Monday, December 3, 2012

Assessment of the school library program - considering annual reports

I have thought about how to put together an annual report for the past several years. It seems to me that an annual report for the school library program is an important step to evaluating and promoting the work that school librarians do to further the teaching and learning in a school. My district library supervisor requires all of the school librarians to submit monthly reports and she provides a standard format for us. I like the regular routine; even though I dread the time pulling this together each month, I think it is a helpful document. The question remains: what items to include in an annual report and how to present it.

I particularly liked Jennifer LaGarde's blog posts in Library Girl about preparing an annual report for her middle school library. Her annual reports are concise and focus on the essentials of her program. Her goals for her 2012 annual report were:
  1. "Emphasize information that's important to people OTHER than librarians.
  2. Make it fun, interesting and easy to understand.
  3. Focus on instruction/student impact.
  4. Consider my audience at every turn.
  5. Keep it positive. This has been a tough year for me. My clerk was cut. I have no dedicated budget. I've felt overwhelmed and defeated numerous times. I don't want to sugar coat those things or make it seem as though they haven't had an impact. However, if I refer to goal #4, I know this isn't the place for that conversation."
In her 2011 annual report, Jennifer kept bringing it back to "What's the bottom line." This focus helps her reflect on the meaning of the statistics she shares, what goals she has accomplished and how she wants to improve her program next year. She also made sure the visuals were engaging and easy to read, and kept each reflection short and sweet

Mgms annual report 2010 11 from Jennifer LaGarde

As I reflect on the contents of an annual report, it seems important to focus on more than circulation, collection and library usage statistics. We need to find a way to communicate the value of teaching and learning that goes on at the school. Joyce Valenza reflects on several annual reports in her blog post at The Neverending Search. She writes of Buffy Hamilton's annual report,
"But for me, the most powerful element is the inclusion of faculty quotes that describe the role of this dynamic library program in Creekview’s learning and teaching culture."
While I found Hamilton's report too lengthy, I absolutely agree with Valenza. This sort of testimony from teachers and students is essential. We need to find a way to include narrative of ways the librarian was involved in dynamic teaching. Otherwise, librarians will continue to be seen as book distributors. I like the idea of measuring student attitude toward reading or research, before and after a unit.

I particularly like the idea of organizing the report into the following areas, suggested by Loertscher and  Champlin, as described by Loertscher and Woolls (2002):

  • Information literacy
  • Impact on reading
  • Impact of technology

For each of these categories, Loertscher and Champlin recommend gathering data from rubrics that assess learning outcomes. While I agree that this is the goal we should work toward, I think great strides can be made simply organizing our regular reporting into these sections. The simplicity of these topics would focus our reporting on the key areas that emphasize our teaching and learning. I am afraid that no administrator will read a 12 page annual report. We need to keep our annual reports down to 2-3 pages that really focus on sharing key achievements and key data.

My favorite annual report is from the Durant Road Middle School Media Center in North Carolina. Here's a screenshot of the beginning of their 2009-2010 Annual Report. Notice the first section? "It's all about student learning." That remains the focus throughout. Again, I believe that administrators need this trimmed down (12 pages is just too long). Perhaps monthly reports can be used to highlight individual programs, and the annual report can summarize key achievements. But I really like the focus, the look and the feel throughout.

It's interesting to note that this library team chose to publish their 2011-12 annual report in their blog - I wonder if they have generated a loyal readership in their school community. They divided their report into three sections: library staff - professional development, reading culture and information literacy.

DRMS Library Media Program Annual Report. 2009-2010. Retrieved from

LaGarde, J. (June 19, 2012). A year in the making: My annual report. The Adventures of Library Girl (blog post). Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. and Woolls, B. (2002). Accountability and the school teacher librarian. School Libraries in Canada. 22(2)7-9.

Valenza, J. (June 20, 2011). My report and a couple of (far more) stellar examples. The Neverending Search (blog post). Retrieved from

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