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, February 24, 1993

February 24, 1993 - DC Media Center annual report

Sometime back, I reported on a study that found the most reliable predictor of academic success (grades K-12) was a well-funded school library or media center. That surprised some people, especially those grown-ups who used to get sent to the school library as punishment.

As for me, there was no punishment I bore more gladly.

Fortunately, today's school media center has a much better image than in the old days. In the most successful schools, the media center is a full and active partner in the teaching and learning process. Rather than being a sort of mini-public library, the vital school media center is a collection of materials and technologies that directly supports the curriculum.

I recently had the opportunity to review the annual report of Douglas County's Media Program, as prepared by Carol Paul, District Media Coordinator. It tells an impressive story.

In the K-6 level, the number of items checked out went up by 4,825 items -- a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year. In grades 7 through 12, the percentage increase was 1.8 -- 300 items more than last year. The collection of the District Media Center (located in Castle Rock) rose by 277 items, representing a jump of 67 percent.

As Carol notes, "In short, the circulation statistics reflect a consistent increase in use K-12 and a substantial increase in the use of District Media Center materials."

I was very interested in the pattern of use at the various grade levels. Based on a statistical count conducted over a 2 week period in November, Carol extrapolated some annual figures.

She found that in grades K-6, print materials (books, magazines, pamphlets, etc.) were used far more than non-print materials (filmstrips, videos, computer software). In fact, slightly over 96 percent of the materials used by students were print-based.

At the 7-12 grade level, however, the numbers are slightly different. Non-print materials make up a little over 17 percent of the circulation activity -- filmstrips, videos, and "miscellaneous" (software, records, books with tapes) accounting for most of the difference.

Another interesting difference is reflected in the use of non-fiction versus fiction. In grades K-6, the children checked out over twice as much fiction as non-fiction. But in grades 7- 12, things had swung around. Non-fiction accounted for almost 60 percent of the circulation.

Carol calculated another interesting figure. In grades K-6, the average number of items checked out per student was just under 9. For the older students, it dropped to just under 3.

All of this makes good sense, of course. You would expect younger children to spend more of their time soaking up good stories, although it's clear that they're finding some non-fiction of interest, too. And as children grow older, they naturally spend more time using non-fiction materials to work on school projects. And it is well known in the library profession that even avid readers tend to slack off in their teen years.

Carol also details the number of visits by students to the school media centers: a 66.2 percent increase at the K-6 level (or 12,507 students); a 95.3 percent increase at the 7-12 level (or 8,898 students); and various class visits.

At Douglas County, it would appear that the teachers and students have come to recognize the great value of a lively school media program, serving, as Carol puts it, "as the focal points of our instructional programs."

Congratulations, Douglas County Media Center staff, on a very good year!

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