Why school libraries are so important | Series 1, Episode 17

Why school libraries are so important

Episode 17

Episode 17 show notes

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Episode 17 transcript

Why school libraries are so important

School libraries play a crucial role in the educational landscape, serving as hubs of learning and literacy development. They provide access to a wealth of information and resources, fostering an environment where academic skills and a love for reading can flourish. This article examines the multifaceted importance of school libraries, drawing on evidence from educational research and policy.

The Role of School Libraries in Education

Access to Resources

School libraries offer a diverse range of materials, including books, periodicals, and digital media, which support the curriculum and cater to varied learning needs (Hughes-Hassell and Mancall, 2005). They provide students with access to information that may not be available at home, thereby contributing to a more equitable educational experience.

Literacy and Learning Development

Libraries are instrumental in promoting literacy among students. Research indicates that school libraries have a positive impact on reading scores and academic achievement (Lance and Kachel, 2018). Librarians play a key role in guiding students towards appropriate reading material and fostering a culture of reading.

Support for Diverse Learning Needs

School libraries cater to students with diverse learning needs by providing differentiated resources and individualised support. This includes materials for English language learners and students with disabilities, ensuring inclusive education practices (American Library Association, 2019).

Information Literacy Skills

In the digital age, the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively is essential. School libraries teach information literacy skills, which are critical for academic success and lifelong learning (American Association of School Librarians, 2018).

Impact on Academic Achievement

Correlation with Test Scores

Studies have shown a correlation between well-stocked and well-staffed school libraries and higher student test scores (Francis, Lance, and Lietzau, 2010). The presence of a certified librarian has been linked to better reading performance among students.

Role of the School Librarian

The school librarian’s role extends beyond managing the library’s collection. They collaborate with teachers to develop curriculum and deliver instruction that integrates information literacy skills (American Association of School Librarians, 2018).

Enrichment of Curriculum

School libraries support the curriculum by providing materials that complement classroom learning. They offer resources for project-based learning, research assignments, and interdisciplinary studies (Hughes-Hassell and Mancall, 2005).

Fostering a Love for Reading

Encouraging Voluntary Reading

School libraries create an environment that encourages voluntary reading, which is linked to improved reading comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge (Krashen, 2004). They offer a variety of genres and formats to appeal to different interests.

Reading Programs and Activities

Libraries often host reading programs and activities that motivate students to read for pleasure. These programs can lead to improved attitudes towards reading and greater frequency of reading (Merga, 2019).

Impact on Long-Term Academic Success

Fostering a love for reading in students contributes to long-term academic success. Habitual reading can lead to higher levels of education and better job prospects (OECD, 2010).

The Digital Dimension

Access to Technology

School libraries provide access to computers and other digital technologies, which are essential for modern learning. They offer a space for students to develop digital literacy skills (American Association of School Librarians, 2018).

Digital Resources and E-Learning

Digital resources, such as e-books and online databases, expand the range of available information. School libraries facilitate e-learning by providing these resources and teaching students how to use them effectively (Hughes-Hassell and Mancall, 2005).

Safe Online Practices

Librarians educate students on safe and ethical online practices, including digital citizenship and internet safety (International Society for Technology in Education, 2016).

Social and Emotional Benefits

Inclusive Environment

School libraries provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. They serve as safe spaces where students can explore ideas and express themselves without judgment (American Library Association, 2019).

Collaboration and Social Interaction

Libraries facilitate collaboration and social interaction among students. Group study areas and collaborative projects encourage teamwork and communication skills (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari, 2015).

Support for Wellbeing

The library environment can support student wellbeing by offering a quiet space for reflection and relaxation. Reading for pleasure has been linked to reduced stress and improved mental health (Billington et al., 2011).

Challenges and Future Directions

Funding and Resource Allocation

School libraries face challenges related to funding and resource allocation. Advocacy is necessary to ensure that libraries receive adequate support to fulfil their role in education (American Library Association, 2019).

Evolving Role of Libraries

The role of school libraries is evolving to meet the demands of the 21st century. They must adapt to changes in technology and education to remain relevant and effective (American Association of School Librarians, 2018).

Professional Development for Librarians

Ongoing professional development is essential for librarians to keep up with advancements in information technology and pedagogy (Hughes-Hassell and Mancall, 2005).

School libraries are vital components of the educational system, contributing to academic achievement, literacy development, and the cultivation of lifelong learning skills. They provide access to a range of resources, support diverse learning needs, and offer a space for social and emotional growth. Despite facing challenges, the continued importance of school libraries is clear, and their role must be supported and developed to meet future educational demands.


  • American Association of School Librarians. (2018). National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. American Library Association.
  • American Library Association. (2019). Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. ALA Council.
  • Billington, J., Carroll, J., Davis, P., Healey, C., & Kinderman, P. (2011). A literature-based intervention for older people living with dementia. Perspectives in Public Health, 131(3), 117-124.
  • Francis, B., Lance, K. C., & Lietzau, Z. (2010). School Librarian Staffing Levels and Student Achievement as Represented in 2006–2009 Kansas Annual Yearly Progress Data. School Library Research, 13.
  • Hughes-Hassell, S., & Mancall, J. C. (2005). Collection Management for Youth: Responding to the Needs of Learners. American Library Association.
  • International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE Standards for Students. ISTE.
  • Krashen, S. (2004). The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. Libraries Unlimited.
  • Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited.
  • Lance, K. C., & Kachel, D. E. (2018). Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 15-20.
  • Merga, M. K. (2019). How do librarians in schools support struggling readers? English in Education, 53(2), 145-160.
  • OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 Results: Learning to Learn – Student Engagement, Strategies and Practices (Volume III). PISA, OECD Publishing.

Episode 16 credits

To see full details of licensing information, Creative Commons, GNU license credits and other attributions that apply to every episode of this podcast, see our School Reading List podcast credits information page.

Credits specific to this episode

  • Kevin MacLeod – Bummin on Tremelo – (purchased lifetime extended license registered to Tom Tolkien license ID FML-170359-11969).
  • Listener submitted monologues from debut and self-published authors including: Phone me when you’re home! By Wendy Garvey, On My Back Paws by Anna Skoyles, Luna and Helio The Eclipse by Gina Keulemans & Why, Oh Why, Am I a Crocodile? by Alex Brooks, illustrated by Hannah Worsley.

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin