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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

Audit Results

State Law Does Not Clearly Define Required Library Services or Establish the Means for Ensuring Their Provision

State law requires K–12 public school districts to provide school library services, but it broadly defines library services without identifying the specific minimum services districts must provide. In addition, state law requires the State Board of Education (State Education Board) to establish standards for library services; however, the standards it adopted are not enforceable. Because the State has no clearly defined requirements for library services, we were not surprised to find that the school districts and county offices of education we visited use different approaches and provide varying levels of library services. Further, because state and county agencies do little to monitor the provision of library services, the State lacks adequate data to assess the effectiveness of school library programs statewide, and students and teachers at some schools may be receiving inferior services.

State Law Does Not Specify the Minimum Level of Library Services School Districts Must Provide

State law does not clearly define the minimum level of services that school districts must provide, so the districts provide varying levels of library services to their students and teachers. According to state law, a school district may provide library services by employing a teacher librarian, employing classified library staff to perform basic library operations, contracting with a county office of education that employs a teacher librarian, or contracting with a city or county public library, which is not required to employ a teacher librarian.2 Although state law does not specify the level or type of library services districts must provide, the State Education Board adopted the Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (model standards) in 2010; these model standards define educational standards for students at each grade level and describe minimum expectations for the level of library staffing and resources needed to ensure that the students will achieve these standards. However, the program guidelines that the State Education Board issues are not prescriptive, and state law requires the California Department of Education (Education) to notify school districts that compliance with the model standards is not mandatory. In the counties we selected for review—Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Tulare—the schools we visited provided students with access to library materials; however, their provision of additional types of library services varied significantly.

State law defines library services as including, but not limited to, the provision, organization, and utilization of materials and related activities. It presents five types of services that may be included under library services but does not expressly require any of them. As a result, school districts can choose to provide services that do not require extensive teacher librarian involvement. For example, schools may use classified staff to provide their students and teachers access to materials, such as books, while limiting the use of teacher librarians to professional services, such as the selection of materials. Most of the schools in the districts we visited do not regularly employ teacher librarians on-site in their libraries; instead, they rely on classified library staff to operate the libraries. The schools that do employ teacher librarians generally provide more types of library services to their students and teachers than those that do not, as shown in Table 3.

Although the model standards establish educational goals for all grades K–12, the school districts we visited generally provide fewer types of library services to students in their elementary and middle schools than to students in their high schools. For example, San Juan Unified School District (San Juan Unified) in Sacramento County employs teacher librarians at each of its nine traditional high schools, but none at any of its elementary and middle schools. Because certificated teacher librarians are the only staff allowed to provide certain types of library services, San Juan Unified’s elementary and middle school students and teachers receive fewer types of library services, with those services generally focusing on access to library materials.

Although the high schools’ teacher librarians could theoretically provide additional services to the elementary and middle schools, the director of the district’s human resources certified team stated that the teacher librarians are dedicated full-time to their assigned high schools. One teacher librarian explained that because the district does not assign dedicated library aides to the high school libraries, the teacher librarians are required to stay at their assigned locations to keep the libraries open. She stated that the teacher librarians can therefore only offer sporadic assistance to elementary and middle school libraries. This approach may affect the success of some students entering high school. According to the teacher librarian, she tested freshmen in high school to measure their knowledge of information literacy and noted that their scores were quite low. However, the model standards establish educational goals for elementary grade levels with the expectation that students will master the goals for previous grades as they advance in school. Without the foundation of skills and knowledge established in earlier grades, students may not be able to achieve the goals of the model standards for higher grades.

Table 3
Types of Services Provided by Library Programs at Selected Schools

Sacramento County San Bernardino County Tulare County
San Juan Unified School District Redlands Unified School District Woodlake Unified School District
Type of Library Services Del Campo High School El Camino Fundamental High School Sylvan Middle School Del Dayo Elementary School Redlands High School Moore Middle School Crafton Elementary School Highland Grove Elementary Woodlake High School Woodlake Valley Middle School
Library Instruction
Provide instruction to students that will enable them to become proficient users of library resources. Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No No No No
Provide in-service training for teachers.
Curriculum Development
Provide information to teachers and administrators concerning sources and availability of instructional materials that will aid in the development of school curriculum. Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No No No No
Team with classroom teachers to develop units of instruction and activities using library resources in the instructional programs.
Materials Selection
Provide assistance to teachers and students in the evaluation, selection, production, and uses of instructional materials. Yes Yes Yes* Yes* Yes Yes Yes* Yes* Yes* Yes*
Access to Materials and Information Resources
Provide a collection of materials and resources that support the curriculum and are appropriate for user needs. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Plan a functional system, procedures, and services for maximum utilization of resources.
Professional Development
Assist teachers, administrators, and other school staff members in becoming knowledgeable and current concerning appropriate uses of library media services, materials, and equipment. No No No No No No No No Yes Yes
Number of library service types provided 4 4 2 2 4 4 2 2 3 3
Number of full-time teacher librarians assigned 1 1 0 0 1 0.25 0 0 0 0

