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How Are School Libraries Adapting in a Digital Age?

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The release of the American Library Association's annual State of America's Libraries report coincides each year with April's celebration of School Library Month. Both events are intended to remind schools and communities of the vital role libraries play in student learning nationwide.

The ALA's 2016 coverage offered one important take-away: Libraries continue to evolve in the digital age. School libraries have shifted in the last several years to provide more digital content such as databases and e-books—ALA's survey found 69 percent of school libraries in 2015 have digital content compared to 35 percent in 2010—as well as how to utilize resources for new forms of learning. (See how students are using libraries across the country during School Library Month with Education Week's #ShowUsYourLibrary campaign.)

School Library Month.jpg

For many school libraries, these changes take place on limited budgets. Some states continue to cut school librarians and libraries because of funding shortfalls, according to Debra Kachel, an instructor at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, in a 2015 article for the New Republic. However, school library budgets increased nearly 20 percent for the 2015-16 school year, writes reporter Lauren Barack in the School Library Journal. The average library budget is about $8,315—greater than $6,970 in 2013-14, but still less than the average $10,000 in 2010, according to Barack. But change may be ahead: In a Curriculum Matters blog post, Education Week's Liana Heitin reported that the Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed in December of 2015, specifically mentions school libraries as important to promoting literacy and authorizes federal funding for them. It's the first law to include such language in more than 50 years, reports the ALA.

The ALA's report argues that school libraries with credentialed librarians drastically improve student achievement by increasing reading and test performance, regardless of those libraries' limited budgets. A report from Washington Library Media Association in the state of Washington found that students in that state who attend schools with credentialed librarians are more likely to graduate.

So we were curious: What do school librarians think about the state of libraries today? What do they experience on a daily basis? In recognition of School Library Month, we spoke with four librarians in the the nation's capital (chosen by virtue of their proximity to Education Week's offices in suburban Washington) about what it's like to be a librarian in today's ever-changing digital landscape. How are they interacting with digital technologies? How do they get students excited about reading? What do they predict for the future of libraries?

Read the interviews here. 

Photo Credit: American Library Association, Libraries Transform Campaign

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