Congruence with Conference Theme
School librarians are learning community partners with significant social responsibility to improve students’ future preparedness—and to provide evidence of that impact. In support of the ALISE conference theme’s contention that “…higher learning and research now act as essential components of cultural, socio-economic and environmentally sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations,” the proposed panel will explore documenting the nature and extent of school librarians’ contributions to student outcomes. Panel content will be relevant to many information professionals’ preparation and practice.
Relevance to Current and Emerging Issues in LIS Education
Recently ACRL published a report of academic librarians’ efforts to build evidence for positive connections between library services and student success. Researchers found that student outcomes improved with library instructional services, library research consultation, library instruction, and library space use.
ACRL’s focus on assessing student engagement suggests that LIS concerned with providing evidence that professionally prepared librarians have a causal impact on student success and that there is ample opportunity to examine similar phenomena in other library contexts.
School library researchers have already been working in this space. In 2014, IMLS supported a convening of 50 school library and related researchers for Causality: School Libraries and Student Success (CLASS), a national forum on causal research in school libraries. A panel of reputed researchers, anchored by Thomas Cook, an eminent scholar in causal research design, led the forum. Forum discussions culminated in a white paper that outlines an ambitious ten-year agenda to move from exploratory to causal research that reflects the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Education’s Common Guidelines (2013). The agenda’s ultimate goal is to determine causal relationships between effective school librarians’ work and student learning.
The CLASS project led to CLASS II, a current IMLS research project in which teams of researchers from FSU, ODU, and the UNT are executing the white paper. In Phase One’s first stage, the research teams are conducting a mixed research synthesis (MRS) of research on causal relationships between student learning and learning activities that occur within and beyond school. The research outcomes will influence LIS curriculum content and contribute to the knowledge base relating to librarian effectiveness.