Public and School Libraries in Decline: When We Need Them

Public and School Libraries in Decline: When We need Them | I Love Libraries.

This article by Yvonne Siu-Runyan, NCTE President and professor emeriti from the University of Northern Colorado, appeared in the ALA (American Library Association) email newsletter Friday, Dec.9, 2011. It is a plea for the support of libraries, especially in this age of reduced funding for them. So make sure that your local library has the funding for its library. But by all means support your Christian school library! Now that would make a nice end-of-the-year gift – a gift that would keep on giving!

Here are a few of Siu-Runyan’s arguments; read the full story at the link above:

Better libraries mean better reading.
Studies show that higher quality school and public libraries correlate with higher scores on reading tests done at the US state level, at the national level, and at the international level. Aspects of school library quality relate to reading achievement include the size of the collection, the presence of a credentialed librarian, and overall staffing. All this makes sense. There is consistent evidence showing that when children have access to books, they read them, and when they read a lot, all aspects of literacy improve.

Why we still need books and libraries
Only a small percentage of information contained in print is on the Internet. The Web is not a substitute for libraries. A popular argument these days is that computers and the Internet will eliminate the need for traditional libraries filled with books and magazines. But for “Kindle-ization” to take over libraries, or even be a significant threat, the costs must go down enormously. E-book readers such as the Kindle cost at least $100, and individual e-books cost around $10. The high cost of e-readers and e-books makes it difficult for libraries to lend them out. At this time, only 6 percent of school libraries circulate books on e-book readers, and one publisher (HarperCollins) has announced limits on how many times an e-book can be checked out from a library. E-book ownership is much higher among the affluent. According to a recent report, 12 percent of those earning $75,000 or more owned e-books, but only 3 percent of those earning less than $30,000 did.

Conclusions
All of language education is in crisis because of the decline of libraries. We now know that libraries are utilized, that they contribute powerfully to literacy development, and have the potential of closing the gap between children from high and low-income families in reading achievement. Yet library funding is declining, and the situation is the most serious in high-poverty areas. Library funding should be expanded, not cut.

Democratic societies need libraries. The time has come for organizations such as NCTE to campaign vigorously to strengthen public and school libraries.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM  Leave a Comment  

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