Library and Media Facilities in Schools

The California State PTA believes books and reading are vitally important to the lives of children and the development of an informed citizenry. The public library is a symbol of our democracy, and a good school library is essential to an effective educational program for lifelong learning.

Questions for a Study

Does the school have a library/media center or learning center?

  • Do students have regular access to the library during the school day to use its resources?
  • Is the school library open before and after school, as well as during the lunch period?
  • Can PTA help to provide greater accessibility to the library/media learning center?

Is there a credentialed librarian, library technician or clerk on staff?

  • Are they full-time or part-time employees?
  • Does the library have trained volunteers?

Is technology available?

  • How many computers are available to students? (What is the student-to-computer ratio on campus?)
  • Is there Internet access?
  • Does the school district have an “Acceptable Use Policy for Electronic Information Resources”?

Does the library/media facility have a filtering system or an automated library system? (Filtering and automated systems have pros and cons.)

  • Have there been discussions regarding these systems?
  • Is the staff trained and available to provide computer assistance?

Is there a current written policy for selection of books and materials?

  • Is there a school district policy?
  • Is there a selection committee?
  • Do the materials reflect the diverse needs of all students in our multicultural society, particularly the student population on the local school campus?
  • Are the books and materials current and relevant to the instructional program?

What are the funding sources for the library?

  • Are the funds adequate to keep the library current and well equipped?
  • Is there community support to ensure stable and adequate funding for school libraries?

Are there guidelines for evaluating the current collection for relevancy and timeliness?

(Adapted from the National PTA publication, Looking In On Your School.)

Questions for the Community

What is the district policy on Internet access?

Would it be more effective to have constant supervision of students while they are using/accessing the Internet?

Would an automated system provide a more efficiently run library/media facility and enable students to find what they are looking for more quickly and easily? Should scarce library funds be used to automate library services instead of increasing the library collection?

Does elimination of the card catalog limit the number of students able to access information, depending on the number of computers available?

Recommended Actions

Meet with the principal, school librarian, and other appropriate staff to learn about the library/media facilities and the goals and needs for the school.

If staffing is inadequate, the PTA may donate funds to the school district, earmarked for that purpose. PTA should never employ library staff (Fiduciary Agreements and Gifts to School).

When PTA members volunteer in the library, they should become familiar with the procedures and technology available.

Plan book exhibits and book fairs consistent with criteria suggested in the California State PTA Toolkit Finance section and in the National PTA Quick-Reference Guide.

The PTA can develop an instruction sheet or handbook that may cover basic items such as class schedules, emergency procedures, basics on checking books out and in, shelving and repairing books, use of and guidelines for technology/Internet.

Call attention to new books, library services and volunteer opportunities through the PTA newsletter.

Support California State PTA efforts to seek credentialed librarians for school libraries.

Become informed about public library facilities in the local community.

  • Publicize services such as story hours, book-reading contests, bookmobile, etc.
  • Encourage families to read with their children, and help them learn to use the local library.

Additional Resources

See “Library” and “Mass Media” in the Advocacy Topic Index for related resolutions, position statements or guidelines.

American Association of School Librarians (www.ala.org/ala/aasl)

California Department of Education and School Libraries Association. Check it Out. Publication available from CDE, www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/lb/checkitout.asp

The Children’s Partnership with The National PTA and The National Urban League. Tips & Tools for Parents Keeping Kids Safe Online (December 1997).

Good Ideas! California School Library Association (www.schoollibrary.org)
1001 26th Street, Sacramento, CA 95816.

American Library Association, www.ala.org

Reinventing Your School’s Library in the Age of Technology, by David Loertscher (2002).

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