Powering Achievement: School Library media Programs Make a Difference
Keith Lance and David V. Loertscher
Hi Willow Research & Publishing, 2001

Accompanying Web Site to the Book

PowerPoint and Acrobat Slides

School Library Media Programs and Academic Achievement

One Minute Presentation PowerPoints

Building Literacy

One Minute Presentation PowerPoint

School Library Media Programs and Academic Achievement

Five Minute Presentation PowerPoint

Schools library media Programs and Academic Achievement

Fifteen Minute Presentation PowerPoint

Collaboration and Achievement

PowerPoint Slides

No More Bird Units

PowerPoint Slides

Information Literacy and Academic Achievement

PowerPoint Slides

Information technology and Achievement

PowerPoint Slides

Making the Investment

PowerPoint Slides

Leadership and Achievement

PowerPoint Slides

Five Key Things to Do Every Day

PowerPoint Slides


Online Web Supplement for the brochure:


Invest in Your School Library to Build Academic
Achievement and Equity



"Fifty years of research studies"

The evidence for the impact of school library media centers on achievement began with a landmark study by Dr. Mary Gaver of Rutgers University in 1963. At this time, elementary schools were creating centralized school libraries by merging all the classroom collections and making those resources available to all the children of the school. Gaver found that academic achievement was significantly higher when:

• There was a centralized library in the school building.
• The combined collection was large and easily accessible to every student and teacher

(citation: Gaver, Mary V. Effectiveness of Centralized Library Service in Elementary Schools. 2nd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1963 - now out of print but available from many academic libraries)

Between 1963 and 1993, numerous other smaller studies supported the same findings. However, in the early 1990s, during periods of financial retrenchment, questions about cost versus benefit arose again in the educational community.

In 1993, Dr. Keith Lance and others published another major landmark study in Colorado that probed whether school library media program were holding their own in the push to increase academic achievement. That study confirmed that academic achievement was affected in 220 Colorado schools when:

• There was a professional library media specialist on site
• The library media specialist collaborated with teachers to create exciting learning experiences using the library media resources
• The library media collection contained large amounts of quality print and multimedia materials.

Some questioned whether those findings were valid only in Colorado, or if they might extend elsewhere.

In 1998/99, three more studies were conducted by Dr. Keith Lance and staff in three states and published in 2000:

• Colorado (a second study) - 200 schools, grades 4, 7
• Alaska - 211 schools, grades 4, 8, 11
• Pennsylvania - 435 schools, grades 5, 8, 11

Two other major studies connect school library collections and reading achievement - the first by Dr. Stephen Krashen in 1993 and the second by Jeff McQuillan in 1998. These two studies add an additional dimension to the power a strong library media program has in a quality education.

See the back panel of the brochure for the citations to all the studies above.


INVESTMENTS - Inside Panel One

Academic achievement increases as the number of professional and support personnel in the school library increases.

Research indicates that a certain level of investment in library media programs is needed to achieve improved academic achievement. The question is: "What level of investment is required to make a significant difference?"

Research done by Dr. Keith Lance in Pennsylvania and Colorado covering 600+ schools. Specifically, let us compare the top 25 top scoring schools with the 25 lowest scoring schools in each state in terms of their commitment to library media staff, budgets for materials, and library media collection size.

LMC Staffing in 25 Top vs. 25 Low Scoring Schools

Pennsylvania - Professional staff hours/week
Top Scoring
Low Scoring
% Difference in high/low
5th Grade
17 %
8th Grade
11th Grade
Pennsylvania - Support staff hours/week
5th Grade
108 %
8th Grade
11th Grade

Conclusion for Pennsylvania: Adding support staff is a key difference between strong and weak library media programs. Library media specialists understand these findings very well, since adding support staff allows them the opportunity to work more closely with teachers and students rather than tend to warehousing duties all day.

Colorado Total library media staff hours/100 students
Top Scoring
Low Scoring
% Difference in high/low
4th Grade
7th Grade

Conclusion for Colorado: The Total staff size is contributing to academic achievement.

Citations: See Pennsylvania study, pp. 54-56 and Colorado II study, pp. 75-76.

Academic achievement increases as quality information streams from the library into classrooms and homes.

Many school library media centers are acquiring the technology to push quality information beyond their walls into the classrooms and into the home. They are becoming 24/7 information providers. In schools with a rich information-technology environment, learners score higher on academic achievement tests.

Support for these statements comes from major studies done by Dr. Keith Lance in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Colorado &endash; all published in 2000.

