A school library is a library that is housed within an elementary, middle, or high school. Many towns and cities have school libraries in addition to public libraries. This article provides some basic information about what one can expect in a school library.

Why Have a School Library?

With libraries existing in most communities, it might occur to some people to wonder why each school has a library as well? A library within a school serves multiple purposes.

  • It provides the faculty and staff with a ready source of material for their work onsite.
  • A school library, unlike other places in a school, is usually a place with enforced noise levels all the time. Therefore it can serve students from all the classrooms as an alternative place to work, if quiet is needed. For example, a student who missed a test through illness may sit in the library to make it up.
  • The school library provides resources for standard school activities, including story hours, learning library skills, finding books for book reports, and report research.
  • The school library stands as a monument to literacy: by having lots of books around, the importance of literacy is emphasized.
  • The school library may play host to a school book fair. It may also serve as the location for other school activities and meetings, such as author talks or book signings.

A School Library By Any Other Name . . .

In some schools, the library is called by another name. Some of the alternative designations are “Resource Center,” “Learning Resource Center,” and “Learning Center.” The name change may be an attempt to convey the breadth of resources available in this school location, which is hardly ever limited to books now.

The Expanded School Library

Today, in addition to a collection of books that are chosen to support and extend the specific curriculum of the school and provide outgrowth opportunities for students who are doing research or extracurricular reading, school libraries are likely to have the following features:

  • Have a lot of useful books, reference works, and periodicals
  • Provide access to databases and online resources including general references like Encyclopedia Britannica, collections of sounds and images that can be used for educational purposes, and specialized references like Grzimek's Animal Life
  • Support students with the presence of librarians skilled in helping students learn researching skills, as well as standard methods of documenting sources
  • Provide prominently posted plagiarism information to help students avoid inadvertent misuse of other people's work
  • Provide access to an online catalog that allows students to seek books by author, keyword, subject, or title, in the school library, and possibly in the entire district using computers set aside for this purpose (Libraries with specially designed software may also allow searching by, for example, a title that is part of a series, the reading level or interest level of the material, the format of the material, or whether it had won a literary award)
  • House the school's Audio-Visual and/or Information Technology team
  • Provide computers with applications for completing homework and/or educational games and Internet access
  • Offer tables for studying or meeting at
  • Stock educational games, puzzles, and toys for use in the library or (perhaps) to circulate
  • Exhibit art on the walls or in a designated space, either from art classes in the school or from local professionals or others

The library may also provide a place where students who arrive at school early can prepare for their classes, study, or read the morning news. After school, the school library may provide a location for doing homework, or for collaboration by students who have joint projects to complete.