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7 reasons your school doesn't need a library

I know there will be some raised eyebrows seeing my name associated with the “nay” side of any question about the necessity of school libraries. But let’s be honest here. There are schools that don’t need library facilities, library programs, or librarians. These school’s teachers and administrators:

  1. Are content to have their instruction be textbook and test-driven. Given the number of standards in the state-mandated curriculum and the state’s test-based accountability requirements, the staff does not see the need for in-depth study of topics, problem-based teaching, or authentic assessment. A single textbook meets teacher needs.

  2. Are unconcerned about providing quality information sources to staff and students. Administrators feel that edited sources of information – books, commercial databases, or reference materials - are necessary when “everything is free on the Internet.” Questions of information reliability and authority are deemed irrelevant.

  3. Believe students and staff can locate reliable information without assistance. Citing the ability of students to do a search in Google and find pages of information on which the search term appears, teachers dismiss the notion that more sophisticated strategies and search tools were needed. Kids can always change their topic if they don’t find what they need with Google in these schools.

  4. Feel that the ability to process and communicate information in formats other than print is unnecessary. Students in these schools use standard written term papers as the sole means of communicating the results of research. That they are word-processed was cited as proof of “technology integration.” Having students communicate using audio, video, photographic or visual productions, is dismissed as irrelevant to preparing students for college.

  5. Feel no need for F2F collaborative learning space. Classrooms and quiet study halls are the only places considered appropriate for learning in these schools.

  6. View independent voluntary reading is a waste of time. Strict adherence to the basal readers and reading “skill building” software results in students scoring acceptably on standardized tests, so both administration and teachers are reluctant to “mess with success.” Developing a desire to read is not part of the district’s strategic plan.

  7. Believe differentiated instruction is just babying the slackers. Providing materials at a variety of levels, in multiple formats meeting the needs of learners with divergent abilities, interests and learning styles is given a low priority by these schools.

Small classroom book collections that supplement the reading series and a word-processing lab with access to Google are all that such schools currently require. Since the skills of librarians are viewed as unimportant, the library can be staffed by clerks.

I would not send my own children to such a school, but it’s differences that make a horse race, I guess.

Published as a counter point in ISTE's Leading & Learning, Nov 2009


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Reader Comments (2)


I am a retired teacher-librarian mentoring a new young TL. Last night she texted me with a question as to how to get classroom teachers to let her as the librarian allow students to check out a book of their choice in addition to selecting something at their AR reading level. As a TL I fought this battle from the day AR came online. It's one thing I don't miss about teaching.

Over the years I repeatedly turned to your writings for inspiration, advice and confirmation so imagine my surprise this morning when I read your 7 reasons item number 6, all of your reasons are on point but number 6 aaakkkk! Does it never change? I have guided her to the AASL, ALA, and NCTE...she knows the guidelines/rights /responsibilities etc. I will council her to take it one day and one teacher at a time, and advise patience with persistence.

In the meantime you have any good one liners she can use or any quotes that she can post. And perhaps any surefire resources for staff education. I've been retired for 5 years and I'm a little out of the loop.

Thanks for being here, Pati

August 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPati Daisy

Hi Pati,

Thanks for your kind email.

I still think the best resources regarding voluntary free reading are Krashen's The Power of Reading and Gallagher's Readicide. (See Linking Libraries and Literacy) I am not sure the one liner's do much good, I am afraid.

Good luck to you and your new TL!


September 4, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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