Sources: California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 16040; California State Auditor’s analysis of documentation provided by library staff and school site administrators of schools identified above; and interviews with key staff from those schools.

* These schools use principals or library staff to select materials for the school library, a service the Commission on Teacher Credentialing only authorizes teacher librarians to provide.

The school district contracts for library services with its county office of education whose sole teacher librarian serves more than 100 schools in Tulare and Kings counties.

The school district employs one full-time teacher librarian who splits her time equally among four middle schools.

Redlands Unified School District (Redlands Unified) in San Bernardino County employs a teacher librarian who works at its four middle schools, so she is able to spend the equivalent of one day in any given week at each school. However, the services she provides are still limited. According to the two teacher librarians at Redlands Unified whom we interviewed, the district previously employed a teacher librarian at each of its middle schools, but budget cuts in 2009 eliminated three of the teacher librarian positions and modified the remaining position to serve all four schools. Redlands Unified’s current model allows it to leverage its limited resources at its middle schools to at times provide a broader range of library services at each. Specifically, Redlands Unified employs classified staff at each of its middle school libraries, allowing the teacher librarian to provide additional library services to all four of her assigned schools.

In contrast, Redlands Unified does not employ teacher librarians at any of its elementary school libraries, and those libraries consequently provide fewer types of library services than do those of the middle schools and high schools. One of the district’s teacher librarians stated that she is concerned that students will not see a connection between the library and the materials that support their curriculum because of the lack of credentialed teacher librarians at the elementary level. She asserted that introducing students to the purpose of a library at an early age greatly affects use of the library in high school.

Teacher librarians at San Juan Unified’s and Redlands Unified’s high schools also provide more types of library services than the districts’ students and teachers receive in lower grades. In general, we noted that schools with teacher librarians provided the most types of library services to their students, as shown in Table 3. Specifically, in these two districts, the teacher librarians at the high schools collaborate with the high school teachers in developing curriculum and instructing students on topics such as research skills and information literacy. For example, a teacher librarian in San Juan Unified collaborated with an English teacher to develop lessons on writing research papers, including identifying and documenting sources. In another instance, a teacher librarian in Redlands Unified developed procedures for students to assess the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of online information sources that they used in their coursework. These procedures address multiple goals outlined in the model standards relating to the evaluation of information.

However, although they provide curriculum development and instruction services, none of the teacher librarians could demonstrate that they provided professional development to their schools’ teachers, administrators, or staff. One of the teacher librarians in San Juan Unified stated that her school site and district administration have not shown an interest in the professional development that a teacher librarian can provide. Without the support of school and district administrators, teacher librarians may be unable to provide the full extent of library services that they are authorized and trained to perform.

Unlike the districts we visited that employ teacher librarians directly, Woodlake Unified School District (Woodlake Unified) contracts with the Tulare County Office of Education (Tulare County Education) for library services, an approach that limits the services its students and teachers receive. Under its contract, Tulare County Education provides the school district with access to online materials, access to books on a rotating basis, consultant services related to the development of library programs, and one day of technology consultation per year. Although Tulare County Education provided Woodlake Unified’s schools with more types of services than schools without teacher librarians received in the other two districts we visited, Tulare County Education employs only one teacher librarian to serve over 39,000 students throughout Tulare and Kings counties. As a result of the large number of schools she serves, the teacher librarian must limit her visits to schools that directly request her assistance. She supervises six classified staff who work directly with over 100 schools on her behalf, acting as liaisons with the schools and telling school staff about the resources Tulare County Education has available.