In high-scoring schools, there are a growing number of:

• Students who can link to the library media center remotely
• Databases/electronic resources available online from the LMC
• Computers linked to the Internet

When "connected" Colorado learners in the 25 top scoring schools were compared with the 25 lowest scoring schools achievement scores:

• At the 4th grade: 6% higher
• At the 7th grade: 18% higher

In Pennsylvania where learners have access to the most sophisticated computer networks, achievement scores:

• At 5th grade: 385% higher!
• At 8th grade: 51% higher
• At 11th grade 47% higher

Similar results in Alaska showed that students with higher tech library media centers scored higher on their achievement tests.

Thus, in many schools, as quality information gets closer and closer to the elbow of the learner, academic achievement is affected. Such a finding makes sense since learners are interacting regularly with a pool of high quality information easily available. The concern, of course, is extending such an advantage to every learner.

Citations: See the Colorado II study, pp. 72-73, the Pennsylvania study, pp. 54-56 and the Alaska study pp. 56-57.

Academic achievement increases as Sustaining budgets keep the information-rich and environment current and of high quality.

Budget in 25 Top vs. 25 Low Scoring Schools

Pennsylvania Expenditures for library materials High Scoring Low Scoring % Difference in Spending
5th Grade $7,240 $4.928 47%
8th Grade $14.506 $8,386 73%
11th Grade $23,730 $14,197 67%
Colorado Expenditures per student for library materials
4th Grade $21.60 $14.00 54%
7th Grade $22.33 $13.44 66%

Conclusion: In both states, high achieving schools have significantly higher budgets for the library media programs.

Materials in 25 Top vs. 25 Low Scoring Schools

Pennsylvania Print Volumes High Scoring Low Scoring % Difference in Materials
5th Grade 10,857 8,876 22%
8th Grade 13.507 10,744 26%
11th Grade 15,474 14,499 7%
Colorado Print Volumes per student
4th grade 20.28 14.20 43%
7th Grade 16.53 13.87 19%

Conclusion: Stronger library media programs translate extra dollars into a richer print collection as listed, but also stronger periodical and electronic collections (not listed above).

Citations: See Pennsylvania study, pp. 54-56 and the Colorado II study, pp. 75-76.


Academic achievement increases as easy access is the norm.


ACTIVITIES - Inside Panel Two

Academic achievement increases when school librarians collaborate with teachers to create quality learning experiences using materials and technology.

Library media specialists who collaborate regularly with faculty help build quality learning experiences that contribute to academic achievement.

This statement is supported by research done in Colorado schools and published in 2000 .

Collaboration for this study was measured by the number of hours a library media specialist worked with faculty:

• Planning units of instruction together
• Identifying materials for teachers
• Teaching information literacy to learners during the unit
• Providing in-service training to teachers
• Providing motivational reading activities
• Managing information technology in such a way as to push digital information beyond the LMC

In such collaborations, library media staff help raise scores by

• Enhancing learning experiences
• Building teacher effectiveness

For discussions of this factor, see Pennsylvania pp. 53-56 (read under information literacy), Colorado II pp. 48-51, and Alaska pp. 42-43.

Academic achievement increases when school librarians are leaders in their schools.

Library media specialists who seek leadership roles and partnerships with administrators create strong library media programs translating into academic achievement. This is an indirect relationship. That is, leadership translates to higher collaboration with teachers in creating quality learning experiences that in turn, has a direct impact on academic achievement.

Support for this statement comes from a major study completed in Colorado and published in 2000 that looked at a "leadership factor" and its relationship to academic achievement. Data were available for library media specialists who:

 • Met regularly with administrators
• Served on standards committees
• Served on curriculum committees
• Attended school staff meetings, and
• Held library staff meetings (assuming more than a one-person staff)

Notice the difference between the top 25 top scoring schools vs. the 25 low scoring schools on the leadership factor.

Meeting with administrators High Scoring Low Scoring % Difference in Scores
4th Grade
Serving on standards committees
4th Grade
7th Grade
Serving on curriculum committees (hours per week)
4th Grade
7th Grade
Attending school staff meetings (hours per week)
7th Grade
Holding library staff meetings (hours per week)
4th Grade
7th Grade

Using bivariate correlation coefficients for time spent on leadership activities, a highly significant relationship (p <.001 (1-tailed) existed between library media specialist leadership and academic achievement. Thus, library media specialists are more likely to be leaders in their schools if they:

• Have the ear and support of the principal and other administrators
• Serve with other teachers as members of the school's standards and curriculum committees
• Meet regularly with their own staff to plan and evaluate the effectiveness of LM program activities in advancing student learning

Again, leadership is an indirect force. Those who lead, collaborate with teachers more, and that collaboration directly translates into academic achievement.

