
“Cutting back on the district’s library media program at a time when students need more help with literacy, not less, and more instruction in dealing with the effective use of information, could cause a serious effect on students’ achievement,” said the organization.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s “America’s Public School Libraries: 1953-2000,” public schools with library media programs decreased from 96 percent in 1993-94 to 92 percent in 1999-2000, and library expenditures per pupil, excluding salaries, increased only slightly during the same period, from $15.60 to $15.70–not enough to help implement 21st-century learning strategies.
AASL recently started a longitudinal study called “School Libraries Count,” and library media expenditures are one area the group is tracking. AASL hopes the study will produce valuable information to help support school library media programs.
“Information fluency is increasingly important; if you can’t access and assess information, you lose,” said Laura Pearle, an independent school librarian from the Hackley School in New York. “Economic downturns don’t last, and revamping a program will take more money than it would to keep it going.”
American Association of School Librarians
AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner
Public Library Association
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