Although the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Teacher Credentialing) issued guidance that this practice is one way to comply with state law, schools that obtain services in this manner are unlikely to provide as many library services to their students and teachers as schools that employ their own teacher librarians. According to Woodlake Unified’s school and district administrators, they do not see a need to employ a dedicated teacher librarian because they are satisfied with the services they receive from Tulare County Education, and they believe classroom teachers provide sufficient lessons on information literacy and research. However, by employing teacher librarians at a school—who are specifically trained in these subjects—a district can better ensure the consistency and quality of the lessons in meeting the state standards.

We identified no legal requirement that county offices of education support districts in the provision of library services, and the county offices of education we visited tend to provide limited support to their districts unless the districts contract with them to provide library services. Although San Bernardino County’s Office of the Superintendent of Schools (San Bernardino County Education) offers contracted library services to school districts that request them, an assistant superintendent stated that it has received no interest for such services from the school districts within its jurisdiction since dissolving its itinerant library service and replacing it with consulting services. San Bernardino County Education previously employed a roving teacher librarian who provided library services to outlying rural districts but discontinued the program because of difficulties coordinating the schedules of the districts and the teacher librarian. Nevertheless, it still provides some level of support to the districts by contracting with a teacher librarian to conduct free training workshops for teacher librarians and classified staff throughout the school year to facilitate discussion on topics such as increasing book circulation and holding literacy fairs. In contrast, the Sacramento County Office of Education (Sacramento County Education) does not employ teacher librarians, operate a library, or otherwise provide districts with any library services. According to Sacramento County Education’s general counsel, it does not provide library services because it is not legally required to do so and it does not receive funding for this purpose.

State and County Agencies Perform Limited Oversight of School Library Services

State and county agencies have little authority to monitor the provision of library services when performing their oversight responsibilities. Specifically, although 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 those services. In addition, county offices of education and Education can do little to ensure that school districts address the model standards when developing their local funding plans.

Teacher Credentialing works with county offices of education to verify that school districts are capable of providing library services, but it is not authorized to ensure that districts are actually providing those services. Because certain library services may only be provided by a credentialed teacher librarian, Teacher Credentialing advises school districts to enter into contracts for library services with another public agency if they do not directly employ at least one teacher librarian. However, Teacher Credentialing has no other authority to ensure that the schools in these districts actually receive library services. We noted that the Mariposa County Office of Education entered into a contract for library services to ensure that its only school district could comply with state law, but it also indicated to its board of education that it did not anticipate using the services. Although Teacher Credentialing received evidence that this county’s office of education did not intend to use the contract, the director of Teacher Credentialing’s professional services division stated that actually using the contract is a local decision outside the scope of its assignment monitoring authority. Similarly, the county offices of education we visited that have school districts that contract with other public agencies for library services do not verify whether those districts are actually using those contracts to receive such services. As a result, the State and counties are not ensuring that school districts that do not directly employ teacher librarians still provide a minimum level of library service to students and teachers.

In addition, no oversight mechanism exists at the State and county level to ensure that schools do not assign classified staff to perform the authorized duties of a teacher librarian. The three counties we visited collectively reported only nine and 11 teacher librarian misassignments in fiscal years 2014–15 and 2015–16, respectively, despite our observation that a number of the schools we visited employed classified staff who performed duties reserved for teacher librarians. For example, Sacramento County Education did not report misassignments for San Juan Unified even though the elementary school and middle school we visited had principals or classified staff selecting materials for their libraries, an activity that requires a certificated teacher librarian. Sacramento County Education’s general counsel explained that, at the request of Teacher Credentialing, Sacramento County Education asks districts to provide it with evidence that they employ at least one teacher librarian. If districts do not employ any teacher librarians, Sacramento County Education asks them to explain how they provide library services. However, it does not verify those explanations because it believes it is the responsibility of the school districts to evaluate the provision of library services at the school level. Moreover, even though classified personnel may be improperly performing the activities reserved for certificated staff, Teacher Credentialing’s professional services director stated that it does not have the authority to monitor classified personnel. Because Teacher Credentialing and the counties lack the authority to ensure that only certificated staff provide certain library services, students and teachers may receive these services from individuals who are not qualified to provide them.

However, we noted that Teacher Credentialing could identify likely misassignments statewide by comparing its credentialing data against the staffing information that schools report to Education annually. When we compared data between Teacher Credentialing’s Credentialing Automation System Enterprise and Education’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), we identified 111 individuals whom districts reported as employed teacher librarians at some point during fiscal years 2010–11 through 2014–15 and who did not appear to possess the requisite credential or permit to provide library services. All of these individuals held valid teaching credentials but not the type of credential or permit that would authorize them to be employed as teacher librarians. About 11 percent of these individuals had held at one time the requisite credentials or permits but had allowed them to expire before the time of their reported employment. Another 11 percent of these individuals did not have the requisite credential or permit for a portion of the time the districts reported them as working as teacher librarians, but they later obtained valid credentials or permits.

