Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« BFTP: The franchise dilemma | Main | The need for community - still »

How many books should your school library have?

Rather than relying on quantitative standards for tire pressure or oil life that promote compliance with an inflexible and minimal threshold, automobile owners need to demonstrate the dispositions of deep commitment and inquiry required by continuous tire and engine wear monitoring. 

Sometime we need actual numbers...

This came across LM_Net a week or so ago:

I am looking for a recommended number of library books per student and it appears that the AASL no longer recommends an actual number.

Yup, AASL has not included quantitative recommendations in it standards for 20 years. In fact, it has a 2013 position statement that reads in part: Rather than relying on quantitative standards that promote compliance with an inflexible and minimal threshold list, school librarians need to demonstrate the dispositions of deep commitment and inquiry required by continuous program assessment and advocacy with stakeholders. (AASL, National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, 2018 p216)

So commitment is the judge of the adequacy of a collection. You, and you alone, as a professional determine how many materials your library needs. Why do I think a lot of school administrators will simply roll their eyes when you tell them this?

When AASL abandoned quantitative standards for school library programs with the publication of the 1998 version of Information Power, Minnesota librarians stepped up and included them in their 2000 Minnesota Standards for Effective School Library Media Programs:


Other states, including Texas, have done the same with more recent revisions of their own standards.

For better or worse, a lot of decision-makers like hard numbers that come from an authoritative source. Too bad AASL or other national organizations which might lend some weight to budget requests based on collection size and age refuses to provide them for terribly idealist reasons.

Hopefully other organizations will fill this void.

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (4)

This really make me think this morning. One thought that came to mind is that hard numbers that classify all school libraries as a standard will leave many schools out of the exemplary category because of budgets, personnel, admin not even knowing about library standards.
The new standards do make amount of books nebulous, but it may also open the door to libraries doing some virtual footwork to ask others about what they have, what is spent on ( to diversify the collection) and other questions they want to ask to create hard numbers through polling, interviews, visits to neighboring libraries. This can show more than state statistics... It can also show how much a librarian cares about the collection, reading, collaboration, and community.

February 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Bates

As usual, the answer lies in the middle. I inherited a district library program that has been in deep neglect for over a decade. While I believe I am pretty well versed in standards and advocacy, an authoritative, quantitative standard needs to be in place that arms me with clear expectations for an exemplary program that I can present to decision makers. Districts and campus libraries that have been neglected, under staffed, and under funded (in other words, thousands of US schools) need hard data to make the case for support. AASL needs to step up and create that support. Yes, good librarians don't need those numbers, but our decision makers (and there are many) who have never worked with good librarians do.

February 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLen Bryan

When Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education began ignoring the 2008 quantitative standards it became open season for administrators to pillage library budgets and demote the importance of libraries and librarians.

February 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFloyd Pentlin

Hi Naomi,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment (and my apologies for the slow response). It was your link on LM_Net to your state standards that got ME thinking.

For me, this is very much an equity question - just how many books (print or electronic) should EVERY child be able to access and enjoy in their schools. A set of numeric values related to library collections would be helpful for that.

Not enough, for sure, but maybe a small amount of insurance.

Thanks again and hope your weather is warmer than ours up here in MN!


Hi Len,

As always, a needed perspective. Were all library programs already exemplary, standards would not be needed. And since we need standards, let's make them as useful as possible.


HI Floyd,

Sad to hear.


February 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>