Quantifying the Value of Librarians

Let’s face it. Not everyone recognizes the value of libraries or librarians. And in an age of budget cuts, there is an increasing sense of urgency to measure the value and impact of libraries on the communities they serve. Librarians are a part of that measure, but their value also needs to be measured separately.

The good news is that research already exists that supports the need for librarians. And the best research for that purpose (in my opinion) can be found in the educational research literature. For example, the other day I was browsing through my latest copy of TechTrends, and came across an article titled The effects of browse time on the Internet on students’ essay scores (Doan & Bloomfield, 2014). This article is not available for free, so I’ll summarize it for you, then talk about how research like this benefits librarians (Note: It is available through SpringerLink and EBSCO):

  • The study explored the impact of 30 minutes of Internet search time on 4th and 5th grade students’ (n=49) essay scores.
  • Students were divided into three different groups, all with the same writing prompt: 1) no Internet time, 2) Internet use without instruction, and 3) Internet use with instruction.
  • Results showed that “allowing students to use the Internet on their own is not beneficial on its own merits and that teachers and/or other school personnel should use some instructional time to teach students Internet search skills in order to be effective consumers of the Web” (p. 70).
  • The authors recommends future research that looks at students across various grade levels (K-12).

Any librarian could have predicted these results, but this type of research offers evidence-based arguments for the importance of librarians, who are the most professionally qualified to provide that kind of instruction. This study could also be used as a basis for future studies that examine the differences between general Internet instruction (e.g. Google searching) and targeted Internet instruction (e.g. library databases).

The educational research literature is an untapped source for gathering the evidence needed to support the argument that librarians play a vital role in the teaching and learning process. It’s also a great place for finding studies like the one above that can be replicated within the library research literature.



3 thoughts on “Quantifying the Value of Librarians

  1. Maybe I’m doing things wrong, but what is the best way to offer my assistance to teachers, particularly in History/Social Studies, to be able to facilitate research for essays an projects? I know my library won’t hold all the answers but how can I be the best junior high reference librarian I can be.
    – Krys

    • Hi Krys,

      There are a lot of different factors that can make working with teachers challenging (organizational culture, lack of time, perceptions of lack of curricular relevance…), so the best advice I can give you is to show the teachers you wish to work with the value of library support for them specifically. If your district does curriculum mapping–some districts do a fantastic job–you can use that as a tool to find out what is going on in the classroom and provide the teachers with some just-in-time support. For example, a research guide for an upcoming unit, or a cart of books rolled into the classroom if they cannot make it to the library.

      Over time, as you build rapport (and trust) with the teachers, I will wager a guess that you’ll find it easier to collaborate.

      Communication is key, and it may start out as a one way street, but it is worth the effort!

      Good luck!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s