School libraries and learning – the research

Academics, library associations, government agencies and others around the world are publishing very interesting and useful research about school libraries, learning and pedagogical models. Research also shows the the significant difference effective libraries can make to student learning outcomes.

Contents

Effective school library programmes
New Zealand research - school libraries and learning
International research - school libraries and learning
Educational trends and research into learning

Effective school library programmes

Several common, contributing factors to student learning and achievement occur in effective school library programmes:

  • flexible scheduling
  • effective collaboration between library staff and teachers
  • appropriate library staffing levels and opening hours
  • an up-to-date library collection
  • access via library ICT to online resources
  • being well funded
  • being a well-used library.

Key activities contributing to effective library programmes include:

  • classes and/or smaller groups of students visiting the library on a flexibly scheduled basis (ie as dictated by curricular and instructional needs rather than a fixed schedule)
  • teachers accompanying classes to the library
  • teachers inviting librarians to their classrooms
  • librarians and teachers collaborating on instruction
  • librarians helping teachers learn new information skills
  • principals appointing librarians to key school committees
  • principals and librarians meeting regularly
  • principals addressing collaboration with the librarian in teacher evaluations.

Read Evidence and Learning Outcomes

New Zealand research - school libraries and learning

Unlocking the potential of school libraries: What actions are New Zealand primary school principals taking to integrate the school library in information literacy initiatives
This study investigates the actions of New Zealand primary school principals to integrate the school library in information literacy initiatives.

  • Elisabeth Mei-Xing Nan. MLIS thesis (VUW, 2012). Unlocking the potential of school libraries: what actions are New Zealand primary school principals taking to integrate the school library in information literacy initiatives.

National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP)
NEMP’s research follows a four-yearly cycle, focusing on students at Year 4 and Year 8 levels in New Zealand primary schools. The Information Skills: library and research last took place in 2009. The findings of the NEMP Probe studies provide a useful background to the learning processes of New Zealand primary school students.

Student Learning in the Information Landscape Report (2005)
The New Zealand Education Review Office (ERO) conducted this evaluation to determine how effectively New Zealand schools were supporting students’ learning in the information landscape. The study found that primary and secondary schools were all at various stages of development in supporting student learning in the information landscape. And, overall, there was wide variability of development and effectiveness within schools across all the areas evaluated.

NZ school librarians, technology leaders? (PDF)

Susan Clephane's thesis focuses on views of New Zealand secondary school librarians around their role as technology leaders and what helps or hinders their position as technology managers.

  • Clephane, Susan (2013) NZ school librarians, technology leaders? School of Information Management, Victoria University

International research - school libraries and learning

Effective school libraries: evidence of impact on student achievement (PDF) (2010)

  • Barrett, Lynn. (2010): Effective school libraries: evidence of impact on student achievement School Librarian 58,3 (2010), pp.136-139.

Future learning and school libraries. Australian School Library Association (2013) (PDF)
This paper provides information to support decision making for future focused learning in Australian school libraries and seeks to enhance understanding of international trends for Australian schooling. It also argues for rigorous evaluation and explores the contribution school libraries and teacher librarians can make to student learning.

Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement
This Pennsylvania study focused on the impact of library programmes on selected student groups that tend to experience achievement gaps. The benefits associated with larger staffing and collections and increased access to technology, databases, and to the library itself were found to be proportionally greater for students who are poor, black, Hispanic, and disabled. This research has significant implications for New Zealand’s goal to raise achievement for priority learners.

  • Latchel, Debra E., & Lance, Keith Curry (2013) Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement. Source: School Library Journal.

The South Carolina Impact Study- How Libraries Transform Schools by Contributing to Student Success: Evidence Linking South Carolina School Libraries and PASS & HSAP Results (2013)

This study, which documented the contribution of school librarians to student success, used test results for three ELA standards—literary text, informational text, and research and two writing standards—content and organisation. The school library characteristics of staffing, expenditure, collaboration with classroom teachers to help students develop information literacy skills, circulation numbers, collection size, access to computers, and number of times classes visited the school library each week, were associated with these measures of student achievement. Links between these measures couldn't be explained away by demographics such as gender or race/ethnicity.

