The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution (SLIDE) Project “Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19” report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) and the SLIDE website offer invaluable information and tools to support school librarian advocates with the data they need to understand the relative health of school librarianship in their states and districts. In last week’s post, I offered information from the SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report.
In this post, I drill down into the Arizona data from the Report and use the interactive tools provided on the SLIDE website that provide users with access to data at the state and district levels and to create graphs and charts that display these data. The following are Arizona data along with some commentary about what these data mean for Arizona’s students, educators, administrators, and families.
My target audience for this post is Arizona school librarians, the Arizona library community, and librarian advocates. Ultimately, I will share this information with Arizona education decision-makers and voters who should know this information and take action to restore school librarian positions. If you believe that literacy learning is fundamental to students’ success in school and in life then…
The “sobering” national reality regarding school librarian positions is even more sobering in Arizona.
I hope advocates in other states will disaggregate their state- and district-level data to get a clearer understanding of the relative health of the school librarian profession in their communities. I hope these data will prompt us all to take action to improve literacy learning for K-12 students through the expertise of effective school librarians with the ultimate goal of at least one librarian per school.
SLIDE state-level data includes:
- mandates for employing school librarians,
- school library standards and guidelines,
- state government school library official,
- state data on school librarians,
- state funding directly to school libraries,
- state-funded or discounted e-resource, and
- higher education institutions preparing school librarians.
School Librarians in Arizona
In 2018-19, as the Advanced Search SLIDE data tool shows, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 412.34 school librarian FTEs. This is the most recent year of data available from NCES. In that year, the student to librarian ratio was 1:2,259.63
According to data available from the Arizona Department of Education, these are the state-certified FTE (Full Time Equivalents) employees in our field for the 2020-2021 Academic Year:
602 – Librarians – 196.58
603 – Media Specialists – 86.32
Total: 282.90 FTEs
Arizona’s student-to-librarian and student-to-teacher ratio
continues to head in the wrong direction.
In 2020-2021, the classified staff serving in school libraries figure was this.
061 – Library Assistants – 592.27
In studying the NCES data from 2018-19, SLIDE researchers discovered that in Arizona 7 out of 10 districts employ library support staff in lieu of school librarians. This is the highest percentage of all the states (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii, 66, 70, 72).
This is educational malpractice.
State Survey Data: Arizona Compared with Other States
As your state intermediary, I reported Arizona data to the SLIDE researchers. Teacher Librarian Division co-chair Jean Kilker and I conferred to make sure the data we provided were accurate.
|Criterion||Arizona||Other States and D.C. Notes|
|State-Mandated School Librarians||No, not mandated||26 states have mandates, only enforced in 10 states|
|School Library Standards/Guidelines||No||43 states do|
|State Government School Library Official||No||33 states do|
|State Data on School Librarians||Yes||18 states don’t|
|State Funding Directly to School Libraries||No||13 states do|
|State-Funded/Discounted E-Resources||Yes, thanks to the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records||Only 12 states don’t|
|Higher Education Institutions Preparing School Librarians||None||45 states do; states with multiple preparation institutions have more school librarian positions.|
Table created with data from the SLIDE State Survey Page (Lance and Kachel 2021a)
“School librarians are least prevalent and most likely to experience job loss in states with no institutions of higher education preparing school librarians” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vi).
Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
The Arizona data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) is telling. The following table shows our national ranking in these criteria compared with 49 other states based on NCES 2018-2019 data. The page numbers are from the report. SLs stands for school librarians. FTEs are full time equivalents.
|Number of SL FTEs – 426.17||31||Table 3, 14||MA – similar total population – 621.15 SLs – ranks 25 (#1 Texas – 4,604.80 SLs)|
|Percent Change||38||Table 4, 16||30.5% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19|
|Percent Change||28||Table 5, 18||4.3% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19|
|State-level Ratio of SL FTEs per School||46||Table 6, 20||.18 per school|
|Percent Change||38||Table 7, 22||33.3% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19|
|Percent Change||33||Table 8, 24||6.7% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19|
|Student to SL FTE Ratio||46||Table 9, 27||1:2,679 in 2018-19|
|Teacher to SL FTE Ratio||44||Table 10, 29||1:114 in 2018-19|
|District Ratio of SL FTEs per School||47||Table 11, 38 Chart 13, 42||5.6% of schools have at least a .75 FTE
68.7% of schools have zero SL FTEs
|% of Districts with Any Librarians||47||Table 14, 53||26.2% of Arizona districts have one or more librarians|
|States with the Largest % of No School Librarians||46||Table 15, 56||59.3% of Arizona districts have no school librarians|
Table created with data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a)
District-level Data Tools
Since my advocacy work in Arizona is currently centered on restoring school librarian positions available in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), the following examples reflect my work. I encourage all Arizona school librarians and library advocates to use the SLIDE tools to access and compare data from their district with other districts within the state or across the nation.
