Research into the impact of an effective school library on student learning is evidence based. While there is not a lot of NZ research, international studies show libraries can make a significant difference to student learning outcomes.
Unlocking the potential of school libraries: what actions are New Zealand primary school principals taking to integrate the school library in information literacy initiatives by Elisabeth Mei-Xing Nan. MLIS thesis (VUW, 2012). This study investigates the actions of New Zealand primary school principals to integrate the school library in information literacy initiatives.
NEMP: New Zealand’s National Education Monitoring Project. Their 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.
See also Evidence and Learning Outcomes, under School Libraries.
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 (2013): This Pennsylvania study focussed 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.
The New Jersey School Library Survey (2011) (PDF): 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.
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: A survey across 26 US states shows that fewer librarians translated to lower performance - or a slower rise in scores - on standardised tests.
Informational brief: impact of school libraries on student achievement. New York Comprehensive Centre (2011) (PDF): 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.
School Librarians Continue to Help Students Achieve Standards: The Third Colorado Study (2010) (PDF): 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.
School Libraries 21C: the conversation begins (PDF), by Lyn Hay and Ross Todd. SCAN, v29:1, Feb 2010, p.30-42: 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.
Exemplary school libraries in Ontario (2009) (PDF): This research study of eight Canadian elementary schools was designed to identify the key factors that these exemplary school libraries have in common.
Powerful Libraries make Powerful Learners: the Illinois study (2005) by Keith Curry Lance, Marcia J. Rodney and Christine Hamilton-Pennell: As in a number of similar studies in the US, this study identified factors that had a positive impact on student achievement.
School Libraries Work. 3rd ed. 2008. Scholastic. Research Foundation Paper (PDF): "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."
What makes a good school library?: Booktrust (UK) believes "effective school libraries provide the most socially inclusive means of giving all children the opportunity to enjoy books. Yet there is no statutory requirement for schools in England to have a library, and anecdotal evidence suggests that provision of books in schools is patchy." Their 2008 study into what makes a good primary school library includes case studies of six state primary school libraries, which are effective despite challenges such as limited space and tight budgets.
Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: a Review of the Research, 2003. Report for the Australian School Library Association by Michele Lonsdale, Australian Council for Educational 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.