Publication Date: 2002-11-00
Author: Hartzell, Gary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Why Should Principals Support School Libraries? ERIC Digest.
While the volume of evidence alone is cumulatively persuasive, the most recent research--especially the recent work by Lance and his associates in Colorado (Lance, 2001; Lance & Loertscher, 2001) and by Smith (2001) in Texas--is particularly powerful because its authors statistically controlled for demographic differences among the schools they studied, a feature missing from the pre-1990 research. Their research identifies statistically significant positive correlation's between student achievement levels on various types of standardized measures and library media services and school librarians displaying the following eleven characteristics:
Media Services Program Characteristics
1. Large, varied, and up-to-date collections.
2. One or more full-time qualified librarians.
3. Library support staff large enough and skilled enough to free certificated librarians from routine clerical duties and to allow them time to teach, to collaborate with teachers, and to engage in leadership activities outside of the library.
4. Free student and teacher access to the library during and beyond school hours.
5. Networked computers providing student and faculty access to catalogs, licensed databases, and the Internet.
6. Budget adequate to support the previous five items.
7. Staff commitment to teaching.
8. Individual student library use well beyond scheduled class visitations.
9. Information literacy instruction integrated into the curriculum. Librarian Characteristics
10. Extensively collaborates with teachers.
11. Extensively involved in curricular, organizational, and operational school leadership activities outside of the library.
Of particular interest is the recent evidence (Lance & Loertscher, 2001) that the positive effects of library media programs increase when the librarian's traditional role is expanded to include involvement well beyond the library. One great barrier to full library utilization is a lack of faculty awareness of what the library and librarian have to offer. Exposure to and experience working with effective school librarians is a first step in correcting that deficiency.
HOW CAN PRINCIPALS SUPPORT LIBRARIES?
Perhaps nowhere is a principal's power to affect library media programs more apparent than in the extent to which the librarian has the opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity outside the library itself. Principals structure and populate the committees, teams, and task forces that recommend and implement school policy and practice changes. Principals decide who will have the opportunity to take part in boundary-spanning activities to interact with district-level committees, parent groups, business partners, and community organizations (Hoy & Miskel, 2001; Morris, Crowson, Porter-Gehie, & Hurwitz, 1984). An active and committed librarian may be eager to engage in these activities, but will not have the chance unless the principal wills it. This is a particularly important point because many principals do not perceive librarians as potential faculty leaders (Schon, Helmstadter, & Robinson, 1991).
The school library media elements that foster increased student achievement are interactive and their effects are cumulative. Even under optimum conditions, none is sufficient in itself. External leadership opportunities won't increase faculty interaction opportunities if the library is impoverished. The most extensive collection will not produce maximal achievement results unless qualified librarians and support staff are available to help students and teachers use it. Enrichment services to targeted groups and administrative research support cannot be delivered if librarians are saddled with clerical duties. Principal support must be broad-based and multi-dimensional.
Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that problems cannot be solved using the same thinking that created them. How then can principals best support their libraries?
* Educate themselves to library and librarian potential.
* Reconfigure the librarian's job to maximize realization of that potential.
* Hire high-quality, forward-looking, energetic, innovative librarians.
* Provide budget resources adequate to new roles and demands.
* Effectively and accurately evaluate both the program and the librarian on jointly developed criteria recognizing library media work as simultaneously integral to instructional quality but distinct from classroom teaching itself.
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