Our Executive Director, Kathy Lowe, wrote this article for the Massachusetts PTA
organization for their newsletter. Because of space constraints, they did not include her section on "How You Can Support School Libraries in Massachusetts".
This is the article, in its entirety.
The School Library: What Parents Should Know
Learning today means more than memorizing facts. It means learning to
learn for a lifetime. The school library is key to teaching students not only to
read, but to practice the skills they need to seek, evaluate and use information
throughout their lives. In fact, studies conducted in 19 U.S. states and Ontario
between 1999 and 2007 demonstrate a significant link between a strong school library program and student achievement, which was highest in schools with full-time, certified school librarians.1 In Massachusetts, a study conducted at Simmons College in 2002
found that students in schools with library programs have higher MCAS scores.
Does your child's school library measure up?
School library programs in Massachusetts vary greatly from one community to another. Almost half of Massachusetts' schools lack a full-time librarian. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has no standards in place for school library programs, nor is there an individual at the DESE charged with overseeing school library programs. Consequently, Massachusetts ranks below the national average for spending
on library materials, book collections, and circulation rates, according to a 2004 report2
on school libraries issued by the federal government.
The best way to find out about your child's school library program is to pay a visit and
ask the following questions suggested by the American Association of School Librarians,
a division of the American Library Association:
- Is there a state-certified full-time school librarian?
- Can your child visit the library anytime during the day to use its resources?
Does the library offer access online from home?
- How often can students visit the library with their class? Individually? In small groups?
- Is the library an attractive and convenient space where children can work
individually and in small groups?
- Does the library have a wide range of resources in a variety of formats that
appeal to different learning styles and interests?
- Does the library provide access to the Internet and other electronic resources?
- Are the resource materials current?
- Is the budget adequate to provide a full range of both print and
- Are children encouraged to read, view and listen both for understanding and enjoyment?
- Are administrators knowledgeable and supportive of the school library?
- Does the school provide ongoing training to support teachers and staff in
learning about new technologies?
- Are teachers encouraged to work with the school librarian to extend learning opportunities beyond the textbook and classroom?
- Is there a process for ongoing evaluation of the school library program?
How You Can Support School Libraries in Massachusetts
- Visit your school library. Is there a qualified librarian available to work
with students? Are the books and resources up to date?
Let your principal and school board know of your concerns.
- Get to know your school librarian. Ask what the needs are and how you can
help. Offer to volunteer your time.
- Ask the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)
to commit to placing an individual in the DESE who has school library experience
and expertise to oversee school library programs, assess the current state of
school libraries in Massachusetts, develop state standards for school library programs, staffing and instruction, and carry out a long-range plan to implement school library standards equitably in all schools in Massachusetts.
- Join the Friends of the MSLA (http://www.regonline.com/mslafriends ), a group of parents and other citizen supporters of school libraries, and subscribe to the
MSLA Friends email list (http://
Additional information about Massachusetts School Library Programs is available:
Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) website: http://www.maschoolibraries.org
MSLA Advocacy Initiatives: http://mslaplanning.pbwiki.com
1School Libraries Work! Scholastic Library Publishing, 2008. Available at http://www2.scholastic.com/content/collateral_resources/pdf/s/slw3_2008.pdf2
The Status of Public and Private School Library Media Centers in the United States: 1999-2000. NCES, 2004. Available at