According to Teacher Credentialing’s professional services division director, Teacher Credentialing has received staffing information from Education since fiscal year 2010–11. However, she stated that Teacher Credentialing does not use this information to identify potential misassignments because it is not clear that it has the authority or staffing to collect, analyze, or display the employment data for assignment monitoring. However, state law gives Teacher Credentialing broad authority to ensure competence in the teaching profession and to establish sanctions for the misuse of credentials and misassignment of credential holders. We, therefore, believe that Teacher Credentialing should continue to obtain this staffing information from Education and begin using it to identify and follow up on potential misassignments using its existing authority.

In addition, state law does not require the county offices of education to ensure that their school districts consider the model standards when developing their local funding plans. State law requires school districts to use the State Education Board’s adopted template to address the implementation of its academic content and performance standards within their local control accountability plans (LCAPs) by including a description of the school district’s annual goals for students’ achievement. County offices of education are then responsible for reviewing and approving the LCAPs of school districts within their jurisdiction. However, they are only allowed to ensure that districts’ LCAPs adhere to the template and that their budgets are sufficient and adhere to expenditure requirements. Although Education identifies the model standards as one of the State’s academic content and performance standards, the template does not list any of the standards that school districts must address.

Consequently, the county offices of education do not generally consider the model standards during their review. For example, Sacramento County Education’s general counsel explained that it reviews LCAPs according to the legal requirements of the statutes and regulations, which do not explicitly include determining if the LCAPs address the model standards. Similarly, San Bernardino County Education’s assistant superintendent of Education Support Services explained that San Bernardino County Education lacks the authority to request the information it would need to assess whether districts address the model standards during their LCAP process. Nevertheless, we believe county offices of education could provide guidance to school districts to consider the model standards when creating their LCAPs. For example, Tulare County Education’s library media supervisor explained during a forum with school district superintendents that the model standards describe strong school library programs and encouraged them to use LCAP funds to support teacher librarian positions in their districts. Without additional guidance, school districts may not consider using the model standards during the LCAP process to identify weaknesses in their library programs and to develop goals to address those needs.

In fact, two of the school districts we visited had not fully assessed their needs related to the model standards, while the third district was not even aware that the model standards exist. Woodlake Unified’s and Redlands Unified’s assistant superintendents asserted that their districts’ LCAPs address the model standards because the districts are implementing other state standards that overlap with the model standards. Woodlake Unified’s LCAP identified goals specific to the State’s common core standards, and it allocated funds for library services such as purchasing resources and extending library hours. Similarly, Redlands Unified provided us with an analysis showing that several of the model standards’ goals align with those of the State’s common core standards.

However, the model standards define far more goals related to library services than the common core standards. In fact, according to Education’s analysis, the common core standards’ goals overlap with fewer than half of the model standards’ 64 goals for students in grades nine through 12. For example, unlike the model standards, the common core standards do not include goals related to demonstrating good citizenship online; understanding how to access and retrieve resources from local, regional, state, and national libraries; or using strategies to identify what should be read in depth. In addition, the model standards provide other specific guidance related to library services that is not included in the common core standards, such as goals related to library staffing and resources.

Finally, the associate superintendent for schools and student support of the third district, San Juan Unified, explained that district management was not familiar with the model standards or with the requirement to address them in the LCAP. Although school districts are not required to implement the model standards, state law requires school districts to use the LCAP template, which instructs districts to describe goals and identify the related state or local priorities they address. The director of Education’s local agency systems support office (systems support director) explained that if a district identifies a need regarding the degree to which it is implementing a specific standard, then it should develop a goal for implementing that particular standard. However, if school districts do not use the model standards’ guidance to identify weaknesses in their library programs, they may be unable to identify their needs appropriately. As a result, parents and other stakeholders may be unaware of the types of library services that exist and the guidelines for exemplary provision of those services.