“Our librarians are leaders in our district. … It is so wonderful to see (them) share their passion for reading and learning not only with our students, but with our teachers! No longer are the libraries in our district a place where our students go to quietly pull a dusty encyclopedia off of the shelf. .. (they) serve as the hub of the school. … are exciting places, and our students are benefiting from it.” District Director of planning and development

The New Jersey School Library Survey (2011)
The New Jersey study sought to understand the contribution of quality school libraries to education in New Jersey. It focuses on the dynamics that inhibit and enable school libraries to contribute significantly to education. The research includes detailed recommendations for developing a sustained and long term programme of capacity building and evidence-based continuous improvement of school libraries in New Jersey.

  • Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A. Lu, Y, (2011) (PDF) The New Jersey School Library Survey. International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL).

Something to shout about: New research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores (2011)
A survey across 26 US states shows that fewer librarians translated to lower performance - or a slower rise in scores - on standardised tests.

  • Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2011). Something to shout about: New research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores. School Library Journal, 57, 28-33

Informational brief: impact of school libraries on student achievement (PDF) (2011)
A survey of US and Canadian research between 1993 and 2011 collectively known as the “School Library Impact Studies” highlights the relationship between school libraries and student achievement. It looks at demographic data, technology, budgeting, staffing, professional development, and collaboration. The survey concludes that school libraries have a positive impact on student outcomes, as they teach 21st century skills, promote achievement, and play a major role in closing the achievement gap.

  • Informational brief: impact of school libraries on student achievement (2011). Retreived from New York Comprehensive Centre

School Librarians Continue to Help Students Achieve Standards: The Third Colorado Study (PDF) (2010)
This study “examines the impact of libraries and librarians on low-performing as well as high-performing students, particularly relevant to those concerned about closing the achievement gap”. The focus of the research is on the reading scores for students in years 3-5 (equivalent to New Zealand years 4-6).

The findings are consistent with previous Colorado studies and many other studies that have been conducted internationally over the past 10 years. Schools with at least one full time qualified librarian averaged better performance (in reading) than in schools with less than one FTE qualified librarian. Further, the findings show that in schools with full time librarians 4% more students achieved higher results at the top end of the scoring and significantly, 3% fewer students fell below the unsatisfactory mark.

  • B H Francis, B H. Lance, K C. Lietzau, Z  School Librarians Continue to Help Students Achieve Standards: The Third Colorado Study (2010)

School Libraries 21C: the conversation begins (2010)
This article summarises the findings and recommendations published in the School libraries 21C Discussion Report, commissioned by the School Libraries and Information Literacy unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training. The research highlighted one concern: "weak elucidation of specific outcomes as a result of school library initiatives. Typically these centred around claims related to mastery of information literacy competencies and reading enrichment, without any evidence to back up the claims." (p.34) At the end are a number of key recommendations, well worth reading.

  • Hay, Lyn. Todd. School Libraries 21C: the conversation begins (2010) SCAN, v29:1, Feb 2010, p.30-42

Exemplary school libraries in Ontario (2009)
This research study of eight Canadian elementary schools was designed to identify the key factors that these exemplary school libraries have in common.

  • Queen’s University and People for Education, Exemplary school libraries in Ontario (2009), Retrieved from People for Education.

Powerful Libraries make Powerful Learners: the Illinois study (2005)
As in a number of similar studies in the US, this study identified factors that had a positive impact on student achievement.

  • Keith Curry Lance, Marcia J. Rodney and Christine Hamilton-Pennell: Powerful Libraries make Powerful Learners: the Illinois study (2005)

School Libraries Work (2008)
"We live in the Information Age, and because we do, information literacy has become universal currency - the single common denominator required for success at any stage of life. This is especially true for our children who, now more than ever, must be equipped to access, use and evaluate information competently in both print and electronic formats...This research foundation paper, updated from the 2006 edition...brings together position statements from a variety of organisations and findings from nearly two decades of empirical studies that cite the measurable impact school libraries and library media specialists have on student achievement."

  • School Libraries Work. 3rd ed. 2008. Scholastic. Research Foundation Paper

Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: a Review of the Research (2003)
The review focuses on studies conducted since 1990, which show that school libraries can have a positive impact on student achievement - whether such achievement is measured in terms of reading scores, literacy or learning more generally.

