My Library Needs Help: Practical Steps for Action

Sadly, for those in the know about the state of many school libraries across Australia-and indeed the world- it comes as no surprise to hear of a school library being so unaccessible and unattractive that teachers are using their personal funds to buy books just to get their students interested and excited about reading.

Research shows that reading can have phenomenal effects on a student's learning, wellbeing and future (Mar, Oatley & Peterson, 2009; Sullivan, 2015; UK Department of Education, 2012). Teachers know this. As do many parents. We applaud teachers for going the extra mile to ensure students have access to engaging reading material. But, quite frankly, teachers have enough to do. That's why students need school libraries and qualified staff to run them.


What we're trying to do with the Students Need School Libraries campaign is to change the nature of the debate.  To convince the decision makers (at the local, shire and state/territory levels) that strong school libraries are not an 'optional extra' but an essential component for all schools and all students. Parents care about their child's education. So it is unsurprising that they would be concerned about anything that is preventing their students from accessing a school library that is everything it can or should be.
When a concerned parent with students in an Australian school contacted us with the above situation asking for help, here is what we suggested they try.
Consider setting a long term goal of having qualified library staff in the school library.  Steps to get there might include:
    • Gather some data from students (and teachers - possibly anonymously) about what they would like to have, see and do in their school library.
      • These 'voices' can be powerful and persuasive
      • The only possible downside to this is that if they've only ever experienced a sad and sorry school library, they won't even have any idea of what it can and should be like...
    • Share some data about the impact that strong school libraries run by qualified staff have on student learning.
    • Have a look at the How Good is our School Library document developed in Scotland.
    • Invite a qualified teacher librarian to come and speak to the community about what they do and why it's important
      • Many, many people do not understand the wide, deep and relevant role the school library has on student learning and welfare.
      • Ask your local School Library Association who may be able to help you with this (and other things too).
    • Use the films on our website to help spark discussions.
    • Gather a small group of concerned people who are willing to work with you on this
    • Connect with our campaign on social media and/or our newsletter to stay in the loop
    • Use our Action Guidelines to find out your next step.


Finally, please feel free to make direct requests for resources that would be useful.


Mar, R.A., Oatley, K. and Peterson, J.B. (2009). Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy: Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes. Communications, 34(4), 407-428. Retrieved from


Sullivan, A. (2015). The life-long benefits of reading for pleasure. The School Librarian, 63(1), 5-6. Retrieved from


UK Department of Education. (2012). Research evidence on reading for pleasure. Education Standards Research Team. Retrieved from



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