The State provides school districts and county offices of education with guidance on developing LCAPs, but this guidance does not appear to have been effective in leading districts to address the model standards. Specifically, the State Education Board adopted a template for districts to use when developing their LCAPs, but the template only specifies that school districts must address state academic content and performance standards and English language development standards. Education’s website that answers frequently asked questions about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) includes the model standards as one of the 11 content standards it says LCAPs must address. This guidance is not, however, incorporated into the template itself. According to the systems support director, Education does not review LCAPs to ensure that school districts address the 11 standards because the template instructs districts to develop goals to be achieved for each state and any local priorities. However, these goals are specific to the needs the districts identify, which do not necessarily cover all of the standards.

The deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel of the State Education Board (deputy policy director) stated that the State Education Board’s LCFF evaluation rubrics, which it adopted in September 2016, aid in measuring a school district’s performance in all LCFF priority areas and includes state performance standards for each LCFF priority. The deputy policy director noted that the State has allocated funding for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence to provide workshops to school districts and county offices of education on the evaluation rubrics and the revised LCAP template that the State Education Board will adopt this fall. He believes this could reinforce that school districts and county offices of education should consider all of the State Education Board’s adopted academic content and performance standards under this LCFF priority. Without this additional guidance, some school districts, such as San Juan Unified, may be unaware that the model standards are one of the State’s recommended academic and performance standards or that they provide detailed guidance related to information literacy that is not found in the common core standards. As a result, some districts may fail to adequately identify their needs for library services and not develop related goals within their local funding plans accordingly.

Education Collects Incomplete Data Related to School Library Services

School districts do not provide Education with the information necessary for it to issue effective guidance and to provide decision makers with accurate data related to library services. School districts are required to report the condition of their school libraries to Education annually, even though state law does not expressly require Education to ensure that school districts provide library services to students and teachers. State law requires the districts’ reports to include statistical and other information that Education identifies as desirable for performing a comparative study of school library conditions in the State. Accordingly, Education provides an annual survey to schools that asks questions related to school library staffing, accessibility, and educational materials. However, Education did not design the questions to assess the extent to which schools actually provide library services or implement the model standards. For example, the survey only gathers limited information on library instruction, curriculum development, and professional development.

Because the information it collects is limited, Education cannot accurately determine the level of library services that schools provide. For example, in San Juan Unified, we noted that one of the schools without a teacher librarian that we visited indicated in its survey that it provided more types of library instruction to students than another school that employed a teacher librarian. However, we determined that the school without a teacher librarian only provided basic library instruction that was technical in nature—such as instructing teachers on the procedures for borrowing the library’s laptops for student use in their classrooms. In contrast, the teacher librarian at the other school provided evidence that she had instructed students on information literacy and research skills. As this example demonstrates, Education’s school library survey does not distinguish between basic instruction in library procedures and the substantive instruction that a teacher librarian is trained to provide on the topics of information literacy and digital citizenship that are covered in the model standards. Consequently, the survey results do not yield enough information for a meaningful comparative analysis of the level of library services that schools provide their students.

Fiscal Year 2014–15 School Library Survey
Response Rates for the Counties We Visited

Sacramento County: 42.3 percent
- San Juan Unified School District: 85.5 percent

San Bernardino County: 60.4 percent
- Redlands Unified School District: 30.8 percent

Tulare County: 23.2 percent
- Woodlake Unified School District: 16.7 percent

Source: California Department of Education’s annual survey responses.

Even if Education designed the survey to capture this information, the survey responses might not accurately reflect conditions statewide because fewer than 50 percent of schools have completed the annual survey each year since fiscal year 2008–09—the year in which the State ceased providing funding specific to libraries. In addition, we noted that school sites without teacher librarians were less likely to complete the survey, potentially skewing the results to show a higher level of library services than actually exists. Of the three school districts we visited, San Juan Unified had the highest participation rate in the most recent survey, with 85.5 percent of the district’s schools responding to the survey, as shown in the text box. Most of the schools within the other two school districts did not respond to the survey. Several of the related school and district administrators we visited said they were unaware that the survey was mandatory or that it even existed.

We also found that Education’s information for library contacts at both the school and district levels, such as principals, teacher librarians, or district administrators, was incomplete. Education’s school library technology consultant stated that she faces challenges in determining which county offices of education have library programs, identifying which districts have a teacher librarian overseeing programs at the district level, and identifying which schools have a library. In addition, she explained that Education does not have the authority to sanction schools that do not complete the survey, so it lacks the ability to increase survey participation. However, Education maintains an online directory of administrators at the school and district level, which she could use to notify them of the reporting requirement. Most of the schools we visited that did not respond to the survey asserted that they would have participated had they known of the requirement. As a result, Education might significantly improve participation by revamping its survey process and related communications.