  • Lonsdale, M. Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: a Review of the Research (2003). Report for the Australian School Library Association, Australian Council for Educational Research.

Do school libraries make a difference? Some considerations on investigating school library impact in the United Kingdom (2012)

  • Gildersleeves, Lucy. Do school libraries make a difference? Some considerations on investigating school library impact in the United Kingdom. Library Management 33,6/7 (2012), pp.403 – 413.

School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement (PDF) (2012)

  • Lance, Keith Curry, Hofschire, Linda (2012). School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 - 2011. Teacher Librarian. Oct. 2012, Vol. 39 Issue 6, p.15-19. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 2, 2013

SCHOOL LIBRARIANS: Vital Educational Leaders (2010)

  • Martineau P. (February 2010) SCHOOL LIBRARIANS: Vital Educational Leaders. Education Digest [serial online]. 75(6): 4. Available from: EPIC MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 14, 2010.

School Library Impact Studies
Offers a comprehensive list of research studies from the US.

Educational trends and research into learning

New Zealand and Australian research

Core Educations ten trends (NZ)
Core Education’s prognosis on how digital technologies are influencing and making an impact upon education. CORE has identified how each trend will impact the way early childhood centres, schools and tertiary institutions in New Zealand embrace and adopt digital technologies and practices in the coming year.

Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy: report of the Education and Science Committee (2012) (NZ)
This inquiry investigates and provides recommendations on the best structures, tools, and communities in rural and urban New Zealand to help students and educators attain the knowledge and skills, such as digital literacy, the 21st century demands.

Australian School Library Survey 2013: Findings from Softlink’s 2013 Australian School Library Survey into school library budgets, staffing, and literacy levels in Australian school libraries (PDF)
In 2013 Softlink conducted the fourth annual Australian School Library Survey. This paper outlines the findings from the survey into Australian school library budgets, qualified staffing levels and NAPLAN literacy results. The outcomes again show the correlation between school library budgets and literacy levels, an issue facing schools and their libraries worldwide.

School libraries 21C: Report of the School libraries 21C online discussion, commissioned by School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit, Curriculum K–12 Directorate, NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) (AU)
This report contains responses from the School Libraries 21C online discussion exploring the status and future of school libraries in New South Wales government schools. Ross Todd and Lyn Hay set up the forum as part of the School Libraries Futures Project with a view to identifying directions, challenges, and support for continuous improvement.

Together with findings and commentary based on blog responses the report has a set of key recommendations. These are aimed at providing individuals, school communities, and the system with a way forward in envisioning the future for school libraries within the NSW Department of Education and Training.

International research and trends

IFLA Trend Report (2013)
Spanning access to education, privacy, civic engagement and transformation, the IFLA Trend Report aims to map broad societal changes occurring, or likely to occur in the information environment. The Report reflects a year’s consultation with experts and stakeholders representing different disciplines from around the world and explores the question:

“How will we access, use and benefit from information in an increasingly hyper-connected world?"

The authors identify five top level trends they believe will play a key role in shaping our future information ecosystem:

  1. New Technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information
  2. Online education will democratise and disrupt global learning
  3. The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined
  4. Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups
  5. The global information environment will be transformed by new technologies

NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 edition (US) (PDF)
This fifth edition in the annual K-12 series of the NMC Horizon Project examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in pre-college education. Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years. Along with key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period.

PEW Internet and American Life Project: Libraries (US)
Research and innovative thinking exploring libraries, reading and literacy in the digital age.

School libraries: a plan for improvement. National Literacy Trust (2011) (UK) (PDF)
This report analyses why school libraries fail to fulfil their potential in the education sector and how to increase their contribution in the challenging times ahead.

School libraries: what’s now, what’s next, what’s yet to come (2011)
A crowdsourced collection of over 100 essays from around the world about trends in school libraries written by librarians, teachers, publishers, and library vendors. Edited by Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton.

Together for learning: school libraries and the emergence of the learning commons. Ontario School Library Association (2010) (CA)
“The relationship between new communication tools and our students is what schools and libraries need to absorb and embrace. The Learning Commons provides direction in the face of this great change. The Learning Commons provides schools, school libraries, educators and students with the increased flexibility and breadth of control needed for the challenges ahead”