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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



Definition of Library Services

School library services include, but are not limited to, the provision, organization, and utilization of materials and related activities supportive of the educational requirements prescribed by law and by the school districts, which may include the following:

  • Library Instruction—Provide instruction to students that will enable them to become proficient users of library resources; 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; 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.
  • Access to Materials and Information Resources—Provide a collection of materials and resources that support the curriculum and are appropriate for user needs; 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.

Source: California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 16040.

California’s common core standards for K–12 schools state that students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and summarize information and ideas to be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society. According to the American Library Association, librarians are uniquely qualified to teach students how to transform isolated bits of information into knowledge, how to evaluate sources, and how to think critically. Students in grades K–12 can learn these skills, known as information literacy, through instruction that teacher librarians provide as part of public schools’ library services.

State law requires school districts to provide their students and teachers with library services, which we describe in the text box. School districts may provide library services by employing teacher librarians, who are credentialed educators with specialized education and training in the provision of library services. School districts may also provide services by contracting with their county offices of education if those offices employ teacher librarians or by contracting with public libraries, which do not need to employ teacher librarians. In addition, school districts may use classified staff, such as teaching assistants, library aides, and clerical staff, to provide students with certain library services that do not fall within the list of duties that require a credentialed teacher librarian, as described in the text box. However, the employment of classified staff cannot be intended to supersede the requirement to include teacher librarians in the coordination and implementation of public school library programs.

Although school districts are not required to directly employ teacher librarians to provide library services, teacher librarians are trained and authorized to provide students and teachers with a broad range of library services that noncertificated staff cannot provide, such as instruction on information literacy. To become a teacher librarian, an individual must first obtain a valid teaching credential before completing an additional credentialing program approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Teacher Credentialing). Four California universities offer such credentialing programs: California State University, Long Beach; San José State University; Azusa Pacific University; and Fresno Pacific University. In certain cases, a certificated teacher without a teacher librarian credential may provide the full range of library services if that teacher holds an emergency teacher librarian services permit (emergency permit) or possesses legacy teaching credentials; however, these legacy credentials generally have not been issued since 1994. The emergency permit requires a formal commitment to complete a teacher librarian credential program and can only be renewed twice, allowing a maximum of three years of emergency service.

Authorized Duties of Credentialed Teacher Librarians

Teacher librarians and individuals with permits and credentials allowing for the provision of library services may do the following:

  • Instruct students in accessing, evaluating, using and integrating information and resources in the library program.
  • Plan and coordinate school library programs with the instructional programs of a school district through collaboration with teachers.
  • Select materials for school and district libraries.
  • Develop programs for and deliver staff development for school library services.
  • Coordinate or supervise library programs at the school, district, or county level.
  • Plan and conduct a course of instruction for those pupils who assist in the operation of school libraries.
  • Supervise classified personnel assigned school library duties.
  • Develop procedures for and management of the school and district libraries.

Sources: California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 80053 (b); the Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s (Teacher Credentialing) Administrator’s Assignment Manual, and Teacher Credentialing’s guidance on Emergency Teacher Librarian Services Permits.

Local and State Responsibilities

County offices of education support school districts by performing tasks that can be done more efficiently at the county level. For example, a county office of education may provide library services to school districts that contract with it for those services. State law requires county offices of education to monitor teacher assignments at a selection of school districts annually, covering all school districts within their jurisdictions at least every four years. When a county office of education identifies a misassignment—someone who is not properly certificated for his or her assigned position—it must notify the district’s administration that the district has 30 days to resolve the issue. If the misassignment is not corrected or explained, the county office of education must report it to Teacher Credentialing within 30 days. The county offices of education must also annually report to Teacher Credentialing the number and type of misassignments they identified and whether the school districts resolved those misassignments, among other things.

Teacher Credentialing monitors teacher assignments in counties with a single school district and reports biennially to the Legislature information on teacher assignments and misassignments statewide. Teacher Credentialing is also the state agency responsible for issuing and revoking teaching credentials, issuing emergency permits, and promulgating regulations related to credentialing. Accordingly, it provides guidance on interpreting state law related to credentialing requirements and to the authorized duties of credentialed teachers, such as teacher librarians.

