School Libraries (and Librarians) Make the Difference!

FAQs and definitions from

At a time when school libraries and the people who manage them seem underfunded at best and under attack at worst, it’s important to know that resources are available to help communicate the message of the importance and value of robust libraries in schools that are staffed by knowledgeable professionals.

Terry Grief, the current President of the American Association of School Librarians, remarks that “school libraries have always been important to ALA.” Terry points to the comments of past ALA President Jim Rettig, who noted that school, public, academic and other types of libraries are part of an integrated library ecosystem. If one part of the system is threatened or suffers, the entire system is threatened or suffers. (

“Places that don’t have school libraries often have trouble funding public libraries because they don’t understand the value,” Terry explains. “ALA President Barbara Stripling focused energy on the issues and developed a task force. Her approach has included communicating to parents what kids are missing when they don’t have access to a school library.”

So where do we start? First, Terry encourages librarians and their advocates to visit and make use of the great resources there. We live in a visual culture and the infographic provided at that site can be a useful tool when shared with the school principal, with parents, and even with the school board.

She cautions against sending along the whole supplement that originally appeared in American Libraries. Too much information can overwhelm and turn off the audience. Start with the facts and build your public awareness campaign around those. Incorporate success stories from other places. Add in your victories as they occur. This is the recipe to continued support.

One recent triumph happened in Michigan with the Board of Education supporting the need to have a school librarian in every school. At a time when many school librarians are not rehired, this kind of good news can provide fresh energy to continue the campaign.

What can you say to a new librarian whose position is being threatened? Point them to the “School Libraries Make a Difference” site and there they will find:

  • The frequently asked questions regarding the need for a school librarian and responses that help you make your case
  • The Infographic with facts and figures on school libraries, the skills they teach, and the ways they support teachers
  • A broad picture of the school library landscape–they are not alone in being threatened!
  • Compelling stories from authors on the impact of school libraries
  • Much more!

“School librarians help kids develop a love of reading beyond the assigned reading,” notes Terry. “Kids need choices and they need a librarian to help them. Librarians can give a child the freedom to say they don’t like something and help them make a different choice.”

Terry adds that school librarians should “know that ALA and AASL are here for them. And don’t shy away from being brave–John Green says don’t forget to be awesome. We need to remember that.”

If you are planning to attend ALA Midwinter in Chicago, one session you will not want to miss focuses on the issue of school library staffing challenges and the need to prepare a new generation of “leaders to transform teaching and learning” within this challenging environment. The session, “Betting on People: Strategies for Getting and Keeping the Best People in our School Libraries,” will be at the Hyatt from 3:30-5pm in the Columbus AB Ballroom. Hosted by the AASL Supervisors group, there will be an opportunity to hear about innovative practices across the country followed by small group discussions.