Study Finds PA’s School Librarians Spread Thin
Update: Streaming video of the hearing discussed in the post below is available online.
Update: A copy of the full text report presented at the hearing is embedded at the bottom of this post.
About 73 percent of the commonwealth’s public schools have taken part in a study that reveals school libraries are hurting for funding and resources.
Mary K. Biagini, a University of Pittsburgh professor who compiled and analyzed the responses to the State Board of Education survey of Pennsylvania’s public school libraries, said 95 percent of responding schools have a library, but only 44 percent of their librarians are full time.
“Many of the librarians are serving multiple schools within their district, so students do not have access to the librarian, and sometimes the library throughout their school days,” said Biagini.
Eileen Kern, president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, told state House lawmakers Wednesday that her group did its own follow-up study during the 2011-2012 school year (the year following the state survey mandated by House legislation passed in 2010).
“We found that an additional 198 schools eliminated or reduced their services from the previous year,” said Kern. “This amounts to about 100 thousand students with limited access to their library programs over the previous year.”
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See Also: Lawmakers hear about school library woes (via PhillyBurbs.com)
Mary Kay Biagini, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, presented some of the findings. They included:
- having certified school librarians and aides emerged as the most critical component of the library program at all levels to increase student academic performance
- while 1,972 schools had librarians, only 711 worked full time
- two-thirds of librarians don’t have a designated time to plan with teachers
- and students in schools where libraries receive higher funding for resources score higher on PSSA reading and writing tests
- “Students are shortchanged,” Biagini said. “Some librarians cover 10 buildings.”
While state guidelines established in 2011 that schools should spend $41 per pupil for elementary schools; $45 for middle schools and $50 for high schools, a study found that 60 percent of schools provide funding of less than $15 per student for library resources. Only 3 percent of schools have funding above $41.
That same study showed that 128 Pennsylvania public schools don’t have a library, including 103 in Philadelphia.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.