The California Department of Education (Education) is, among other things, responsible for receiving reports on the conditions and staffing of school libraries statewide. State law requires the State Board of Education (State Education Board)—California’s governing and policy-making body on education—to adopt standards and regulations related to school library services. These regulations define school library services and the duties of library personnel. In addition, state law requires school districts to annually report to Education on the condition of their libraries for a comparative study of school library conditions in the State. Education assists school districts by annually administering an online library survey that asks the schools about their libraries’ accessibility and resources, such as hours of operation and the age of their book collections. Education employs a library consultant who is available to assist the schools in completing the survey and who compiles the survey results for public use on Education’s website. In addition to the survey, Education collects other education data, such as enrollment counts, number of graduates, and the number of teacher librarians employed statewide. Education obtains this information from school districts annually for reporting purposes and makes the information available to stakeholders at all levels throughout the State.

Example of the Model School Library Standards’ Educational Goals for Evaluating the Relevance of Information for Selected Grades

Grade Four

  • Extract and record appropriate and significant information from the text.

Grades Seven and Eight

  • Assess the author’s evidence to support claims and assertions, noting instances of bias and stereotypes in a variety of visual and audio materials.
  • Evaluate the sources for fact, opinion, propaganda, currency, and relevance.

Grades Nine Through Twelve

  • Evaluate online search results, demonstrating an understanding of how search engines determine rank or relevancy.
  • Analyze important ideas and supporting evidence in an information source by using logic and informed judgment to accept or reject information.
  • Interpret meaning from charts, maps, graphs, tables, and pictures.

Source: Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve.

Standards for Library Services

The State Education Board adopted the Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (model standards) in 2010 to guide school districts in implementing strong library programs and to raise student achievement. The model standards establish educational goals for students at each grade level and describe the minimum staffing and resources required for effective school library programs. The model standards delineate a program for information literacy instruction that encompasses both primary and secondary education, and they provide grade‑level standards that address the evaluation of information in text and other sources.

The model standards organize the State’s educational goals into four main concepts: accessing information, evaluating information, using information, and integrating information literacy skills into all areas of learning. Within those four concepts, the model standards define specific educational goals under 13 overarching standards that continue across all grade levels. The model standards then separate those goals into smaller, more specific objectives that students should achieve by the end of a specified grade level or grade span, such as the span of grades nine through twelve in high school. For example, to evaluate information and determine its relevance—Standard 2.1—elementary, middle, and high school students should learn the skills described in the text box. To accomplish these objectives, the model standards make recommendations regarding the staffing, accessibility, responsibilities, and resources of the library and teacher librarian. Moreover, according to Education, the model standards align with the State’s common core standards. However, compliance with the model standards is not required, so they constitute guidance, not a mandate.

State Funding for Library Services

Since fiscal year 1998–99, the State has funded school libraries through a variety of models, with annual amounts ranging from as much as $159 million in fiscal year 1998–99 down to $4.2 million in fiscal year 2004–05. Under the current model, districts decide how best to spend school funding to meet their identified needs. Figure 1 shows the history of the State’s funding of school libraries and its transition to a local model.

Figure 1
Timeline of State Funding for Library Services
Fiscal Years 1998–99 Through 2013–14

A timeline showing the changes in library funding since fiscal year 1998-99.

Sources: Education Code sections 2574, 18180-18184, 41570-41571, and 42605; California State Auditor’s analysis of California Department of Education (Education) records of annual apportionments for library programs; the California Budget Act for fiscal years 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, and 2013–14; and the fiscal year 2014–15 Governor’s budget.

* State law defining the SLIBG did not specify spending requirements for library purposes. However, Education reported that $23 million was used for library functions in fiscal year 2005–06. Education did not report any estimates for fiscal years 2006–07 and 2007–08.

