Setting Up a School Library: A Resource Guide

ALA Library Fact Sheet 16b

"How do I set up a library?" is a question the American Library Association receives from people in a wide range of situations. In some cases, the need is to organize a large personal or office collection. In others, it is to set up a library where there is, at the beginning, only the desire to have library service where there is none, such as in a village where a Peace Corps volunteer is working.

Establishing a new library, or developing an existing collection of books and other materials into a library, involves several functions: creating the oversight or governance structure, defining the mission and purpose of the organization, securing funding, planning, developing a collection, securing or building an appropriate space, equipping the space, and marketing services. In all cases, planning for the collection should come first:

For information on starting a school library, begin with the resources compiled by ALA's American Association of School Librarians (AASL, a division of ALA <>), the AASL Essential Links: Resources for School Library Media Program Development Wiki:

Starting a School Library Media Program from Scratch

See the Library Standards page compiled by the ALA Library, which includes a section on school libraries.

Additional school libraries news and resources are continually updated at Delicious.

Additionally, each state will have specific resources available through governmental and library agencies, such as:

Selected books by ALA/AASL and other publishers

You can automatically check your own local public and/or community college library for any of the books on the School Libraries list of books compiled by the ALA Library at, a free online database by OCLC of library catalogs worldwide, in which you can search book titles by your zip code, to find the closest library with that title. Remember, even if your local library doesn't have the title, ask the library to request it for you by interlibrary loan. The list includes several school library operations and management titles, including:

American Association of School Librarians. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs . Chicago: American Library Association, 2009.

---. Standards for the 21st-Century Learner (Download the free Adobe Reader PDF from this page, available in high and low resolution). Chicago: American Library Association, 2009.

---. Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action . Chicago: American Library Association, 2009.

Downs, Elizabeth. The School Library Media Policy and Procedure Writer. New York: Neal-Schuman/American Library Association, 2009.

Farmer, Lesley S.J. and Marc E. McPhee. The Neal-Schuman Technology Management Handbook for School Library Media Centers. New York: Neal-Schuman/American Library Association, 2010.

Martin, Barbara S., and Marco Zannier. Fundamentals of School Library Media Management: A How-to-Do-It Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers/American Library Association, 2009.

Messner, Patricia A., and Brenda S. Copeland. School Library Management: Just the Basics. Santa Barbara, Calif: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2012.

Morris, Betty J. Administering the School Library Media Center, 5th Edition. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Nebraska Educational Media Association. Guide for Developing and Evaluating School Library Programs. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Repman, Judi, and Gail K. Dickinson. School Library Management, 7th Edition. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2014.

Where Do I Start?: A School Library Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: Linworth/ABC-CLIO, 2012.

Woolls, Blanche, and David V. Loertscher. The Whole School Library Handbook 2. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2013.

Woolls, Blanche, Ann C. Weeks, and Sharon Coatney. The School Library Manager, 5th Edition. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2014.


Selected periodicals by ALA/AASL and other publishers

See the list of AASL Publications & Journals, which includes:

AASL Hotlinks
Archived issues of the AASL Hotlinks monthly e-mail newsletter. Access is restricted to current AASL members only.

Knowledge Quest
AASL's print journal.

School Library Research
AASL's open-access online research journal.

    LMC: Library Media Connection

    School Library Journal

    School Library Monthly

    Teacher Librarian


    Return to top


    Search for an item in libraries near you:


    Last updated: March 2015



    For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.