Even as students are sorting through information online more than ever, the number of school librarians who could help them learn the fundamentals of research and media literacy have been quietly disappearing.

A report published today from the School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE), a research project through Antioch University Seattle and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, highlights an ongoing decline in the number of districts nationwide with school librarians. According to the findings, there were about 20 percent fewer librarians during the 2018-2019 school year in the 13,000 districts examined than a decade prior. But the absence of these educators isn’t equally distributed; Smaller, rural districts, and those with higher proportions of English-language learners, Hispanic students, and low-income students were more likely to lack a librarian.

“What we knew from our work since 2018 is that we've been losing school librarians at a pretty alarming rate for a decade,” says Keith Curry Lance, a library statistics and research associate with the RSL Research Group, and co-author of the study. “But everybody’s not losing their school librarians, just the people who can least afford to lose them.”

The dropping rate of districts with librarians isn’t a recent change. In fact, the steepest declines happened in the early 2010s, although a downward trend has been consistent throughout the decade. As of 2018-2019, about three in ten school districts lacked even a single librarian.

That trend contrasts with changes to other education professions over the same period. Instructional coordinators and district and school administrators increased significantly over the past ten years and teachers decreased slightly. None experienced the sustained year-after-year losses that school librarians did.

Read the full article about the decrease in school librarians by Noble Ingram at EdSurge.