Press: The DPLA and School Libraries: Partners Focused on Digital-Era Learners

Posted by Vicky Zeamer on January 22, 2013 in Press.

This is the third in an occasional series of articles from John Palfrey that will explore issues surrounding the efforts to launch and expand the Digital Public Library of America. Below is an excerpt:

In the most successful public and independent schools,librarians work as teachers in partnership with those based in the classroom. Together, these teachers prepare our kids for lifelong learning, from their school-age years and on into college and the workforce. Librarians and classroom teachers each bring unique and essential skill sets to the task of enabling students to construct knowledge. It is particularly troubling that many school libraries are under threat today, as education budgets tighten and library-based teachers are too often deemed inessential.

“While the threat to school libraries is not new, it has intensified in recent years. Budget cuts have eliminated support for many school library programs and the librarians who work in them. The Obama Administration, strong on support for education as a general rule, has failed to champion school libraries and instead cut federal funding. The President’s 2013 budget proposal cut $28.6 million that was earmarked for literacy programs under the Fund for Improvement of Education.

“These types of cuts to school libraries are short-sighted. Data suggest a direct correlation between schools with strong libraries and academic performance. Students in programs with more school librarians and extended library hours scored 8.4 percent to 21.8 percent higher on English tests and 11.7 percent to 16.7 percent higher on reading tests, compared to students in schools where libraries had fewer resources, according to a study by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“In an era of ubiquitous information, the need for school librarians is greater than ever. Critical thinking requires students to find information to fuel their inquiries. The same goes for the creative forms of learning that many of the best teachers seek to inspire in their students. There are far more sources of information for students to choose from, but students are rarely taught how to develop a good process for making wise decisions about information quality. Students need to learn digital literacy skills to be able to identify credible information in a more distributed, complicated world rich with data. Classroom teachers who were trained in an earlier era sometimes struggle with navigating the digital world of information and can lack the skills and confidence to teach kids well. The task of determining (and improving) information quality is core to the library profession. This educational challenge is one that school librarians are exceptionally well prepared to meet on behalf of our students. It is precisely the wrong moment to be cutting school librarians out of schools.

“If we build it well, a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) can help school libraries meet the information needs of students even as local budgets shrink. The DPLA can provide important resources to the partnership between library-based and classroom-based teachers, especially during this period of rapid change in education, in libraries, in technology, and in the world of information generally.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE: From John Palfrey’s article for the Library Journal’s The Digital Shift, The DPLA and School Libraries: Partners Focused on Digital-Era Learners

Palfrey is President of the DPLA Board of Directors, and will be serving as a periodic columnist for Library Journal to discuss the “issues surrounding the efforts to launch and expand the Digital Public Library of America.”

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