This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, June 17, 1992

June 17, 1992 - library media programs

Recently I got a newsletter from the Colorado State Library. One of the articles summarized the results of a two year study of 221 Colorado public schools. Here's the main point: the greatest single predictor of school test scores is the school media (library) program.

According to Keith Curry Lance, Director of the State Library Research Service, the library media center forecasts test scores "independently of all other school characteristics." In brief, the healthier the school library, the better the students perform.

So it makes sense to take a good look at local school media centers. Is our media program "healthy"? And how do you tell?

According to Lance, there are three primary factors. The first is the size of the library media center's collection. The more books, periodicals, and other materials are on hand, the better students perform on national tests.

The second factor is the number of outside materials brought into the school. Usually, those materials are what librarians call "interlibrary loans," meaning what one library borrows from another. Alternatively, these materials may be part of a rental collection. Another way to look at this factor is that the successful media center looks beyond its own resources, actively participating in state and national networks.

The third factor is the level of staffing. The more people available to run the library, the better it is able to serve its clientele: the students. While that seems fairly obvious, in some areas of the state librarians have been cut, and replaced with a single "aide," responsible for all school media operations. Some money is saved. But these schools pay the price in student performance.

Lance highlights several other findings. He states, "The instructional role of the library media specialist affects the library media collection and, in turn, student achievement." To put it another way, if librarians build school library collections that support the curriculum, and work with teachers to deliver it, the students learn more, and score higher. School librarians are essential partners in the educational process.

Lance notes that, "The degree of collaboration between library media specialist and teachers is affected by the ratio of teachers to pupils." If teachers and librarians are to work together, they have to have the time to do so. Administrators need to give teachers time to meet with librarians, and encourage them to work out cooperative projects.

"Library media expenditures affect access to the library media program and, in turn, student achievement." This one, too, is fairly obvious. As Lance elaborates, "Students who score higher on standardized tests tend to come from schools which spend more to promote access to learning resources."

That doesn't necessarily mean that good students only come from the schools that are already well-funded. It means that student "outputs"--their abilities and measurable achievement--are directly connected to the "input" of available library materials. Performance, it seems, is a demonstrable result of access to accumulated knowledge.

Our own school district, like most school districts around the state, is now engaged in some fairly tricky budget decisions. The findings of this important study may provide some significant guidance.

In the quest for educational excellence, let's not forget the importance of the library media program.

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