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Partner in Learning: The School Library Media Center

You may remember it simply as the school library, the place you went between classes to read, do homework or conduct research for a term paper. But the school library of yesterday has given way to a new and exciting place--the school library media center--where information is available in a wide variety of formats, both print and electronic; where materials and activities are coordinated with classroom assignments; and where students learn information skills that will prepare them to live and work in the 21st century.

Today's school library media program plays an integral role in educating children for the future. It is where students learn to find, analyze, evaluate, interpret and communicate information and ideas--skills they will need as adults to live and work in an information-based society. In addition to serving as independent learning centers, the programs of many centers are directly integrated into the curriculum.

Source: Marilyn L. Miller and Marilyn L. Shontz, "the SLJ Spending Survey," School Library Journal, Oct. 2003.

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The Key to Student Achievement

Research has shown a direct correlation between high quality school library programs and student achievement. Some recent findings:

  • Spending for school library programs is the single most important variable related to better student achievement.1

  • Students in schools with well-equiped library centers staffed by professional school librarians perform better on assessments of reading comprehension and basic research skills.2

  • In studies in 14 states where library programs are better staffed, better stocked and better funded, academic achievement tends to be higher.3

  • Research by Keith Curry Lance shows a direct link between higher reading scores and collaboration between school librarians and teachers. Collaboration activities in which school librarians should participate include identifying useful materials and information for teachers; planning instruction cooperatively with teachers; providing in-service training to teachers; and teaching students both with classroom teachers and independently.4


  1. SchoolMatch.
  2. Ken Haycock, What Works, 1992.
  3. Scholastic Library Publishing, School Libraries Work!, 2004.
  4. Keith Curry Lance, "What Research Tells Us About the Importance of School Libraries," White House Conference on School Libraries, Institute of Museum and Library Services, June 2002, <>. Accessed 7 June 2002.
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The School Library Center: Quotable Facts

  • The highest achieving students come from schools with good school library centers.1
  • Libraries are at the heart of the learning experience for almost 44 million elementary, middle and high school students in schools with libraries.2
  • In the United States, sales of video games and other entertainment software ($7.3 billion in 20043) total more than nine times the amount spent on books, periodicals, audiovisual, and other materials for school libraries ($771.2 million in 20044).
  • Collections are often much out of date with little available funding for replacement.5
  • Funding for schools comes primarily from local property taxes, with some funding from state and federal governments. 2002 saw the first direct funding for school library materials in almost thirty years (Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Grants, U.S. Department of Education). On average, schools annually spend about $15.00 per student, less than the cost of one hardcover book, on print and non-print library resources.6
  • The median per pupil expenditure of local funds by school libraries for books in 2001-2002 was $8.87 for elementary schools, $8.60 for middle schools, and $9.55 for senior high schools.7
  • More than 98 percent of public school libraries and more than 90 percent of private school libraries provide Internet access. 8 Unfortunately, this fact is often used to justify decreased budgets for books and other materials.
  • School librarians across the country report that library funding for staff and materials is being dramatically cut back in financially troubled areas of the United States.
  • Elementary school libraries have all but disappeared in some school districts.9
  • As a rule, this does not mean that the rooms and shelves of books have disappeared, but there is no professional staff to assist teachers and students with learning. In some districts, school librarians are stretched among two, three or more schools.10


  1. Keith Curry Lance, Marcia J. Rodney and Christine Hamilton-Pennell, How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards, 2000.
  2. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Status of Public and Private School Library Media Centers in the United States: 1999-2000, March 2004.
  3. Entertainment Software Association, "Sales & Genre Data," <>. Accessed 3 August 2005.
  4. Book Industry Study Group, Inc., Book Industry Trends 2005, 2005.
  5. Virginia H. Matthews, "Kids Can’t Wait: Library Advocacy Now!" President’s Paper for Mary Somerville, ALA President, 1996–97, 1996.
  6. Marilyn L. Miller and Marilyn L. Shontz, "The SLJ Spending Survey," School Library Journal, Oct. 2003.
  7. Miller and Shontz.
  8. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, School Library Media Centers: Selected Results From the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), December 2004.
  9. Matthews.
  10. Matthews.
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Subpages (1): Partner with the Library