A Nation Without School Libraries

Continuing our series “Shhhh… Libraries at Work!” today we focus on that dwindling institution, the school library.  Although hundreds of studies show that students who have access to a full-time, fully-staffed school library perform much better academically, school librarians across the country are getting the axe.

Librarian Shonda Brisco created the map below after reading postings to librarian listservs and seeing a pattern emerge that wasn’t pretty. She opened the map up to school librarians and as more and more began adding their positions to the map, she says it was alarming to see that students’ futures were in the balance.  Most administrators, teachers, and even parents don’t realize how school libraries have changed over the past twenty years.  Instead of thinking of the school librarian as an investment in student achievement, most see the school librarian as a relic from their childhood … a clerk who guards the books, maintains silence and doesn’t teach.  The reality is that most school librarians today have both a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree in Education, and at least 2+ years of teaching experience before they are even allowed into a Library Science program.

View A Nation without School Librarians in a larger map

Perhaps school districts would be less likely to cut librarian positions if they read up on the research done by Keith Curry Lance.  Lance studies the connection between student achievement and school libraries. He’s found that students perform better in schools with well-stocked, well-funded libraries, as well as certified school librarians who are actively involved in instruction.  Lance is the founder and long-time Director of the Library Research Service of the Colorado State Library and the University of Denver. You can read more about his work by clicking here.

We start today’s show off with a visit to a model, modern-day school library.  Gwyneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian,  has pulled out all the stops to make her library the coolest place at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, Maryland. And it’s hard NOT to feel excited about school libraries after spending a morning with her and the students at Murray Hill.  Jones has embraced technology— even (gasp) television – to get kids interested in reading and learning.  Forget the stereotype of a matronly, bunned, button-upped librarian trying to maintain silence and order —-  Jones likes her library a little rowdy! She speaks almost entirely in exclamation points, and her enthusiasm is liable to convert anyone to her cause.  That cause is helping parents, administrators, students and the general public recognize the important role that school libraries play in education.  In a time of nation-wide budget cuts for school libraries, Jones fights hard to insure that her library is the most enticing place at Murray Hill Middle School.


2 Replies to “A Nation Without School Libraries”

  1. You first must create a Google account (such as Gmail or other Google-like account—great resources, if you haven't yet signed up!) Then, go to the Google Maps site (A Nation Without School Librarians) and locate your city/ state / school on the map. If you have signed-in, you will find an EDIT button on the top left-hand side of the map. Click this button and you will be able to ADD a MARKER. You will be allowed to post a RED pin if your school does not have a school librarian—or a BLUE pin if your school librarian is serving 2 or more schools per week. (To change the colors of the marker, just double click the marker icon.)

    If you need more help, don't hesitate to contact me–my email is: (Shonda Brisco)


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