Monday, August 8, 2011

PL 38/11: School library statistics

Filed under: education, IFLA, statistics — Tags: — plinius @ 10:48 am

Norwegian school libraries are poorly served by available statistics.

As an example of what can be done in this area, I recommend Lesley Farmer’s IFLA paper – Researching Data sets to Develop State Library Standards. Here is the abstract:

California is developing school library student outcome standards and quantitative standards for library program factors that provide the conditions for students to meet library outcomes.

In an effort to make those program standards empirically based, the researchers analyzed three 2008-9 reputable data sets: California’s school library data set, AASL’s School Libraries Count data set, and a national School Library Journal data set. Standards were clustered into two sections: baseline factors, and statistical standards for resources.

Findings revealed that school libraries that met the “baseline” standard were significantly different from those libraries that did not meet those standards. Once the baseline set of factors were determined, descriptive and correlational statistics were applied to the data sets, with the resultant figures based on the average figures supplied by those libraries that met the baseline factors.

The paper is useful as a conceptual model for other countries. In order to get action, somebody must push for action. The United States has its American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

  • Their Guidelines for School Library Media Programs focuses on developing a flexible learning environment so students can become competent in 21 century learning skills.
  • AASL, and many states, have defined what learning skills are under the prevue of the teacher librarian
  • AASL and states have also created standards for 21st century learning: what students should know and be able to do.
  • The AASL standards include: inquiry and critical thinking, application and creation of knowledge, ethical and productive sharing, and the pursuit of personal and esthetic growth.
  • Each standard is composed of skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies.
  • For those standards to be implemented, teacher librarians are responsible for providing the optimal conditions for learning.
  • Not only are there standards for students, but there are standards for library media programs.
  • These standards describe the resources and the services that the library can provide, the supports and interventions that facilitate student learning.
  • In March, 2009, the California legislation permitted the state Department of Education to develop library standards. The action was possible due to the close reading of the state Education Code [NB!] by State School Library Consultant Barbara Jeffus and Instructional Services Coordinator Susan Martimo.
  • They quickly recruited a steering committee to develop student learning outcome standards and school library media program (SLMP) standards.
  • The SLMP standards were predicated on the assumption that certain resources needed to be in place for student library standards to be addressed effectively.
  • Many other states have SLMP standards, but the basis for their factors is not as clear.
  • California wanted to make sure that their standards were data-based, which is now easier to derive since dozens of studies have demonstrated that staffing, collections, services, and facilities impact student learning.

AASL emphasizes the role of the full-time teacher librarian.

  • The single most important variable is the value-added service of a full-time credentialed teacher librarian. Over twenty separate studies with a wide variety of populations attest to this vital factor, noting TL’s positive impact on overall student academic achievement, reading performance, information competency and study skills
  • Such TLs should not have non-library teaching duties, although they do need to instruct in the library (Houston, 2008).
  • Farmer’s 2003 literature review identified several specific characteristics of effective TL, such as technological competency, communication skills, and trustworthiness.
  • The other significant aspect of staffing is the value-added service of a full-time paraprofessional librarian as a team member alongside a full-time TL

I am not surprised to hear that the school community usually thinks of the school library in terms of its collection. I am sure Farmer is right when he says that this variable has to be parsed into several aspects in order to be meaningful.

  • For instance, the collection should support the curriculum
  • The larger the collection, the better… with the proviso that materials are current …  and diverse.

The same applies to Norwegian public libraries. We subsidize Norwegian literature in an interesting way. All novels, poetry collections, short story collections and plays that have been accepted by a publisher are automatically bought by the state abd distributed to all public libraries as a gift. Libraries are allowed to opt out, but if they are in, they are not allowed to pick and choose. Every volume most be nicely catalogued and kept on the shelves for at least five years.

In small municipalities, half the accessions tend to come through this mechanism. This means that small libraries may be force-fed with books of limited value to the local community.  There are stories of secret basement collections that have not been catalogued (takes time) and not put on open shelves (takes space). Whether this is true, I do not know. Since there are no inspections, we have no evidence one way or the other.

I suspect both cases represent a general rule: collection size is a poor predictor of quality per se. A library with ten thousand recent and relevant books in sturdy bindings provides more value than a library with thirty thousand old and tattery volumes. We can not abolish collection size as a variable over night, but we can add variables that give a more realistic picture. Fo instance:

  • The number of books published during the last ten years
  • The number of accessions during the last ten years


  1. […] PL 38/11: School library statistics. Good research with practical results in California […]

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  2. […] PL 38/11: School library statistics. Good research with practical results in California […]

    Pingback by PL 43/11 « Plinius — Tuesday, August 16, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  3. […] PL 38/11: School library statistics. Good research with practical results in California […]

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