Academic achievement increases when school librarians teach information literacy.

Learners who are exposed to integrated information literacy instruction as a part of their research projects in the library media centers score higher on academic achievement tests.

Support for this statement comes from major studies done by Dr. Keith Lance in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Colorado &endash; all published in 2000.

Previously, school library media specialists, concentrating on library skills would have helped students find and locate a few information sources, leaving the rest of the research process to the teacher.

Today, in an information-rich and technology-rich environment, library media specialists are finding that they need to teach many other concepts if students are to be successful investigators and better learners. Sample information literacy topics might include:

• Formulating a good research question
• Locating information
• Finding information in print and electronic environments including the Internet
• Judging the quality of information located
• Handling conflicting information sources
• Organizing the information found
• Reading and thinking about the information
• Synthesizing ideas across information sources
• Building creative presentations of findings
• Evaluating personal success as an organized investigator

When Pennsylvania learners in the 25 top scoring schools compared to the lowest 25 scoring schools note the difference in time spent teaching information literacy:

• At the 5th grade: 43% more time teaching information literacy
• At the 8th grade: 1 % more time teaching information literacy
• At the 11th grade: 11 % more time teaching information literacy

In Colorado (2000) the differences in achievement scores between high and low scoring schools was:

• At the 4th grade 28% more time teaching information literacy
• At the 7th grade 34% more time teaching information literacy

In Alaska schools, teaching integrated information literacy was significant at the elementary level.

As teachers and library media specialists try to assist learners working in information-rich and technology-rich environments, they are beginning to recognize common problems. How could any of the following problems be solved?


Academic achievement increases when school librarians promote reading.

Two major studies by Dr. Stephen Krashen (1993) and Dr. Jeff McQuillan (1998) collected the "startling" evidence from 100 years of research that children and teens surrounded by huge quantities of books they want to read, actually read more!

And equally startling: Those who read more, score higher on any academic achievement test they take!

Actually, it is only common sense.

Translated into action, this means that any school can actually stimulate literacy by:

• purchasing a great many exciting books young people want to read
• making them easily accessible from the library and every classroom
• pushing these collections into the home.

In other words, think of large school library collections supplying:

• Large rotating classroom collections, and
• Large bedside collections for every teacher and student!

Citations for both of these studies are on the back panel of the brochure.



RESULTS - Inside Panel Three

Achievement scores are likely to rise 10-20%.

Administrators must make decisions, particularly in site-based management schools where to place money in an equasion that will maximize return. When the library media center is serving the function it was designed to play, then the results of the four studies would support the idea that the investment is worth its price. Such an investment is not just monetary, but consists of strong limbrary media professionals who are always pushing the resources a library has to offer into the support of the curriculum. It becomes a combination of leadership and vision on the part of the administration, highly dedicated and effective professionals, and hard-working support staff who have the budgets to provide sustaining programs. For further information, see the reports as follows:

Colorado II: pp. 72-74:
Pennsylvania: pp. 52-56
Alaska: (discussed throughout the report, summarized pp. 52-57)
Colorado I: pp. 74-80

Schools in the research with high-quality libraries scored higher than schools with poor libraries

The reader is referred to the discussion and statistics presented in panels one and two for this conclusion. High scoring schools have library media programs that have larger staff, better budgets, more information technology, have leaders at the helm, collaborate with teachers in the building of quality learning experiences, and teach information literacy. In all three states, various combinations of these factors produced significant results.


The relationship between high quality libraries and achievement cannot be explained away by at-risk factors such as parents' lack or education, poverty, or minority status. Likewise, these results cannot be explained away by school differences such as teacher-pupil ratio or per-pupil expenditures.

Fearing that the results of each of the four studies might be related to common factors such as the socio-economic status of the school, Dr. Lance has been very careful in each state to test results agains a wide variety of community characteristics. He spends considerable time in each of the reports discussing community factors, the statistical tests made comparing the findings to these factors, and presents a convincing argument for the strong statement above. While those tests are not reproduced here, the reader should consult the orginial studies as follows:

Colorado I: pp. 26-36
Alaska: pp. 60-62
Colorado II: pp. 64-71
Pennsylvania: pp. 37-41

 SOURCES - Back Center Panel

There are a number of studies being done beginning in 2000 that will probe the same issue in various other states not already studied. The best source for information about further evidence is the Colorado State Library web page at http://www.lrs.org

Dr. Lance will try to keep that site current with his own and other studies concerning the contribution of library media programs to academic achievement.

email: lmcsource@comcast.net