Education’s ability to assess the condition of library services statewide is further limited by problems with the statewide data it collects to satisfy federal requirements. Every year, school districts report student enrollment and staffing information to Education, including the number of teacher librarians they employ. However, because of recent changes to its data collection process, Education cannot use the data it collected in fiscal year 2015–16 to accurately identify the number of teacher librarians employed statewide. According to Education’s deputy superintendent of the District, School, and Innovation Branch (branch deputy), in fiscal year 2015–16 Education changed its way of collecting data at the request of teacher librarians who wanted to be categorized as teachers who teach specific courses rather than as staff providing pupil services. To instruct districts about the changes in the way they should report teacher librarians, Education updated its data guide and provided multiple CALPADS trainings. However, according to Education’s school library technology consultant, the number of reported teacher librarians dropped by 75 percent.

The branch deputy explained that it is clear many school districts did not understand that they needed to change how they submitted the data on teacher librarians. He stated that Education could determine the sources of the biggest discrepancies and decide if contacting the related districts would be beneficial, since the districts are able to modify the information they submitted at any time. Unless Education follows up with districts that reported a significant decrease in the number of teacher librarians, the fiscal year 2015–16 data will likely remain an inaccurate source for the number of teacher librarians. The branch deputy explained that Education plans to address the problem in fiscal year 2016–17 by emphasizing the change in the reporting process in a CALPADS information meeting this fall and by providing training, including a special training in conjunction with the California School Libraries Association in January 2017. Education will need to monitor the success of these efforts to ensure the effectiveness of its data collection; otherwise, it will not be able to provide accurate information on the number of teacher librarians California schools employ.

The Number of Teacher Librarians Employed Statewide Is Much Lower Than the State’s Adopted Standards Would Recommend

School districts throughout the State do not employ enough teacher librarians on average to meet the staffing levels recommended in the model standards. The model standards recommend staffing based on student enrollment; however, as previously discussed, the school districts we visited employ teacher librarians to serve only certain grade levels, or they contract with a public agency that provides library services to a large number of schools. Further, the number of individuals with active credentials authorizing them to provide library services has declined since fiscal year 2008–09, possibly because teacher librarians do not always earn additional pay and appear to be more susceptible to budget cuts. Thus, even schools that are interested in hiring teacher librarians may face difficulties in filling vacancies. Unless the State makes changes to increase the number of teacher librarians, its employment of teacher librarians will likely continue to trail the rest of the nation.

Not Enough Individuals Currently Hold or Are Applying for Teacher Librarian Credentials to Meet the Model Standards’ Goals

In part because California teachers lack strong incentives to pursue a teacher librarian credential, the State does not have enough certificated teacher librarians with active credentials or emergency permits to achieve the model standards’ recommendation. According to the model standards’ recommendation, the State’s school districts should employ about 7,900 teacher librarians to serve the 6.2 million students enrolled in schools statewide. The model standards recommend having one full-time teacher librarian for every 785 students; however, in fiscal year 2014–15, California school districts reported a total of 841 teacher librarians statewide, which equates to only one teacher librarian for every 7,414 students. As shown in Table 4, none of the counties or school districts we visited met the staffing level the model standards recommend.

Table 4
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratios for Selected Counties and School Districts
Fiscal Year 2014–15

County Sacramento San Bernardino Tulare
Number of districts 13 33 46
Number of schools 372 552 194
Number of teacher librarians 29 43 3
Number of students 241,017 410,687 102,206
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio 8,311–to–1 9,551–to–1 34,069–to–1
District San Juan Unified Redlands Unified Woodlake Unified
Number of schools 74 27 6
Number of district-employed teacher librarians 9 4 0
Number of students 49,114 21,326 2,291
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio 5,457–to–1 5,332–to–1 0*
High Schools
Number of schools 16 6 3
Number of district-employed teacher librarians 9 3 0
Number of students 15,975 7,329 723
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio 1,775–to–1 2,443–to–1 0*
Middle Schools
Number of schools 15 5 1
Number of district-employed teacher librarians 0 1 0
Number of students 10,787 4,774 492
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio 0 4,774–to–1 0*
Elementary Schools
Number of schools 43 16 2
Number of district-employed teacher librarians 0 0 0
Number of students 22,352 9,223 1,076
Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio 0 0 0*

Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of documents from the districts and counties indicated above, and data obtained from the California Department of Education’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System and California Basic Educational Data System.

