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.

The Books for School Librarians of the ALA Online Store quickly links to ALA's own print books, e-books, eCourses, and webinars on these subjects.

A list of books on school libraries, compiled by this office, appears at, the free online database of library catalogs from across the country, in which you can search for a book title by zip code to get the closest library that has it, at:
School Libraries at

See the constantly-updated list of school library news and resources.

The Library Standards page has this information on school libraries:

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL, a division of ALA) recommends an outcomes-based assessment process initially set forth in 1998, in Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, a guide for school librarians in helping students flourish in a learning community not limited by time, place, age, occupation or disciplinary borders. The guidelines of Information Power also explain the importance of collaboration -- joining teachers and others to identify links in student information needs, curricular content, learning outcomes, and a variety of print and non-print resources. For the latest, see the AASL Position Statement on Quantitative Standards, adopted June 28, 2013.

In order to recognize the changing role of school libraries now and in the future, AASL has developed new Learning Standards & Program Guidelines for school libraries. Standards for the 21st-Century Learner offers vision for teaching and learning to both guide and beckon our profession as education leaders. They will both shape the library program and serve as a tool for library media specialists to use to shape the learning of students in the school.

Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs is the newest addition to the line up. It advances school library media programs to meet the needs of the changing school library environment and is guided by the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action.

In addition, individual states may have standards, which should be reviewed and observed as appropriate; search for your state using these directory pages:


Selected books by ALA/AASL and other publishers

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 print journal.

School Library Research
AASL open-access online research journal.

    School Library Journal

    School Library Monthly (free articles)

    Teacher Librarian

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    Last updated: January 2016



    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.