Why Every School Needs a Real Librarian

Why Every School Needs a Real Librarian - At a time when schools are expected to produce 21st century citizens capable of competing in the global economy, school librarians are more essential than ever. They impact student achievement more than any other factor except poverty, and there's evidence they even prevail over that! #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #schoollibrarian #futurereadyschoolsDespite overwhelming evidence that school librarians positively impact student success, fewer schools than ever have them. Recent articles have revealed:

  • Less than 50% of New York City public schools have librarians.
  • Less than 40% of Chicago Public Schools have librarians; only 32% of the high schools have them, and when the majority of a school’s population is African American, the figure falls to 15%.
  • Less than 10% of California public schools have librarians.
  • The worst: Philadelphia’s public schools have 8—that’s not 8%, that’s 8 people. One of the nation’s largest school systems—a district with 220 schools and 134,000 students—has only 8 certified, full-time school librarians. The State of Pennsylvania doesn’t require K-12 public schools to have libraries. Prisons must have them. Barber and cosmetology schools must have them. They are compulsory in nursing programs. But in public schools they are optional.


At a time when schools are expected to produce 21st century citizens capable of competing in the global economy, these situations are ignoring one simple fact: more than 50 years of research demonstrates a high correlation between student achievement and having a certified school librarian. The School Library Impact Studies show a positive relationship between libraries and student achievement in 21 different states for over two decades, especially between school library programs and students’ reading test scores. Here are some specific findings:Did You Know...studies link a School Library with Academic Achievement?

  • A librarian impacts student achievement more than:
    • per-pupil spending
    • teacher/pupil ratio
    • minority education
    • adult education level
  • Only poverty has a higher correlation to student achievement, and there’s evidence that school librarians can even prevail over poverty:
    • Students who are poor, minority, and have IEPs, but who have full-time librarians, are at least twice as likely to have “Advanced” writing scores as their counterparts without full-time librarians.
    • Hispanic students with a full-time School Librarian are three times as likely to earn “Advanced” scores on writing tests than their peers without access to one.
Other school library factors that directly influence student achievement are:
  • Flexible access to the library during the school day and extended hours before & after school
  • Collaborative lesson planning between the school librarian and teachers
  • Increased library visits for whole classes & for individual students
  • Currency & range of book collections and online subscription services
  • Digital literacy training from the librarian for both students and teachers


School librarians are often the most misunderstood and least appreciated folks in a school. Most colleagues—even principals—don’t realize that librarians must have teaching certification and experience before they can earn their school library certification. Most secondary-level school librarians also have a master’s degree in Library Science. Why do school librarians need a master’s degree?

School librarians need a master’s degree because having a teaching certificate and years of experience just isn’t enough to manage a whole-school library program:

  • We must have an in-depth understanding of national/state curriculum standards to fully integrate library skills into classroom activities.
  • We must know how to build an extensive collection of library materials in a variety of formats to meet the needs of every teacher’s curriculum, and to meet individual students’ reading needs and preferences.
  • We must have a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use guidelines for purchasing a variety of materials and to advise teachers & administrators on their proper use.
  • We must have the specialized technology skills to manage and use audio/video/digital equipment & applications.
  • We must have financial skills to administer a budget and take advantage of outside funding opportunities.

Libraries Are For EveryoneFinally, students can benefit from, indeed desperately need to have, school librarians who guide them in:

  • reading for pleasure & for information
  • research & problem-solving skills
  • safe & proper Internet use

as well as offering them the opportunity for:

  • makerspaces
  • design thinking
  • media production
  • and just some good old-fashioned hugs and conversation.

Here are websites where the above information and more can be found:


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2 thoughts on “Why Every School Needs a Real Librarian

  1. This is an AWESOME post!! I really don’t think that most administrators or those who have control of the budget actually know what we do. That’s the problem. And of course, our evaluations can’t be tied to state test passing percentages because our name’s not attached to any kids actually taking the test. It’s really sad that everything hinges on what students are doing on that one test on that one day.

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