Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The School Library Policy: The Foundation for a Professional School Library Service

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The School Library Policy: The Foundation for a Professional School Library Service

Article excerpt

This article stresses the importance of the school library policy for the management of secondary school libraries in England and Wales. It identifies the guidelines for best practice on producing a policy, key elements of the policy, and why the policy is so important for the management of an effective school library service. The theory of the school library policy is assessed against practice in individual school libraries using research carried out by the author as part of a master's thesis and other surveys of secondary school libraries that have addressed this issue. The article concludes that many schools in England and Wales have not embraced the guidelines on the school library policy as a key management tool in the operation of the library.


This article is based on research for a master's degree at Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom, that investigated the theory and practice of the school library policy in independent schools in England (Turner, 2000). The issues that arose are now being further researched for a doctorate about the management of independent school libraries in England and Wales. In addition, I have managed the libraries of one state and two independent schools since 1997, and many of the research questions are a result of this experience.

The school library policy is the foundation of a professionally managed library resource center. As such, it is the backbone of all other policies, such as development plans, and is the philosophy for the strategic management of each individual school library. In England and Wales, this is important because there is no statutory requirement for any school to have a library.

It is also vital because school libraries in England and Wales are rapidly developing from passive, resource-based services into proactive, client-led, multimedia resource centers that support the whole curriculum and that are central to the teaching, learning, and attainment of pupils.

School libraries are more vibrant today than ever before. Learning resources are more varied and attractive. Exciting new technologies offer fresh ways of understanding the world. Access to libraries is no longer defined by physical access. New and innovative ways of promoting literature and encouraging readers underpin all these developments. (Barrett & Douglas, 2004, p. 2)

The school library policy is based on the aims and objectives of the school library, and each school will have a policy to reflect its own unique culture. I use the term school library throughout for consistency, although it is acknowledged that increasingly such facilities are called learning resource centers, library resource centers, and other variations of nomenclature. The term librarian is similarly used to describe the person in charge of the library, although librarians are now increasingly known as learning resources managers and so forth.

In England and Wales, there is a tradition of employing qualified librarians (with a first degree or postgraduate qualification in librarianship or information studies and/or a Member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [a Chartered Librarian]) to run school libraries, rather than dual qualified teacher librarians as is the case in many other countries including Australia. Thirty percent of secondary schools have a full-time or part-time chartered librarian; just 3.2% have a full- or part-time teacher librarian; 16.9% have teachers running the library (Sheffield Hallam University, 2002). Where school libraries are managed by a teacher, it is usually on the grounds of expediency rather than a pedagogical imperative.

In this article, I outline the arguments for having a school library policy and look at available guidance for best practice and the role of such a policy in the wider management of school libraries. I also consider the situation in schools by looking at surveys carried out in recent years that have addressed the issue of school library policies. …

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