Center for American Progress Report: Investing in School Libraries and Librarians To Improve Literacy Outcomes

Libraries and librarians not only spark a love of learning; they are crucial to reversing low reading assessment scores across the country.

Since a shocking plunge in math and reading scores on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), educators, administrators, and policymakers have grappled with how to address learning challenges following the pandemic.1 One factor that has largely escaped notice, however, is the role school libraries and librarians play in academic performance. School libraries are too often treated as a luxury rather than an essential part of the public education system with a proven impact on learning. It is time to turn around years of disinvestment in school libraries and librarians, taking steps to measure and report school library quality within holistic systems of accountability that can reflect the resources—or lack thereof—that underpin student outcomes and thus test scores.

More than 50 years of research across more than 60 studies show that students with access to well-resourced school libraries with certified librarians consistently perform better academically and score higher on standardized assessments.2 While underserved students see even bigger gains from robust library services, they are less likely to have access to these resources. Meanwhile, information literacy is becoming increasingly important in an age of misinformation and disinformation. Yet since 2000, there has been a nearly 20 percent drop in school librarian positions, which translates to 10,000 fewer full-time school librarians across the country.3 While more than 90 percent of schools in the United States have school libraries, only about 60 percent have full-time librarians, according to a 2019 report from the American Library Association (ALA).4

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