American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may come to rescue of struggling school libraries

State officials should use stimulus funding opportunities for schools, libraries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2009

Contact: Jenni Terry, jterry@alawash.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With state funding for schools on the decline, the American Library Association (ALA) says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) could not have come at a more critical time for school libraries.

The ARRA includes $100 billion for education that can help school libraries ensure that our nation’s students are prepared to enter a 21st century workforce. The funding from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Educational Technology State Grant program will help prevent cutbacks, prevent layoffs, and modernize our nation’s school libraries.

As state funding to schools has declined, dropping 2.8 percent from 2001 to 2006 according to the National Center for Education Statistics, many schools are choosing to close their library doors or reduce funding — actions that Ann Martin, president of the ALA’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL), said greatly impair our nation’s educational system.

“Saving funds by eliminating certified school library media specialists or closing school libraries denies equal access for all students to the shared resources and information skills instruction crucial for students to learn and thrive in the 21st century,” Martin said.

“Across the United States, research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries. The correlation between school librarians and student achievement is tied to a robust collection, a licensed school library media specialist, and a strong program.”

Martin pointed to a study released by the U.S. Department of Education in January, the Second Evaluation of the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (LSL) Program, which reported that students attending schools participating in the LSL Program are performing higher on state reading tests than students in schools that do not take part in the program.

ALA President Jim Rettig said he agrees that strong school libraries staffed by state-certified school library media specialists are essential for preparing our students to thrive in the competitive global marketplace of the 21st century.

“It is important that library advocates and supporters make sure that school superintendants, school board members, and their governor understand the importance of using these funds to invest in our children by investing in school libraries and librarians,” Rettig said.

For more information on how libraries can benefit from the ARRA, go to www.ala.org/knowyourstimulus.

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