Are schools adequately preparing students for future challenges? Not if districts keep cutting school librarians’ jobs and slashing their budgets, says a recent position paper released by Rutgers University’s Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL).
Written by Director Ross Todd and Co-Director Carol Gordon, “School Libraries, Now More Than Ever: The CISSL Position Paper on Library Cuts” once again defends the need for media specialists and backs it up with five decades of research proving that school libraries help boost student achievement.
“CISSL takes the position that schools without school libraries cannot educate this generation in a way that prepares them for 21st century study and work, and being part of the increasingly digital, global society,” reads the 11-page paper. “Cutting school libraries is not the solution: School libraries, now more than ever, are integral to quality learning and teaching in 21st century schools.”
CISSL (pronounced sizzle), one of premier school library research centers in the nation, says the today’s challenges can’t be met by classroom working in isolation. “Instead, these challenges call for a collaborative effort to bring information and technology to the expertise of the classroom teacher.”
In short, schools without libraries are at risk of becoming irrelevant, the paper says. “Schools without libraries minimize the opportunities for students to become discriminating users in a diverse information landscape and to develop the intellectual scaffolds for learning deeply through information.”
Citing CISSL’s own research, along with studies by Keith Curry Lance, Stephen Krashen, and others, the position paper says that research consistently shows that there is a positive correlation between student achievement on standardized tests and school libraries. Specifically, there is a correlation between higher test scores and the size of the school library staff; whether there is a full-time/certified school librarians; the frequency of library-centered instruction; the size or currency of library collections; the presence of databases through a school library network; if there’s flexible scheduling; and the size of a school library budget.
"We hope school librarians, school library organizations, and educators will use the paper for evidence-based advocacy that presents the facts as they have evolved from the rich tradition of school library research," say Todd and Gordon, who also would like to see educators use the position paper's research-based practices to make school libraries models that clearly demonstrate the value of inquiry learning.
"We are hopeful that educational decisions will be made based on evidence, rather than expediency, so that schools can truly prepare students for the complex living and working environments of the 21st century," the researchers add. "We invite school librarians and educators to use the CISSL position paper to support school libraries in their schools as an essential ingredient of a 21st century education."