At the first district wide meeting of school librarians this year, I floated the idea of creating a research team/plt -wherein interested parties could use the action research model to collect and analyze data and current research to establish a direct link between what school librarians do in my district and the achievement of our students. Tonight was our first meeting.
I have to admit, I was more nervous about this meeting than I have been about any other. The truth is, I was worried that we'd spend the entire time trading hard knock stories and bemoaning the lack of support for libraries in our school system. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Rather, we managed to make, what is my estimation, significant progress.
Again, using the action research model we were able to
Identify the problem(s): 1) Loss of line item for library resources in the county budget, 2) loss of support/paraprofessional personnel, 3) inconsistency in site based support for library programs.
Identify the research question: What impact has the recent changes to library funding and staffing policies in our district had on student achievement?
Identify jumping off points for our research which included collecting:
district wide library funding data for the last 4 years.
district wide testing data in the areas of reading and science.
current research indicating link between school library media programs and student achievement.
current research indicating best practices for the school library/media center.
examples of these best practices in action within our district.
district wide collection analysis data for the last 4 years.
Our long-term goals include:
Analyzing the data we collect to hopefully a) draw a direct line between us and student achievement and b) show the effect that the changes to county policy regarding library funding and staffing has had on our ability to impact students.
Creating a presentation for our senior level staff containing this data + a clear and convincing argument outlining precisely why not funding libraries is like shooting ourselves in the collective foot.
After tonight's meeting I feel empowered and hopeful. It is deeply gratifying to work with a group of professionals who are willing to give up their own time, roll up their sleeves and get to work on behalf of all librarians in our district.
And yet, I wish I had some assurance that we were on the right track. This is new territory for all of us. Contrary to popular belief, I've never led a revolution before. :)
In truth, I know that we will only get one shot at this, so we have to make it count. I can only trust my instinct that data is what we need to convince those who hold the purse strings that our budgets cannot be left up to the whim of principals - that what we do is too important and impactful to leave to chance.
In the meantime, it's comforting to know that a) I'm not in this alone and b) we're not going down without a fight... fight-song, that is.