* The school district contracts for library services with its county office of education whose sole teacher librarian serves schools in Tulare and Kings counties with over 39,000 students in total.

Moreover, according to Teacher Credentialing’s data, fewer than 2,100 individuals in the State had active credentials authorizing them to provide library services in fiscal year 2015–16. Consequently, even if every one of these teachers were employed to provide services, California would still fall far short of the model standards’ recommendations. Teacher Credentialing’s data further indicate that the number of individuals with active credentials decreased 22 percent between fiscal years 2008–09 and 2015–16, from nearly 2,700 to nearly 2,100, as shown in Figure 2. Although most of the decrease is attributable to the declining number of individuals with legacy credentials, which Teacher Credentialing generally stopped issuing after 1994, the number of individuals with teacher librarian credentials or emergency permits also decreased by 8 percent over this period, from 1,914 in fiscal year 2008–09 to 1,761 in fiscal year 2015–16. Thus, the number of teachers pursuing teacher librarian credentials appears to have decreased as well.

According to the program director of Teacher Librarian Services at Fresno Pacific University (Fresno program director), earning a teacher librarian credential does not usually lead to a significant pay increase and can even lead to lower compensation if taking a librarian position involves the teacher switching districts and losing a longevity bonus. At the same time, the credentialing process requires a substantial investment of time, money, and effort. Specifically, the four credential programs for teacher librarians in California require at least 27 units of coursework and cost between $9,000 and $20,000, in addition to the cost of becoming qualified to be a teacher.

Because California teachers lack strong incentives to pursue a teacher librarian credential, the number of certificated teacher librarians may continue to shrink. Of the three school districts we visited, only San Juan Unified paid its teacher librarians extra for the additional credential—an annual stipend of $2,139. The other two school districts we visited only provided additional pay if a teacher librarian took enough semester units to qualify for a different pay scale—a practice that is not exclusive to teacher librarians. According to the teacher librarian program coordinator at San José State University (San José program coordinator), some teachers may also choose not to pursue the credential because they are aware that teacher librarian positions are usually among the first cut by school districts when funding drops. We noted one example at Redlands Unified where a current teacher librarian had previously lost her job as a middle school teacher librarian in 2009 because of budget issues. She briefly worked at the district as a high school teacher before eventually returning as a teacher librarian in 2016. Given that only 841 of the 2,168 individuals with credentials authorized to provide library services were actually employed as teacher librarians in fiscal year 2014–15, other teacher librarians may have had similar experiences.

Figure 2
Number of Individuals Authorized to Provide Library Services, by Type
Fiscal Years 2008–09 Through 2015–16

Figure 2, a bar graph showing the number of individuals authorized to provide library services by type of authorization for fiscal years 2008-09 through 2015-16.

Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of data obtained from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Credentialing Automation System Enterprise.

Note: An individual may have multiple credentials in a given fiscal year. To ensure we did not count individuals more than once in a given fiscal year, we assigned each individual to a category using the following order: Teacher Librarian, Emergency Permit, or Legacy credential type. For example, if an individual had both teacher librarian and emergency permit credentials, we counted the individual only in the teacher librarian credential type.

In fact, some school districts and counties have experienced difficulty attracting qualified teacher librarian candidates. For example, San Bernardino County Education posted the same teacher librarian position for a year before hiring a viable candidate. Similarly, Redlands Unified and San Juan Unified reported that they received only one or two credentialed applicants for recent teacher librarian openings. The Fresno program director and San José program coordinator also said that they have received numerous calls from school districts across the State looking for teacher librarians, but they have been unable to identify available candidates because the majority of teachers enrolled in their credentialing programs are already employed as teacher librarians on an emergency basis—a method for schools to temporarily fill teacher librarian positions with teachers who are generally pursuing their teacher librarian credentials. Because most teachers with emergency credentials already have jobs as teacher librarians, only a few of the graduating teacher librarians are available to fill new job offerings. As a result, districts and counties may be unable to employ teacher librarians even if they wish to do so.

National Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratios Have Increased, but California Continues to Lag Far Behind

Since the State Education Board adopted the model standards in 2010, the national average that it used to establish its recommended ratio increased from 785 students per teacher librarian to 1,109 students per teacher librarian in fiscal year 2013–14—the year with the most recent national data available. Regardless of the changes in the national average, California still has by far the poorest ratio of students to teacher librarians in the nation. National data from fiscal year 2013–14 indicate California employed only one teacher librarian for every 8,091 students, while the state with the next poorest ratio, Idaho, employed one teacher librarian for every 5,533 students. Table 5 shows California’s ranking compared to the next four most populous states. Taken together, the population of these five states accounted for 38 percent of the nation’s public school students in fiscal year 2013–14.

