Testimony to DC City Council About School Librarians and Literacy / Learning

The Washington, D.C. City Council held a hearing about the importance of literacy services in the District and the EveryLibrary Institute asked to testify. We reminded the City Council that reintroducing the Student Right to Read Amendment would ensure that there will be a school librarian in every public school. That choice is one of the most effective ways to support literacy and a love of reading for a new generation. 

We're sharing a written version of our testimony from the July 14, 2022 Committee of the Whole, below. The EveryLibrary Institute (ELI) is our public policy, education policy, and tax policy think tank for libraries. It's a companion research and training organization to the political action that EveryLibrary does every day (especially here on Save School Librarians). ELI has commissioned a number of research papers about the impact of school librarians and public libraries on learning, literacy, reading comprehension, and standardized testing that we wanted to share with the Council. It is why we encouraged the Council to pass the next budget with the right funding to place a certified school librarian in every school. 

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Council of the District of Columbia
Committee of the Whole
Public Oversight Hearing

July 14, 2022

Chairman Mendelson and Members of the City Council:

The EveryLibrary Institute is a national public policy and education policy think tank for libraries. Our network includes thousands of school library and public library stakeholders, some with a particular interest in DC Public Schools. As an organization, we have an ongoing interest in supporting the future of effective school library programs in DC Public Schools as well as seeing a school librarian at work in each and every school in the District of Columbia. This is the third time we have presented testimony on this topic, Mr. Chairman, and we appreciate your attention to these matters. 

The literacy crisis facing students and families in Washington, D.C. significantly and negatively impacts all Washingtonians' quality of life and economic well-being. From educational attainment and health outcomes to economic self-determination and crime, literacy levels and reading competencies matter. Proper investments by the City Council in its school libraries, including staffing and collections, are essential to building literacy skills and reading competency. 

In previous testimony, we have highlighted the role of school librarians in individual reading attainment as well as in standardized testing. We would like to encourage the Committee to review a recent whitepaper we published by DC school librarian Nijma Esad called “Could School Librarians Be the Secret to Increasing Literacy Scores?” The report clearly shows a strong connection between student access to librarians and gains in the literacy-based component of standardized tests for students in DCPS. The report also report shows that a lack of support for school libraries can have real, lasting consequences. Students who have little or no access to librarians and the services they provide are disadvantaged in ways that can negatively affect them for the rest of their lives.

Whitepapers on Literacy and Libraries from the EveryLibrary Institute

Effective school libraries in the District of Columbia are in a unique position to positively influence and support literacy rates and reading competency levels across neighborhoods, populations, and abilities. Programs such as Battle of the Books and Makerspace Stations along with partnerships like the Three Star Book Awards are exemplar projects that can be replicated and scaled. However, collection development funding and, most importantly, qualified staff are key to extending your success. 

DC Public Schools have received tremendous positive attention from the education and library sectors for the decision that the City Council made last year to fund a school librarian position in nearly every school. We were very impressed to learn that Library Programs in DCPS exceeded one million checkouts of books and other materials by students and staff during the recently concluded 2021-22 school year. That is a testimony to the work school librarians are doing to place the right reading materials into the hands and onto the devices of students and staff across the district. We encourage the City Council to take up the Right to Read Amendment this budget season and make a permanent commitment to literacy, reading, learning, and information by keeping a school librarian in every DC Public School. Thank you for your consideration. 

Respectfully submitted,

Patrick Sweeney
Associate Director
EveryLibrary Institute, NFP



Save School Librarians is a digital advocacy campaign from EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries. It is supported entirely by donors who want to see every student have a school librarian at every stage of their academic life.

Please join thousands of people across the United States who donate to help us make this goal a reality. 

Donate $10 today to help us continue this work!