District-level data includes:
- school librarian employment,
- employment of selected other educator positions, and
- selected district characteristics and student demographics.
The Profile tool allows users to compare data for their own districts with those of comparable districts both within the same state and with similar districts across the nation.
When I first entered TUSD, the tool provided a list of 19 peer districts from across the country based on these criteria:
student population (45K in TUSD), locale (TUSD is a Large, City rather than suburban or rural district), and per pupil expenditures ($8,838).
When I added the number of schools (88 in TUSD), there were only 6 peer districts; when I added English Language Learners (8.54% in TUSD), there was only one peer district: Cherry Creek School District No. 5, Arapah, Colorado.
When I added Free & Reduced-cost Meals (60% in TUSD), there were no longer any peer districts. Other criteria were Majority Non-White (which TUSD is), Majority Hispanic (which TUSD is), and Restrict to Your State.
I then used the Cherry Creek School District for comparison. Unfortunately, the NCES data for TUSD’s Library Support Staff is incorrect. In 2020, there were 50.5 FTEs rather than just 1!
What I learned: TUSD is a unique school district in the United States in terms of being a large, urban district, with low per student spending, with a majority Hispanic student population, with a high percentage of students who quality for Free and Reduced-cost Meals. That alone was important information for me in my advocacy work.
As the Perspectives Report notes: “Districts with higher poverty levels, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians. Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have not librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii).
Sadly, for the students, educators, and families in TUSD that description accurately describes the district’s demographics.
Inequitable access to the expertise of school librarians is unconscionable and most egregious for high-needs students and schools.
Advanced Search Tool
The Advanced Search tool allows users to access data from the 2019-20 school year, with the following exceptions: Free & Reduced Cost Meals and English Language Learner data is from 2018-19 and Per Pupil Expenditures data is from 2016-17.
For the search for TUSD, I checked every box and asked for percentages in terms of student demographics. The resulting data image is too wide for a screen shot, so I took advantage of the URL feature to share these data:
Tool users can also export these data as an Excel spreadsheet.
Conclusion and Call to Action
In Arizona, school librarians are endangered educators nearing extinction. What are we doing to reverse this situation? To meet the needs of today’s students and classroom teachers, schools need the expertise of state-certified school librarians. (See my 7/12/21 blog post “Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions.”)
According to the Perspectives Report, “school funding alone cannot explain staffing decisions. Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, districts most likely to have employed librarian consistently were those spending the most—and the least—per pupil” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 59).
While funding isn’t the only problem, it is a piece of the puzzle. For example, according to a statement by Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo at the July 13, 2021 Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board meeting and budget hearing, he and the entire TUSD Board are in agreement about restoring school librarian positions to all 86 schools in the district. At present, there are just 13, leaving 73 schools underserved.
Filling this equity gap will take a huge infusion of funds
(more than $6M/year) that the district simply does not have.
On Friday, July 16, 2021, I attended a training offered by Save Our Schools Arizona (https://sosarizona.org/); on Sunday, July 18, I picked up referenda petitions and began collecting signatures. Next week, I will report on the three referenda that Arizonans who care about public education are working to put on the ballot that will reverse Draconian tax cuts that deplete state revenues. Reversing these cuts could impact whether or not school districts in Arizona will have the funding needed to restore school librarian positions, as promised in Proposition 208, which was passed by the voters in November, 2020.
Arizona Department of Education. 2021. School District Employee Report. Available at http://www.ade.az.gov/sder/ReportGenerationPublic.asp. Accessed July 24, 2021.
Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed July 24, 2021.
SLIDE.org. 2021b. Data and Tools. Available at https://libslide.org/data-tools/. Accessed July 24, 2021.
SLIDE.org. 2021c. State Survey. Available at https://libslide.org/state-survey/. Accessed July 24, 2021.