IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries
Principle 7 of the United Nations declaration on the Rights of the Child states: “the child is entitled to receive education which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture, and enable him on a basis of equal opportunity to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his moral sense of social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society” (1).
The existence and utilization of the school library is a vital part of this free and compulsory education. The school library is essential to “the development of the human personality as well as the spiritual, moral, social, cultural and economic progress of the community” (2).
The school library is central to the fulfillment of the instructional goals and objectives of the school and promotes this through a planned program of acquisition and organization of information technology and dissemination of materials to expand the learning environment of all students. A planned program of teaching information skills in partnership with classroom teachers and other educators is an essential part of the school library program.
The school library provides a wide range of resources, both print and non print, including electronic media, and access to data which promotes an awareness of the child’s own cultural heritage, and provides the basis for an understanding of the diversity of other cultures.
1. Adopted unanimously by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 November 1959.
2. Guiding Principle of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation re the Status of Teachers.
NOTE: In this document, the phrase “school librarian” refers to all terms such as teacher-librarian, media specialist, information technologist.
The school library functions as a vital instrument in the educational process, not as a separate entity isolated from the total school program but involved in the teaching and learning process. Its goals could be expressed through the following functions:
- Informational – to provide for reliable information, rapid access, retrieval and transfer of information; the school library should be part of regional and national information networks.
- Educational – to provide continuous lifelong education through provision of the facilities and atmosphere for learning: guidance in location, selection and use of material and training in information skills, through integration with classroom teaching; promotion of intellectual freedom.
- Cultural – to improve the quality of life through the presentation and support of the aesthetic experience, guidance in appreciation of arts, encouragement of creativity, and development of positive human relations.
- Recreational – to support and enhance a balanced and enriched life and encourage meaningful use of leisure time through provision of recreational information, materials and programs of recreational value, and guidance in the use of leisure time.
- an awareness of the total range of information and communication technology;
- variety concerning many fields of knowledge and recreational activities;
- material designed to serve children within the range of their cognitive, effective and psychomotor skills;
- relevance to the school’s teaching/learning program;
- appeal to children’s interests;
- use of the student’s primary language;
- reflection of the cultural interests valued by the children’s families;
- application of the economic environment.
All school libraries, from basic preschool through secondary level, need adequate space in which to exploit the technology available for preparation, processing and storage of all library materials, as well as space to enable students and teachers to utilize fully these materials through reading, viewing, listening and information retrieval and processing skills. The plans should fit functionally into the general architectural design of the school, located near natural centers of traffic with easy accessibility for all users including the disabled and handicapped. Consideration might also be given to the use fo the library outside normal school hours. There is a need for flexibility and scope for future expansion and rearrangement of space and use with adequate provision of electrical outlets to allow this. Attention must be given to lighting, acoustical treatment of doors and ceilings, control of temperature and humidity and furniture and shelving suitable to the age of the users.
Establishment of the school library requires that all persons who use it, learn how it could be used effectively and efficiently. Administrators provide the leadership for such use. Preparation for administrators, as for all teachers, should include information about the role of the school library in the learning process and in the planning and implementation of teaching activities. The administrator should be aware of the unique librarianship skills which the school librarian needs in addition to professional training as a teacher to effectively coordinate the role of the library program in the school, including the preparation of the budget and arranging for a flexible school schedule so the students can make greater use of the library materials and facilities. The administrator should be aware of the educational benefits of a cooperative planning and teaching program within the school.
The International Association of School Librarianship advocates that school librarians be qualified teachers who have, in addition, completed professional studies in librarianship. This type of preparation ensures that teachers receive assistance from, and cooperatively teach with, professional personnel who have an understanding of the principles and practices of effective teaching, the educational program and practices of the child’s school. This cooperation with teachers may concern: development of the curriculum, the educational activities offered by the school to the child, as well as short and long term planning concerning the uses of materials, information technology and equipment, and development of information skills for the child’s education.
Lifelong Education, Skills, Literacy Development
The skills learned by the student through the school library provide the child with the means of adapting to a wide variety of situations, enable education to be continued throughout life, even in adverse conditions. The school library promotes literacy through the development and encouragement of reading for instruction and recreation. Reading, viewing and listening activities all stimulate and reinforce the child’s interest in reading.
In addition, the student is provided with an insight into the full range of information and communication technology, as it is available, is provided with instruction in the utilization of this technology in order to locate and evaluate information to answer educational and recreational needs and interests, thus being able to construct visual, recorded, audio-visual and electronic messages as appropriate for purposes of communication. These skills promote lifelong learning. Acquiring these skills enables the child to continue independent learning even where education is interrupted by natural disasters and social unrest.
All education systems should also be encouraged to extend the learning environment beyond textbook and teacher into the school library. School librarians should cooperate with staff in public libraries and other community information centers to enable sharing of the community’s information resources.
Government and Public Support
The establishment of good school libraries can demonstrate that public authorities are fulfilling their responsibilities to implement education which will enable children to become useful members of the global society and develop each child’s individual potential. A good school library with a qualified school librarian is a major factor in developing quality education.
The school library may provide materials as sources of information for parents and social agencies to use in serving the needs of children in the home, pre-school, school, and after school environments.
For societies and public authorities endeavoring to promote the education of the child, one of the measurable achievements which can be observed is the provision of the tools for education. The society that invests in school libraries for its children invests in its own future.
Originally accepted by IASL Board of Directors
Revised IASL September 1993