In fiscal year 2013–14, California adopted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which replaced the previous funding model. This new process requires school districts to develop local control accountability plans (LCAP), in which they must describe their goals and allocate resources to achieve those goals. A district’s LCAP goals must align with the State’s eight priority areas, which include proper teacher assignments, standards implementation, and student outcomes, among others. As part of the priority area on the implementation of standards, Education instructs districts to address how they will implement the State Education Board’s adopted academic content and performance standards, which include the model standards. County offices of education are required to approve their school districts’ local funding plans if, among other things, they adhere to the State Education Board’s template. In addition, state law requires the State Education Board to develop an accountability tool, known as the evaluation rubrics, that includes state and local performance standards for all LCFF priorities and that, among other things, assists school districts in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas in need of improvement for school districts and schools. The State Education Board adopted its evaluation rubrics in September 2016.

Scope and Methodology

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (Audit Committee) directed the California State Auditor to determine how well school districts and county offices of education are providing library services to students and if a sufficient number of teacher librarians are employed within the State. We list the objectives that the Audit Committee approved and the methods used to address them in Table 1.

Table 1
Audit Objectives and the Methods Used to Address Them
Audit Objective Method
1 Review and evaluate the laws, rules and regulations significant to the audit objectives. We reviewed relevant laws, rules, regulations, and other background materials.
2 Evaluate the policies, procedures, and practices at the California Department of Education (Education) and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Teacher Credentialing) related to library media teachers, also known as teacher librarians. Determine whether Education and Teacher Credentialing effectively guide school districts and county offices of education in complying with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

For Education and Teacher Credentialing, we did the following:

  • Interviewed staff and reviewed memos, policies, and procedures regarding guidance to school districts and county offices of education related to teacher librarians.
  • Determined whether Education had waived any requirements for library services and whether it worked together with Teacher Credentialing to ensure the provision of library services. Education has not waived any requirements related to the provision of library services. In addition, Education and Teacher Credentialing staff do not have a formal relationship specific to the provision of library services.
3 For a selection of school districts and the corresponding county offices of education, determine the following: We selected the counties of Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Tulare based on geography, student population, percentage of free or reduced price lunches, responses to the Education survey, and the number of teacher librarians. From those counties, we selected San Juan Unified School District (San Juan Unified), Redlands Unified School District (Redlands Unified), and Woodlake Unified School District (Woodlake Unified) based on comparable school district types and average rates of free or reduced price lunches for their students.
a. Whether the district and county offices are complying with laws, rules, and regulations related to credentialed teacher librarians and the provision of library services.

For the selected school districts and counties, we did the following:

  • Interviewed executive staff at the school district and county offices of education to determine how they provide library services.
  • Reviewed their policies, procedures, and records to determine whether they complied with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
  • For a selection of schools with no teacher librarians, interviewed school site administrators to determine how they provide library services.
  • Interviewed classified library staff and reviewed their job duty statements to determine whether they included responsibilities restricted to credentialed teacher librarians.
b. Whether the district or corresponding county office of education employs a credentialed teacher librarian and, if so, whether that individual provides library services to one or more other districts in the county. Note any instances in which neither the district nor the county office of education employs any teacher librarians and determine the reasons they do not.

For each selected district and county office of education that employs teacher librarians, we did the following:

