4 Reasons School Libraries Are Still Essential

As the digital age increasingly pervades the American lifestyle, some suggest that libraries will soon slip into obsolescence, going the way of portable CD players, PDAs, maps, and landlines. The fact is, however, that libraries are far from becoming irrelevant; students need them now more than ever, and here are four reasons why.

1. Libraries Offer More Than the Internet Can

Perhaps you’re wondering why students would need a librarian or access to a digital library when they could just as easily Google a research topic and find everything they need. The collections in an online library are vastly different from the material found on the Internet because the publishing process involves rigorous editorial checks and quantitative analysis.

In a limited-access database associated with a library, users can find books, newspapers, journals, magazines, and more. While students may find these databases through search engines, accessing them requires registration. At that point, students are no longer just on the Internet; they are in a library.

2. Libraries Help Raise Reading Scores

In a world obsessed with test scores as the lone metric of teacher and student success, libraries have consistently demonstrated the ability to raise reading scores on standardized tests. One study based on National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data examined the effects of widespread librarian and media specialist layoffs on student reading test scores from 2004 to 2009. In most districts, fewer librarians meant lower test scores or scores that did not rise as quickly.

On the other hand, 19 of the 26 states that added librarians saw an average rise of 2.2 percent in reading scores, with the study controlling for the addition of other educational staff.

3. Interactions with Libraries Boost Literacy Development

Research consistently demonstrates that libraries are indispensable because of their role in fostering the country’s literacy. One study by the Pennsylvania Library Association suggests that kids who participate in library preschool programs demonstrate more pre-reading skills and emergent literacy behaviors than their peers.

Likewise, library reading programs in the summer — a time when students’ skills typically decline — successfully encourage children to spend more time with books, thereby facilitating reading achievement.

4. Librarians Collaborate with Teachers to Enhance Curricula

School librarians and teachers make a formidable instructional team, joining their pedagogical and technological expertise to meet student needs. When teachers collaborate with librarians, they are three times as likely to rate their literacy teaching as excellent. Similarly, the more time librarians spend cooperating with classroom teachers, the more they promote information literacy independently, and the more in-service they provide teachers, the higher student test scores rise.

No matter what digital champions may say about libraries, they are not now, nor will they ever be, relics. The presence of libraries and librarians has an undeniably positive effect on literacy and reading test scores. Librarians can work with teachers to enrich curriculum with computers, books, online resources, and more. Libraries are here to stay, simply because society can’t afford to lose them.

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