School Library Evaluation

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This paper lists ways in which school librarians can evaluate themselves, their programs, and their collections.

This paper lists ways in which school librarians can evaluate themselves, their programs, and their collections.

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  • 1. Natalie Sapkarov LIS 505 LE April 29, 2007 Evaluating School Library Media Centers I. What should be evaluated? How? School library media centers vary across the country and even across school districts. Because not one school library is identical to another, evaluative measures must be taken to ensure that each program is a unique response to the needs of that particular school community. According to Lillian Carefoot, a veteran teacher-librarian and administrator, ten key points of the library and library service should be evaluated (69-71): 1. Service: Who exactly does this library serve? 2. Facility: Does the design of the library make sense? Does the furniture meet the needs of its patrons? 3. Entrance: Is the library easy to find? Inviting? 4. Procedures: Which resources can students access? When should the library be open? 5. Collection: Does the collection support the curriculum? Should it? Does the collection support the interests of the entire school community? 6. Organization: Are materials easy to find? Can AV materials be previewed? 7. Access to information: Are materials censored in the collection development process? 8. Privacy: Are students’ names kept confidential when publishing overdue or holds lists? 9. Voluntary Use: Who uses the library voluntarily? 10. Technology: Who can use the computers? Who does? While Carefoot attempts to answer some of these questions by providing examples of responses, no set procedure is described. As this list is quite extensive and rather daunting, a more approachable method may be to first elicit the opinions of the school community to determine which areas of the library need improvement. Surveying focus groups in the school (students, faculty, and parents) is a great way to find out which areas are lacking in your school library (Everhart; Franklin and Stephens, Kachka; Marie). Franklin and Stephens provide resources for generating a brief and concise survey to gauge the effectiveness of the library (44). This process also should include sharing the survey results with the school community and asking for further comments and suggestions. Involving the community, a.k.a. stakeholders, in this evaluative process is emphasized in nearly all of the literature. Sharing responsibility with the principal in order to establish goals and yearly objectives is another way to do this (Beyers; Johnson). II. Specific ways to evaluate A common way to evaluate the school library media center is to analyze the collection. Is it up to date? Does it include a variety of formats? Are the materials appropriate for multiple intelligences? Are the materials culturally diverse? These questions and many more are asked by librarians around the world nearly everyday. Therefore, weeding the collection of outdated and false information is essential as well as finding gaps in the collection to fill, including books,
  • 2. Sapkarov 2 periodicals, online databases, and any other media materials (Carefoot; Everhart; Kachka; Marie; Williamson). This, of course, is an ongoing evaluative process. Another way to specifically evaluate the school library media center is to judge it against the mission statement of the library. Don’t have a mission statement? Create one! By involving the school community (again, a prevalent theme), the mission statement that is co-created should be “a general view of what services, programs, and activities the local school community expects from the library media program” (McGriff, Harvey, and Preddy). By establishing a library mission statement, evaluative library data can be used “to affirm that the library media center activities and services offered actually are consistent with the library media center’s stated mission” (McGriff, Harvey, and Preddy). In short, this mission statement can serve as a defense mechanism when challenged by teachers, parents, and administrators. III. Learning from the personal experience of others Although evaluation is a process that is unique to each library, learning about what others are doing and what is working for them is a good way to be exposed to the various evaluation methods and their success rates. Choosing from one of these examples or creating a new method are both viable options. 1. The program notebook (Beyers): a. Contains a “detailed record of the activities, displays, staff development opportunities, newsletters and progress toward … goals…” b. By keeping track of everything that goes on in the library, evaluation may simply mean looking back at the year and determining what needs to be changed or added for the next year. 2. Keeping daily library statistics (Marie): a. Questions: How many teachers come to the library each day to sign up their classes, collaborate on lessons, or use materials? How many students visit daily before school, at lunch, after school, or with a library pass? How many collection resources are used by visiting classes? How many students and teachers use the library computers? b. Evaluating the answers to these questions over a sample of time can provide valuable information about the library. 3. Texas Library Standards Online Assessment (Dubbin, Beyer, and Prueit): a. Enables librarians to enter data electronically about their school library program; to compare their library information to that of others within their district, region, and the state, and to print the resulting information in a format presentable to principals and administrators b. Gives school librarians the ability to determine the extent to which their programs are meeting the criteria identified by the Texas study as major contributors to achievement IV. Asking questions and meeting standards Ultimately, to comprehensively evaluate the school library media center, the library as a whole must be taken apart and viewed separately. Asking questions about the school library and its services can be the first step to the evaluation process. Not everything can be evaluated at once; therefore, the answers to these questions may help in determining what needs to be evaluated and reconsidered first. Williamson provides a list of questions to ask about your library
