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How to start a school library

Has your school's library suffered setbacks - or even closure? Here's how parents can pull together to start, save, or revive this crucial academic resource.

By Psyche Pascual

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Getting up to speed

You’ll need two to three months at the very least to establish a school library. Start by contacting the local PTO, gathering donors, soliciting service organizations, and finding out who can help with planning. Work with the principal to determine what your school’s needs are, whether it’s space, supplies, staffing — or all three. Some school districts have library clerks or media service workers who can answer questions about how many books to collect, which kind of shelves are suitable, and how to catalog books.

Volunteers can help with fundraising, write grants, and organize book donations. For money, start with Follett Library Resources, which has information on different grants for libraries. The American Library Association also provides free fact sheets to help you along.

Some school districts have their own handbooks to help with school library planning. For example, Where Do I Start?: A School Library Handbook (published by the Santa Clara County Office of Education), was designed to help library clerks and parent volunteers with the basics. But with recent cutbacks, many parents use this guide as a primer for everything from figuring out staffing to cataloging books, says Peter Doering, coordinator of the education office’s learning and multimedia center. The book also has guidelines on what schools should spend on books.