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California State Auditor Report Number : 2016-112

School Library Services
Vague State Laws and a Lack of Monitoring Allow School Districts to Provide a Minimal Level of Library Services

November 17, 2016 2016-112

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning school library services. State law requires school districts to provide library services to their students and teachers, but leaves the level of services provided to the discretion of school districts. In 2010 the State Board of Education adopted the Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (model standards), which define educational goals for students at each grade level, including goals for information literacy.

This report concludes that state law does not clearly define the minimum level of school library services school districts should provide. School districts can provide library services by employing teacher librarians, contracting for the provision of library services with county offices of education that employ teacher librarians, contracting with public libraries, which are not required to employ teacher librarians, or by limiting their provision of library services to certain types that do not require a teacher librarian. School districts in the counties we visited—Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Tulare—provide varying levels of library services to their students and teachers. One school district contracts with its county office of education, whereas the other two school districts employ teacher librarians, but place them only in the advanced grades. As a result, their students in lower grades receive fewer types of library services, and some may receive no more than access to library materials.

In addition, state and county agencies have little authority to monitor the provision of library services when performing their oversight responsibilities. Although the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the county offices of education we visited do monitor staffing assignments to verify that school districts employ or have access to certificated teacher librarians, they do not have express authority to assess whether districts actually provide library services. In addition, state law does not require county offices of education to ensure that their school districts consider the model standards when developing their local funding plans. As a result, school districts may be unaware that the model standards are one of the State’s academic content and performance standards, and thus they may fail to identify the needs of their school library programs.

California has by far the poorest ratio of students to teacher librarians in the nation. In fiscal year 2013–14, California employed one teacher librarian for every 8,091 students while at the same time the national average was 1,109 students per teacher librarian. Although state law does not require school districts to employ teacher librarians, the model standards recommend employing one full-time teacher librarian for every 785 students. Finally, the number of individuals with active credentials authorizing them to provide library services has declined since fiscal year 2008–09. Thus, even schools that are interested in hiring teacher librarians may face difficulties in filling vacancies.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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