  • 3. Sapkarov 3 including the areas of facility and management, the collection, equipment and technical services, instructional programs, and professional development. By answering these questions, librarians can gauge the areas in need of in-depth evaluation. Being a part of school community also means aligning the standards for the library with those of the curriculum (Kolencik). Kolencik includes a survey for librarians to take to evaluate their libraries in terms of instructional and organizational effectiveness (5-7). These performance indicators are based on Information Power: Building Partnerships in Learning (1998) and are widely used in school libraries. They include statements such as: “The library media program models and promotes collaborative planning and curriculum development.” and “The library media program provides a climate that is conducive to learning.” By taking this survey, librarians are able to determine “the most appropriate target goals for building and strengthening the capacity of the library programs, instructional practices, and organizational conditions” of the library (Kolencik). V. Next steps 1. What are the library standards for Illinois? Check ISLMA. 2. What types of evaluation do local school librarians do? Ask around on ISLMA listserv; ask to observe. 3. Check AASL website for more information. 4. Skim/read Evaluating the School Library Media Center: Analysis Techniques and Research Practices by Nancy Everhart (1998).
  • 4. Sapkarov 4 Annotated Bibliography Beyers, Catherine. "Progress @ Your Library." School Library Media Activities Monthly 22.10 (2006): 48-49. In this article, Beyers describes her personal experience with beginning the end of the year evaluation process of her school library. She encourages fellow school librarians to share their progress with their administrators and describes the necessity of keeping a program notebook filled with a detailed record of various library happenings aligned with previously set goals. Carefoot, Lillian. "Student Access to the School Library." Teacher Librarian 30.4 (2003): 69-71. This article was written for administrators to understand how to evaluate the school library in terms of: service, facility, entrance, procedures, collection, organization, access to information, privacy, voluntary use, and technology. Dubbin, Diane, Evelyn L. Beyer, and Becky Prueit. "Texas Library Standards Online Assessment: A Dynamic Website." Texas Library Journal 78.2 (2002): 64-68. “An online instrument developed by Houston-area librarians and their associates enables librarians to enter data electronically about their school library program; to compare their library information to that of others within their district, region, and the state, and to print the resulting information in a format presentable to principals and administrators.” Everhart, Nancy. "Evaluation of School Library Media Centers: Demonstrating Quality." Library Media Connection 21.6 (2003): 14-20. This article ties together the ways in which principals evaluate evaluative library data given to them by their school library media specialists and also the informal ways that they evaluate the library’s success with descriptions of methods of evaluation (surveys, interviews, observation, etc.) for school media specialists to implement in their libraries. Franklin, Pat, and Claire Gatrell Stephens. "Endings and Beginnings in the Library Media Center." School Library Media Activities Monthly 22.10 (2006): 44-45. At the end of the school year, this article suggests that school library media specialists should evaluate their programs through data collection, comments and suggestions from the school community, and reflections on their findings to strengthen their program for the next year. Johnson, Doug. "What Gets Measured Gets Done: The Importance of Evaluating Your Media Program." Book Report 20.2 (2001): 14-16. This article stresses the importance of the media specialist and principal working together to assess the overall effectiveness of the library services provided. It advises the media specialist to set yearly, measurable objectives and to report the positive results to the staff and community. Kachka, Arlene. "Evaluating Your Library Media Center Collection." Book Report 19.5 (2001): 19-20. Focusing on the collection, this article describes the ways in which a school library media specialist can evaluate their library and fine-tune the collection to better meet the needs of teachers and students. By weeding and purchasing new materials, books, periodicals, and online resources should be updated and selected carefully.
  • 5. Sapkarov 5 Kolencik, Patricia L. "Evaluating Library Media Programs in Terms of Instructional and Organizational Effectiveness." Learning & Media 24.1 (2006): 5-7. This article includes a survey by the National Study of School Evaluation for school library media specialists to take in order to determine to what extent the standards and goals of their own programs are aligned with those in other curriculum areas. It also includes questions to ask after taking the survey to sort out the results and work on areas of improvement. Marie, Kirsten L. "From Theory to Practice: A New Teacher-Librarian Tackles Library Assessment." Teacher Librarian 33.2 (2005): 20-25. A new high school teacher-librarian writes about her initial task of "defending" the existence of her school library media center by using several evaluation techniques. She also describes how to get more people (students and teachers) to use the library more often and more effectively. McGriff, Nancy, Carl A. Harvey II, and Leslie B. Preddy. "Collecting the Data: Monitoring the Mission Statement." School Library Media Activities Monthly 20.6 (2004): 26-29. Because evaluation is essential in a school library media setting for a variety of reasons, this articles tackles the question of what should and can be evaluated and how to do so. It focuses on the library’s mission statement as a source for evaluation of services to make sure that what is stated is also put into practice. Williamson, Susan. "Some Questions to Ask About Your Library." Library Talk 10.3 (1997): 9. This article is a list of questions to ask about the school library during evaluation. It covers the areas of: facility and management, the collection, equipment and technical services, instructional program, and professional development.