Where Have All the School Librarians Gone?

Cutting funding for school libraries can impair student achievement.

Budget cuts are leaving many school libraries short-staffed.

It’s a well-known, research-backed fact that students with access to school libraries and librarians tend to perform better. Of course, this should mean these libraries receive all the funding they need, right? Surprisingly (and unfortunately), this isn’t often the case.

Even more alarming is that not only are many school libraries not receiving budget increases, they’re actually receiving budget cuts. Many school librarians are being laid off, reduced to part-time hours, or split across multiple campuses. It goes without saying that the school library system is worse off because of this, so why is it still being allowed to happen? More importantly, how is it impacting our students?


Send an email to your Representatives to show your support for libraries!

Declining Library Staffing

First, let’s go over the extent of the issue. A 2021 study noted that in the ten years between the 2008–09 and 2018–19 academic years, the number of librarians declined while the number of students and other faculty members rose.

For example, the number of librarians has dropped by roughly 20 percent, and the ratio of students to librarians has increased by about 28 percent. On average, there’s less than one half-time librarian per American public school campus. Simply put, the issue has progressed to a point where it’s pretty noticeable, and it’s worth examining the potential consequences of allowing it to continue.


Sign the pledge to vote for libraries!

The Consequences

Considering all of that, is the decline of the school library worth our concern right now? We very strongly believe so. As mentioned, a strong tie exists between well-funded library programs and better student learning outcomes. It stands to reason that cutting those library budgets will decrease those outcomes. 

Part of the appeal of libraries is that they allow students to learn on their own terms. While some students dislike school, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like to learn. Many students simply have trouble motivating themselves to learn what schools say they need to learn. However, if they can learn on their own terms via the library, they’ll naturally pick up those school-required concepts along the way.

Cutting library funding removes students’ opportunities to learn in this way, decreasing their drive to learn overall. If we want the next generation to grow into creatives, thinkers, and leaders, we must nurture their desire to learn. Without access to school libraries, this becomes infinitely more difficult.


Your donations help support libraries across the country. 

What You Can Do

So, what can you do as a concerned parent or citizen? As with many social issues, the greatest thing you can contribute to the cause is your voice. The officials who write up budgets want to ensure that their constituents are happy, so public opinion can significantly impact where the money goes. Call your representatives and let them know that you feel it’s important to provide school libraries with proper funding, and encourage others to do the same. 

In addition, be sure to vote at every possible opportunity, especially in small local elections. As strange as it may seem, the smaller, more local elections are where your vote tends to count the most. Lower voter turnout means that each vote carries more weight, and because all the seats are local, the results directly affect your day-to-day life.

Whether you’re voting for a more pro-education city council member or voting in favor of a library funding package, it’s important that you use your right to vote to the fullest. Doing so improves your life, the lives of those around you, and the lives of countless generations to come.

If you’d like to learn more about the challenges facing today’s libraries, visit us at EveryLibrary today!



Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries. 

#librarymarketers: Enjoy this story? Want to use it for your library newsletter, blog, or social media? This article is published under Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International and is free to edit and use with attribution. Please cite EveryLibrary on medium.com/everylibrary.

This work by EveryLibrary is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0