“Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” A Supplement for LIS Faculty

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Dr. Audrey Church

We are pleased to continue our series of learning experiences built around our latest issue and designed for use with school library candidates in graduate/professional programs, including pre-service school librarians and practitioners working as educators while earning their credentials. Dr. Audrey Church has provided suggested discussions, writing exercises, and other activities, written “to the graduate students,” so that faculty might borrow or adapt sections of the text directly into assignment instructions or online course modules.

Current subscribers can access the referenced articles via the hyperlinks below. (Magazine subscribers who still need to register for their login credentials at no extra cost may do so here.) As always, new subscribers are warmly welcomed into the SLC community, or we invite you to sign up for a free preview of our online platform.

Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction

This April issue of School Library Connection focuses on gathering and using data and rightly so. In today’s educational environment, data drive instruction, school improvement, teacher evaluation, and more. If school librarians are to be full participants in the educational process, they must be able to collect, analyze, utilize, and communicate with data. In fact, in my book, Tapping into the Skills of 21st Century School Librarians: A Concise Handbook for Administrators (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), in chapter 5, “Librarian as Program Administrator,” I have an entire section on Attention to Data: “Librarians pay close attention to data. Collection statistics are important: as program administrator, the librarian monitors the age of the collection, weeding outdated and inaccurate resources… Circulation statistics are important. The librarian monitors them to see which areas of the collection should be enhanced…The librarian also monitors usage statistics…Which teachers collaborate most often? She will use this data, not only to include in the library end-of-the-year report but also to target future collaborative efforts. Student data are critically important. The librarian will document how she makes a difference in student learning” (p. 70).

This issue’s One-Question Survey asks, “What Is the Most Important Data You Collect and Analyze?” The most common response, given by 1/3 of the 314 participants, was circulation data. Other types of data reported included collaboration with teachers, collection statistics, database usage statistics, reading incentive statistics, student assessment, and gate counts. As Maria Cahill notes, “multiple sources of evidence can and should be used by school librarians to guide their practice.”

—Audrey Church, Professor of School Librarianship at Longwood University, Farmville, VA


Instructional objectives for the learning activities presented are as follows:

School librarian candidates will

  • Identify, discuss, and practice strategies for gathering and using data to improve instruction.
  • Reflect on professional areas of strength and opportunity in strategic information sharing and relationship-building with various stakeholders.
  • Align school-wide priorities with elements of the school library program.
  • Use, evaluate, and recommend digital tools for curricular integration and professional development.

The course activities offered here build upon this issue’s articles to guide school librarians in examining how they gather and use data.


Cahill, Maria. “What Is the Most Important Data You Collect and Analyze?School Library Connection, April 2017.


Evans, Stony. “Sharing Your Program’s Value with Data.” School Library Connection, April 2017.


Moorefield-Lang, Heather. “Data Tools for Librarians and Peer Educators.” School Library Connection, April 2017.


In his “Advocacy in Reach” column, Stony Evans notes the importance of gathering data to show library value and then sharing that data in meaningful ways. In her “Technology Connections” column, Heather Moorefield-Lang suggests useful infographic and data presentation tools.  At the conclusion of the One-Question Survey, Maria Cahill quotes a school librarian as saying, “Statistics alone are worthless. You should also be providing a narrative and photographic evidence of activities when reporting to ‘the powers that be.’”

  1. Read the three articles listed here. Your assignment is to create an annual, quarterly, or monthly report (your choice) which communicates the value of your library program.
  2. Choose your stakeholder audience, the group for whom you are creating and with whom you will share this report: administrators, teachers, parents, or school board.
  3. For your chosen audience, develop an action plan for collecting and sharing your data. Include the following in your action plan:
  • Three (or more) types of data you will collect and rationale for choosing each type
  • Method or tool that you will use to collect each type of data and rationale for each choice
  • Method or tool that you will use to share each type of data and rationale for each choice
  1. Create and share your report with your classmates.
  2. Write a reflection addressing both the process and the product. Were you satisfied with the process? The product? What would you do differently next time process-wise? Product-wise?
  3. Submit your action plan, report, and reflection to your instructor.

