First education bill in decades acknowledges effective school library programs

For Immediate Release
Wed, 06/05/2013


Jazzy Wright

Press Officer

Washington Office

American Library Association


Washington, D.C.— The American Library Association would like to thank Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) for their leadership in including strong provisions for effective school library programs in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act that was introduced on Tuesday. The bill is the first to recognize the role school library programs play in student learning since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first enacted in 1965.

If this bill were to become law, it would reauthorize ESEA. Strengthening America’s Schools Act creates specific language for libraries and implements the Improving Literacy and College and Career Readiness through Effective School Library Program.  This program has several provisions that will be helpful to students and libraries in the United States including defining an effective school library program as:

  1. Staffed by a state-certified or licensed school librarian;
  2. Having up-to-date books, materials, equipment, and technology (including broadband);
  3. Including regular collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians to assist with the development and implementation of curriculum;
  4. Supports the development of digital literacy skills

Furthermore, this legislation will allow for the Department of Education to award three-year grants to low income school libraries to maintain up-to-date school library collections, staffed by a state-certified school librarian and for other purposes relating to a school library.

School librarians are literacy champions and primary educators in teaching students digital skills. A recent study (PDF), found that elementary schools with librarians averaged 68 to 72 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced on a statewide test of reading.

“For too long, research has shown that students have a better chance of succeeding academically when they attend schools with strong library programs,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington Office. “This bill will ensure that students will have access to professionals who can help them make connections between subject areas, retrieve information, and think independently.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) is expected hold a mark-up on this bill on June 11, 2013.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.