The current research tests the effect of an enlarged up-to-date book collection for students in the higher grades of primary education on reading motivation, reading frequency, and reading and mathematics proficiency. The intervention group was composed of schools participating in a nationwide project with the aim to enrich the school library. New books are added to the school library, resulting in a modern collection that contains at least five books per student (). To guarantee an attractive book collection over the years, each year 10% of the collection is renewed. For a fee (approximately €10 per student annually), employees of a local public library take care of the book collection in the participating schools and are available for 4 hr per week to assist students in selecting books that match not only their interest but also their reading level, as matching of text complexity and students’ ability seems important for students’ reading development (; ). Schools with enriched libraries are responsible for scheduling daily time for free reading in the classroom and organizing book promotional activities, such as the teacher’s reading to the students or book reviews presented by students or the teacher. We therefore expected that schools with an enriched school library not only would have more books available per student but also would spend more time reading during school hours than control schools.
Development of resources and services is the future of library systems in New York. By leveraging the power of open source web development frameworks like Drupal, the SLS of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership has created a library portal/discovery tool. Member librarians have a free website that serves as their online catalog and library website with social book reviews by students and pathfinders for classroom project support. This system was developed by librarians, with librarians, and for librarians. More importantly, it was developed within the funding of the school library system at no additional cost to our rural school districts. On demand development of cloud-based library services like this provides a strong future for school library systems. In our BOCES region, the SLS is viewed as having a strong vision for a digitally enriched future. We are seen as vital partners in the use of technology to enhance instruction in the libraries and beyond.
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An important question that remains relates to which elements of an enriched school library cause effects on students’ reading proficiency. Is it the collection itself and its appeal to students, or do effects depend on the activities that are elicited by an enriched school library? Although we tried to collect data about the impact of the enriched school library on the practices within schools, we observed that the impact of the enriched library on activities in the school varies highly depending on preferences of the staff. For instance, we did not find an overall effect of the enriched library on minutes per week to be spent on free reading. There were schools with enriched libraries in which students spent 3 hr per week reading self-selected books, whereas in other schools with enriched libraries, less than half an hour per week was reserved for the same activity. In informal discussions, teachers reported activities to facilitate increased engagement with books (e.g., book presentations by the teacher, reading to the class, book reviews by students), but activities seemed to be very diverse across schools in the control and experimental conditions. On the basis of these observations, we may conclude that the enriched school library does not have a clear and consistent impact on the language curriculum. On the other hand, despite the similarity in free reading in the classroom as reported by teachers, students from experimental schools were more familiar with age-appropriate books as compared to students from control schools. This seems to indicate that students in schools with an enriched school library spent more time reading. In explanation of the inconsistency between teachers’ reports and students’ scores on the title recognition test, we may assume that students took more books home to read in leisure time. It is also possible that the time for reading in school is the same but more productive in schools with an enriched school library because reading is more engaging as students can easily find interesting books. Studies using observational data collection methods may provide more insight in curricular differences that influence the reading development.