Additional Resources: Related Articles

Kachel, Debra E. “The Annual Report as an Advocacy Tool.” School Library Monthly, 2012.

Additional Resources: Examples

Lee Library Annual Report, 2013. http://vimeo.com/user18661602/chlib1213

LHS Library Annual Report, 2015-2016. https://sway.com/C8bLrFNAA0TTSFac

School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots between Your Library and Student Learning, 2013. http://www.librarygirl.net/2013/05/school-library-annual-reports.html



Cesari, Lindsay. “Using Alternative Data Sources to Develop Programming for Parents.” School Library Connection, April 2017.

Lindsay Cesari points out that, when we think of data-driven instruction, we typically think of test scores and improving instructional practice in our classrooms and libraries. In her article she shares how she used available school data, even the not-so-positive data, to “think outside the Scantron,” identify possible connections to family and community, develop programming to address needs, and then complete the loop by collecting data to improve on programming in the future.

  • What types of non-typical data, in Cesari’s terms “alternative data sources,” might be useful to you?
  • How would you gain access to that data?
  • What programming would you envision as an outcome of analyzing that data?
  • What methods or tools would you use to collect data to evaluate the effectiveness of the programming implemented?

*Individual or group activity



Snipes, Phyllis Robinson. “Developing a Meaningful Self-Assessment/Evaluation Instrument in Georgia.” School Library Connection, April 2017.

Administrators typically have limited background in understanding what 21st century school librarians do and yet, in a school setting, they are most often the individuals evaluating the librarian’s performance. In her SLC article Snipes shares the development and content of the Georgia School Librarian Effectiveness Instrument (SLEI) (http://www.glma-inc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/SLEI.pdf) which addresses ten standards. New York’s School Librarian Evaluation Rubric (http://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/teachers-leaders/practicerubrics/Docs/nyla-rubric.pdf), created by the Section of School Librarians (SSL) of NYLA and the NYS School Library Systems Association (SLSA) and approved by the New York State Department of Education, is organized around Charlotte Danielson’s Enhancing Professional Practice framework and addresses seven standards. Missouri’s Librarian Standards Continuum (https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/LibrarianStandardsContinuum.pdf), modeled after ALA/AASL Standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians (American Library Association/American Association of School Librarians, 2010) addresses six standards.

  1. Locate the school librarian evaluation instrument used in your school, district, or state. Compare it to one of the tools listed above, analyzing the two documents. Identify commonalities and differences.
  2. Write a letter to your principal/supervisor suggesting and making the case for revisions to the currently used evaluation instrument.
  3. Submit to your instructor your analysis and your letter.

*Individual or group activity



Gavigan, Karen, and Jennifer Tazerouti. “Did the Data Make a Difference? The SCASL School Library Impact Study.” School Library Connection, April 2017.

“In late 2013, the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) commissioned a study on the impact of school libraries and librarians in South Carolina. The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which school libraries transform schools by contributing to student achievement…The findings from the SCASL School Library Impact Study were released at the 2015 SCASL Conference.” Similar impact studies have been completed in states across the country and are summarized in the following documents:

Kachel, Debra E. School Library Research Summarized: A Graduate Class Project. http://keithcurrylance.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/MU-LibAdvoBklt2013.pdf

Library Research Service. School Libraries Impact Studieshttps://www.lrs.org/data-tools/school-libraries/impact-studies/

School Libraries Work, 2016 Edition: A Compendium of Research Supporting the Effectiveness of School Libraries. http://www.scholastic.com/slw2016/

In their April SLC article, Gavigan and Tazerouti report on the myriad ways that school librarians have used the data from the South Carolina impact study to advocate for their libraries from requests for additional funding or for additional staff to using the data presented for grant writing or for strategic planning.

  1. Use one of the summary documents listed above to access a library impact study completed in another state.
  2. Read your chosen study and identify at least three key findings.
  3. For each key finding, suggest a way that you would use that finding in your library.
  4. Add the citation for your chosen study, the key findings, and your ideas for using those findings to the class GoogleDoc.


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