Funding the Future: A message from Houston Public Library on the importance of librarians in schools

The latest edition of HISD’s Funding the Future newsletter aims to highlight the significant impact librarians have on school communities and why these key positions should be adequately funded through the proposed budget.

As the HISD Board of Education works toward voting on 2022-2023 budget in June, Dr. Rhea Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library, has provided the HISD community with important context on the impact librarians have on supporting childhood literacy and improving student outcomes.

“It is a clear and an unfortunate demonstration of the tale of two cities when we compare the efficacy and vibrancy of well-resourced, professionally staffed school libraries in the more affluent areas of the city to schools in low-income areas with under-resourced or non-existent libraries.

Several national studies document the significant importance of supporting childhood literacy for future academic success. The studies concur that schools with well-resourced school libraries and certified school librarians are critical because they positively impact student academic achievement, help overcome the impacts of poverty on literacy and learning and contribute to increased graduation rates. The studies show that students in high-poverty schools are almost twice as likely to graduate when the school library is staffed with a certified school librarian.

Lower income students are especially at risk of falling behind in math and reading when school is out. School librarians often serve as an important direct link to neighborhood public libraries that provide a myriad of out of school learning opportunities to help address learning loss and narrow the student achievement gap. For instance, school librarians often host public librarian visits to the school to connect students with their neighborhood library staff and to share information such as summer reading activities, after school programs, and free technology access. Through these crucial collaborations, students are made aware of learning opportunities both in their school and in their community.

For all these reasons, I strongly advocate for and encourage our public schools to equip all school buildings with inviting, well-resourced libraries and professional librarians.”