ERIC Identifier: ED470034
Publication Date: 2002-11-00
Author: Hartzell, Gary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse
Why Should Principals Support School Libraries? ERIC Digest.
Principals should support school libraries because it is in both their
students' and their own best interests to do so. Quality library media
programs can enhance student achievement, and informed, committed librarians
can help principals enhance their own administrative practice.
Improving student achievement is a vital principal interest, but many principals
overlook libraries and librarians as potentially powerful instruments in
that work because they have not been educated to the library's value and
library media research rarely appears in administrator publications (Wilson & Blake, 1993). Consequently, principals often leave library potential
untapped despite fifty years of research evidence that effective library
media programs-when led by active, involved librarians-can have a discernible
positive impact on student achievement regardless of student, school and
community demographics. The evidence is drawn from elementary, middle,
and high school studies reaching back to the 1950s. While the volume of
evidence alone is cumulatively persuasive, the most recent research is
especially powerful because its authors statistically controlled for demographic
differences among the schools they studied-a feature missing in the pre-1990
research. This is important because the evidence is largely derived from
statistical correlation studies, which cannot unequivocally prove causation.
Correlation research can, however, identify relationships and degrees of
association among variables. Cause-and-effect probability is strengthened
if similar correlations appear in multiple settings over time, which is
what occurs here.
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
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.
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.
Role expansion allows librarians to deliver additional important services,
such as research support for administrators. Freed from clerical duties
and aware of developing challenges and opportunities through their extra-library
involvement, librarians can draw on the Internet and subscription databases
to supply principals with up-to-the-minute information on any given topic
in planning sessions and prior to any board, faculty, parent, or business
partner meeting. Consistent access to such information can only result
in improved administrative decision-making. Librarians also can support
targeted faculty and student groups, including counselors (White &
Wilson, 1997), beginning teachers (Barron, 1998), and at-risk (Bluemel
& Taylor, 1991), latchkey (Feldman, 1990), and special needs youngsters
(Wesson & Keefe, 1995).
HOW CAN PRINCIPALS SUPPORT LIBRARIES?
Principals determine school library media program quality as much as librarians
do (Haycock, 1999; Oberg, 1995; Oberg, Hay, & Henri, 2000) because
they influence or control each of the eleven factors listed above. Collection
size, currency, service hours, staff size, and the employment of full-time
qualified librarians and adequate support staff all are tied to the principal's
budgeting decisions. As important as money is, however, it's not the
only measure of support. Equally important is the principal's role in creating
a school environment where student library use and faculty/librarian interaction
are valued and promoted (Campbell & Cordiero, 1996; Wilson & Lyders,
2001). For example, the librarian's opportunity to collaborate with teachers
depends on the school schedule, which the principal controls (McGregor,
2002; van Dusen & Tallman, 1994) and on how effectively principals
encourage collaboration among faculty members. Teachers collaborate more
with other teachers and with librarians when principals openly encourage
the practice in word and deed (Haycock, 1999; Oberg, 1997; Pounder, 1998;
Tallman & van Dusen, 1994a; Tallman & van Dusen, 1994b). How often
students use the library similarly follows how well principals encourage
faculty/librarian collaboration and their willingness to financially support
services beyond regular school hours. As instructional and curriculum leaders,
principals also powerfully affect the extent to which information literacy
instruction is embedded in the body of the school's curriculum and how
the school addresses meeting state standards in varying disciplines.
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
Principals interested in developing their libraries as instruments of school
improvement can ask their librarians to assemble a research collection
to share with board members, district administration, and faculty. Ireland's
(2001) regularly updated annotated bibliography of school library and academic
achievement research is a useful starting point. Several ERIC digests (Lance,
2001; Lowe, 2000; Russell, 2000, for example) also point to original sources.
A number of useful books (such as Lance & Loertscher, 2001; McQuillan,
1998; Wilson & Lyders, 2001) similarly identify and summarize research
Barron, D. (1998). In the beginning: Resources for school library media
specialists helping new teachers. School Library Media Activities Monthly,
15 (2), 46-50. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 577 807)
Bluemel, S., & Taylor, R. (1991). Current status of Texas
library media specialists' intervention with at-risk students. Paper presented
at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 335 046)
Campbell, B. S., & Cordiero, P. A. (1996). High school principal
roles and implementation themes for mainstreaming information literacy
instruction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, New York City. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
No. ED 399 667)
Feldman, S. (1990). The library and the latchkey. ERIC Digest. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED 331 512)
Haycock, K. (1999). Fostering collaboration, leadership, and information
literacy: Common behaviors of uncommon principals and faculties. NASSP
Bulletin, 83 (605), 82-87. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 585
Ireland, L. H. (2001). The impact of school library services on student
academic achievement: An annotated bibliography (5th ed.). (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 450 807)
Lance, K. C. (2001). Proof of the power: Recent research on the impact
of school library media programs on the academic achievement of U.S. public
school students. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED
456 861). Available online: http://ericit.org/digests/EDO-IR-2001-05.pdf
Lowe, C. A. (2000). The role of the school library media specialist
in the 21st century. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
ED 446 769). Available online: http://ericit.org/digests/EDO-IR-2000-08.shtml
McGregor, J. (2002). Flexible scheduling: How does a principal facilitate
implementation? School Libraries Worldwide, 8 (1), 71-84.
Oberg, D. (1995). Principal support: What does it mean to teacher librarians?
In Sustaining the vision: Selected papers from the annual conference of
the International Association of School Librarianship, Worcester, England
(pp. 17-25). Kalamazoo, MI: International Association of School Librarianship.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 400 834). Available online:
Oberg, D. (1997). The principal's role in empowering collaboration between
teacher-librarians and teachers: Research findings. Scan, 16 (3), 6-8.
Oberg, D., Hay, L., & Henri, J. (2000). The role of the principal
in an information literate school community: Cross-country comparisons
from an international research project. School Library Media Research,
Vol. 3. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 618 497). Available
online at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/SLMR/vol3/principal2/principal2.html
Russell, S. (2000). Teachers and librarians: Collaborative relationships.
ERIC Digest. (ERIC Reproduction Service No. ED 444 605). Available online:
Schon, I., Helmstadter, G. C., & Robinson, D. (1991). The role of
school library media specialists. School Library Media Quarterly, 19 (4),
228-233. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 433 168)
Smith, E. G. (2001). Texas school libraries: Standards, resources, services,
and students' performance. Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives
Commission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 455 850). Available
Tallman, J. I., & van Dusen, J. D. (1994a). Collaborative unit planning--schedule,
time and participants. School Library Media Quarterly, 23 (1), 33-37. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service EJ 493 343)
Tallman, J. I., & van Dusen, J. D. (1994b). External conditions
as they relate to curriculum consultation and information skills instruction
by school library media specialists. School Library Media Quarterly, 23
(1), 27-31. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 493 342)
van Dusen, J. D., & Tallman, J. I. (1994). The impact of scheduling
on curriculum consultation and information skills instruction. School Library
Media Quarterly, 23 (1), 17-25. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
EJ 493 341)
White, M., & Wilson, P. (1997). School counselors and teacher-librarians:
A necessary partnership for effective schools. Emergency Librarian, 25
(1), 8-13. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 552 633)
Wilson, P. J., & Blake, M. (1993). The missing piece: A school library
media center component in principal-preparation programs. Record in Educational
Leadership, 12 (2), 65-68.
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