Survey Shows RI School Libraries are Underfunded, Understaffed

RHODE ISLAND - MAY 2017 - April was proclaimed School Library Month by Governor Gina Raimondo, but when it comes to funding and support from their districts, Rhode Island school librarians don’t have a lot to celebrate. 

Barrington, Chariho, East Greenwich, and South Kingstown have proposed cutting positions for the 2017-2018 school year. As for the current school year, a survey last month by School Librarians of Rhode Island found the following:

  • 20% of schools have no district book budget, up from 18% last year. Of those that do receive money from their districts, 50% received less this year than last. Twice as many librarians as last year had reduced budgets.
  • If schools are relying on digital library resources, 38% do not have access to enough devices for a full class of students.
  • 80% of elementary librarians have fixed schedules, leaving little time for collaboration with classroom teachers or enrichment classes. Many of these librarians split their time between two or more schools, attempting to manage multiple collections without adequate time to do so.
  • 1/3 of the school libraries in Rhode Island are used for PARCC testing, which means that library teachers are displaced for classes, and students do not have access to materials during that time.

Research has shown a correlation between school library programs and student achievement. The most recent study results, released in 2015, link higher standardized test scores with fully staffed and well-funded libraries. As School Library Journal notes, “The links could not be explained away by demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and subsidized or free meals eligibility.” The Scholastic School Libraries Work! online publication compiles the results of studies for twenty years all over the United States.

“The benefits of school libraries eclipse picking out a good book or completing research projects,” says Sarah Hunicke of Portsmouth High School, SLRI president. “Time and again the research has shown that schools with effective library programs result in higher academic achievement, an added value that every school committee should recognize and support.”

About SLRI - - @SchLibRI

The purpose of School Librarians of Rhode Island shall be to (1) promote the improvement of instruction through opportunities that broaden the professional knowledge, understanding, and experience of its members; (2) provide leadership in defining, interpreting, and promoting effective library media programs to the community; and (3) serve as facilitator between the State Department of Education, Office of Library and Information Services, professional organizations, and the general public.                                                 

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