Survey Reveals COVID-19 School Library Landscape

Oct 9, 2020

School girl in protective mask in libraryFrom the American Library Association

As schools across the country make critical decisions about how to handle a variety of back-to-school scenarios, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is collecting data from school librarians across the country to gauge the status of teaching, school library use, and school librarians’ roles as school/district plans continue to adapt to the pandemic.

The resulting snapshots provide insight into the school library resources and instructional role of the school librarian in physical, virtual, or hybrid settings to ensure teaching and learning. School librarians are serving students, other educators, parents, and the learning community.

The back-to-school snapshot survey that opened Aug. 5 and closed Aug. 12 revealed an increasing reliance on virtual resources. The vast majority of school librarians will encourage more use of e-books and online resources than pre-COVID.  However, print materials continue to be essential, with 94% of respondents on the school district level and 85% of respondents on the building level reporting that books would continue to be circulated. The demand for books is evident in the armfuls of books that students took home last spring as schools were closing. School librarians found ways to continue to provide books to students through the summer.  Despite the uncertainties and upheaval of families during these times, the survey showed that the majority of these items were returned to the school library.

Safety concerns about re-opening while the pandemic continues were on the minds of respondents, with the majority believing that exposure to students will greatly increase their risk of contracting the virus.

Respondents also voiced concerns about the difficulty of identifying students in need of non-academic support, as well as worries that remote learning has not provided them with the required level of research and digital citizenship skills essential for critical thinking and informed decision making.

Other topics covered by the survey ( included school library budgets, many of which have been reconfigured to provide more online and virtual tools and resources.

The survey is just one tool AASL is using to provide resources to school libraries during the pandemic. Its pandemic preparedness page ( contains the latest results from REALM studies for safety, shared stories about responses to COVID-19, professional development, and training resources and guidance from federal, state and local sources. The School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions provides scenarios for addressing needs in a constantly changing learning environment.

School librarians are encouraged to attend AASL Town Halls that provide a way for school librarians to connect with AASL leaders and each other about the impact the pandemic is having on school libraries and the learning community. To register and view the archive, visit: AASL Town Hall: Leading Learning at  (

Free resources are also available through the AASL Learning Library ( , which offers webinars as well as issues of the association’s official journal, Knowledge Quest.

For more information, visit

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

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