School districts in other states appear to place a higher value on the services offered by teacher librarians than do the districts in California. As Table 5 shows, each of the other states we reviewed employed more teacher librarians per student than California. In addition, the largest school districts within two of those states provide greater monetary incentives to their teacher librarians than the largest California school district—Los Angeles Unified. As described previously, the school districts we visited in California do not provide significant monetary incentives to their teacher librarians.

Table 5
Comparison of Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratios
for the Five Most Populous States
Fiscal Year 2013–14

State Number of Students Student-to-Teacher Librarian Ratio National Ranking
New York 2.7 million 1,089 to 1 32
Texas 5.2 million 1,119 to 1 34
Florida 2.7 million 1,277 to 1 36
Illinois 2.1 million 1,442 to 1 43
California 6.3 million 8,091 to 1 50

Source: U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Fiscal Year 2013–14 data.

School districts in California may find it difficult to afford a student-to-teacher librarian ratio similar to that of other states because California spends less than the nationwide average per student, even though the cost of living in California is generally higher than that of most other states. According to the most recent nationwide data, California spent $9,595 per student in fiscal year 2013–14, an amount somewhat below the national average of $11,009 and far below the $20,610 per student New York spent, even though the cost of living in California and New York is comparable. Further, Illinois, which has a cost of living near the national average, managed to spend $13,077 per student, roughly 36 percent more than California. The lack of financial support may, in part, hinder school districts from employing and retaining more teacher librarians.

In addition, some states have laws that require school districts to employ teacher librarians based on school size or grade level, which creates a demand for teacher librarians within those states. According to one study, states with the best ratios of students to teacher librarians tend to have state mandates to employ teacher librarians. For example, New York has a state mandate requiring the employment of full-time teacher librarians. Specifically, it requires one full-time teacher librarian per 1,000 students in each secondary school. By establishing a mandate on the staffing of teacher librarians, some states have demonstrated that they value library services as a fundamental part of education. Unless California’s state and local decision makers demonstrate that they place an equally high value on library services, the State’s employment of teacher librarians will likely continue to trail the rest of the nation.


To ensure that students receive a level of library services that better aligns with the model standards, the Legislature should do the following:

To strengthen their library programs and help the State assess the condition of school libraries statewide, Redlands Unified, San Juan Unified, and Woodlake Unified should do the following:

To strengthen school library programs in their counties and help school districts comply with state law, the Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Tulare county offices of education should provide guidance to their school districts on using teacher librarians for the provision of library services, completing Education’s annual school library survey, and identifying the needs of their school library programs by using the model standards as part of their LCAP process.

To strengthen its monitoring of staff assignments, Teacher Credentialing should work with Education to identify potential misassignments by comparing annually the staffing information reported by school districts to Education against Teacher Credentialing’s credentialing records. Further, Teacher Credentialing should incorporate misassignments identified using Education’s data into its existing notification, reporting, and sanctioning structure. If Teacher Credentialing believes it needs express statutory authority to do so, it should seek it.

To better understand the condition of school libraries statewide and to raise stakeholders’ awareness of the State Education Board’s adopted model standards, Education should do the following:

We conducted this audit under the authority vested in the California State Auditor by Section 8543 et seq. of the California Government Code and according to generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives specified in the Scope and Methodology section of the report. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

November 17, 2016

Jim Sandberg-Larsen, CPA, CPFO, Audit Principal
Andrew Lee
Aren Knighton
Jeffrey Filice

IT Audits:
Michelle J. Baur, CISA, Audit Principal
Lindsay M. Harris, MBA, CISA
Kim L. Buchanan, MBA, CIA

Legal Counsel:
Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway, Sr. Staff Counsel

For questions regarding the contents of this report, please contact Margarita Fernández, Chief of Public Affairs, at 916.445.0255.


2 Certificated personnel, such as administrators, teachers, and teacher librarians, are employees who have obtained a valid certification or credential licensing them to provide designated school services. The term classified staff refers to school employees who work in positions not requiring certification, such as instructional aides, library technicians, and clerical staff. Go back to text

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