  • Interviewed a selection of teacher librarians and their school site administrators to determine the extent to which the schools provide library services.
  • For teacher librarians in each district and county office of education, we determined whether the teacher librarians’ credentials were valid. All of the teacher librarians we reviewed had valid credentials during their employment.
c. For each selected district, determine how many schools within the district receive services from a credentialed teacher librarian and the frequency with which they are provided. In addition, determine how many schools receive services from a city or county public library and their frequency.
  • We obtained current employment contracts each district has with teacher librarians and identified the number of schools they serve. With the exception of Redlands Unified’s middle school teacher librarian (middle school librarian), we noted that all of the teacher librarians in the districts we visited are employed full time at their assigned schools. As we discuss in the Audit Results, the middle school librarian splits her time equally at four school sites.
  • We worked with county offices of education to identify school districts that contract with public libraries for services. The county offices of education we visited do not formally track which school districts contract with public libraries for the provision of library services. None of our selected school districts contract for library services with public libraries; however, we reviewed the contracts of two school districts that do. The contracts did not specify the number of schools that receive services from city or county public libraries nor did they identify the frequency of the services the libraries provide.
d. If the school district contracted with a city or county public library to provide school librarian services, determine whether that contract required staffing by a credentialed teacher librarian or another individual meeting Teacher Credentialing’s professional requirement for credentialed teacher librarians. None of our selected school districts contract for library services with public libraries; however, two county offices of education identified school districts that contract with public libraries for the provision of library services. One of the contracts specifies that the public library staff will provide services that overlap with a teacher librarian’s authorized duties, but it does not require the public library to employ teacher librarians. Because state law allows public libraries to provide library services without expressly requiring them to employ a teacher librarian, we did not consider this an exception.
4 To the extent possible, identify the total number of teacher librarians employed by school districts and county offices of education in California. If the number of credentialed teacher librarians is insufficient based on available indicators, determine what factors contribute to the shortage.
  • We obtained data from Education to identify the total number of teacher librarians employed statewide.
  • We reviewed Education staff’s methodology for calculating the ratio of students to teacher librarians in its annual report. We noted that Education staff exclude certain school types from its calculation to provide a snapshot of school libraries in traditional school settings. This did not result in a significant difference, so we did not consider this an exception.
  • We interviewed Teacher Credentialing and Education staff to identify best practice models or studies. We reviewed those models and studies to identify indicators of a shortage of teacher librarians.
  • We obtained credentialing data from Teacher Credentialing to determine whether a sufficient number of teacher librarians are being credentialed to achieve the staffing levels that the State’s adopted standards recommend.
  • We reviewed the State’s historical funding of school library programs.
  • We interviewed administrators at credentialing institutions throughout the State.
5 Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit. We obtained Education and Teacher Credentialing perspectives on Mariposa County Office of Education’s (Mariposa County Education) contract with Merced County for the provision of library services and Mariposa County Education’s statement indicating that it did not intend to use its contract for library services.

Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of Joint Legislative Audit Committee audit request 2016-112 and data obtained from Education; Teacher Credentialing; the county offices of education of Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Tulare; and the school districts of Redlands Unified, San Juan Unified, and Woodlake Unified.

Assessment of Data Reliability

In performing this audit, we obtained electronic data files extracted from the information systems listed in Table 2. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer-processed information that we use to support findings, conclusions, or recommendations. Table 2 describes the analyses we conducted using data from these information systems, our methods for testing, and the results of our assessments. Although these determinations may affect the precision of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our audit findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Table 2
Methods Used to Assess Data Reliability

Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Teacher Credentialing)

Credentialing Automation System Enterprise (CASE) as of June 2016

To determine the number of individuals authorized to provide library services by type from fiscal years 2008–09 through 2015–16.

To identify the credentials for a selection of teacher librarians as of June 2016.

We performed data-set verification procedures and found no errors. Further, we performed electronic testing of key data elements and did not identify any material errors. We reviewed existing information to determine what is already known about the data and found that prior audit results indicate there are pervasive weaknesses in the general controls over Teacher Credentialing’s information systems. In addition, we identified a limitation in Teacher Credentialing’s data. CASE contains credentials that are issued for the life of a holder. Teacher Credentialing generally stopped issuing these life credentials over 30 years ago in 1985. Further, holders are not required to report employment data to Teacher Credentialing; therefore, it does not update CASE to reflect the work availability of individuals with life credentials—such as whether the individual is currently employed, retired, or deceased. Because of this data limitation, we excluded nearly 8,200 individuals with life credentials from our analysis. Not sufficiently reliable for these audit purposes. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, sufficient evidence exists in total to support our audit findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

California Department of Education (Education)

California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) as of June 2016

To identify teacher librarians employed from fiscal years 2010–11 through 2014–15.

To determine the student‑to‑teacher librarian ratio in the State and for select entities for fiscal year 2014–15.

We performed data-set verification procedures and electronic testing of key data elements and did not identify significant issues. We did not perform accuracy or completeness testing on these data because the source documentation is located at multiple locations throughout the State, making such testing cost-prohibitive. To gain some assurance of the completeness of the data, we traced the universe of teacher librarians employed in fiscal year 2014–15 at select counties and school districts we visited to the CALPADS data. We identified no exceptions through this testing. Undetermined reliability for these audit purposes. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, sufficient evidence exists in total to support our audit findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of various documents, interviews, and data from the entities listed in this table.

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