The library media specialist is responsible for directing an effective library media program that meets contemporary learning needs. This leadership position demands the use of evidence to make informed decisions.

man with calculatorAccountability involves making decisions based on evidence, taking responsibility, and explaining actions.

Accountability involves analysis of the learning community, development and implementation of plans, ongoing communication with the learning community, and evaluation of the library media program.

Explore Office of Accountability at the Indiana Department of Education. Although this project focuses on ideas for the entire school community, it has many applications for the school library media center. If you plan to work in Indiana, you should be familiar with Public Law 221. This law focuses on standards, assessment, school improvement, and accountability.

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How do you measure abstract and complex ideas?

It's easy to report on things like circulation, class sizes, and test results. But, how do you measure effectiveness, efficiently, and appeal? Often you must combine results and synthesize data to come up with a way of visualizing an abstract idea.

What reports should be generated?

Much can be learned in the process of collecting and organizing evidence. However it's also important to develop a final product that can be shared with teachers, parents, administrators, and other members of the learning community.

eye means readRead The School Library: Accountability for Student Learning (2002) by R. Dotten, School Libraries in Canada; 22(2), 19-20.

Also read A Show of Strength by G. Hartzell in School Library Journal, May 2003; 49(5), 45. (Access requires login) This article discusses how your written report should convey how much your program has to offer.

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Words of Wisdom

Is it really important to collect data and generate reports? Will anyone ever ask for this information?

practitionerRead the perspective of one library media specialist:

Last month I had to go before my school board and justify why they needed a school media specialist at the middle / high school level.  Due to budget cuts my school district is desperate to make financial ends met.  They are investigating ways to cut the budget, and one option they investigated was cutting my position.  I had to stand before them and explain why a school media specialist is vital to a school corporation and the education process.  I had to provide them with hard evidence to prove my claims.  This was not an easy task because I just started working as a school media specialist in August.  I had to employ the use of evidence based practice, which is “the process of carefully documenting how school librarians make a difference in learning” (Todd, 2003) to prove my case.... As school district budget shrink, school boards will be looking anywhere they can to cut the budget.  Unfortunately this means that many more school media specialist will be asked to justify their role in the education learning environment, and they will have to use hard evidence to prove their case. "

Wendy Kovach
Library Media Specialist

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Check Your Understandings

"It is often just one spoken sentence, a simple note in the margin ("You are bright; how much more impact would you have if you stopped being so cynical?"), an emailed comment - - one action that has the most affect on someone else's life, and often the teacher, leader, coach never knows about the impact they had".
Excerpted & adapted from Phil Dourado blog posting about the Ripple Effect (2008).

What evidence do you have that your students are learning and that your library media program is effective? This is an essential question that must be answered by all library media specialists.

Create a list of evidence that you plan to begin collecting from the first day of your job. Given your busy schedule, what do you think are the most important piece of data you'll need to make important center decisions?

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Make It Real

boy at computerDefend your yourself and your program. It's your first few months of your new job. The school board has indicated that they may eliminate the library media program entirely. You don't have evidence to show that your program is effective, because you just started! The previous librarian was a "book sitter," so there's little to support the program given the history of the position.

School board members don't have time to read a bunch of studies. However they are very insistent that their decision be based on evidence. You'll only have five minutes to present your case. In addition, you must develop a 2 page summary of the research (not including your bibliography) supporting your perspective.

Use the Library Media Program Data Sources page for ideas.

Intermission: Lastly a video clip that is not directly related to accountability, but since you have finished another section of the course - - this is just intended to be a fun break. Enjoy watching Mr. Bean at the Library (5:59 minutes).


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Read More About It

Accountability and the School Libraries: The Principal's Viewpoint (2002) by J. Sykes, School Libraries in Canada; 22(2), 31-33.

Accountability and the School Teacher Librarian (2002) by D. Loertscher & B. Woolls, School Libraries in Canada; 22(2), 7-9.

Achieving Exemplary School Libraries (PDF doc) (2012). South Carolina State Department of Education.
Related website:
School Library Media

Loertsher, David & Woolls, Blanche (Jun 2003). A True Assessment of Your Program’s Value. School Library Journal; 49(6), 3. (Access requires Login)
How do we support library media programs now that educators are being asked to prove the school library's relevance to student achievement?

Minkel, Walter (Apr 2004). Chat Room: How Does Your Site Measure Up? School Library Journal; 50(4), 33. (Access requires Login)
If your school library website traffic is sparse, it’s time for a serious usability study.

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