Parents’ Perceptions of School Libraries Survey Report Released
EveryLibrary Institute and Book Riot fielded the “Parents’ Perception of School Libraries and Librarians” survey in December 2023 to get a new understanding of how parents and guardians think and feel about our role in education. We asked 616 parents and guardians and aimed to understand their perceptions on various topics related to school libraries:
- Opinions on book bans.
- Access to school libraries.
- Parental involvement in children’s reading choices.
- Concerns about unrestricted access to books, with many advocating for age-appropriate restrictions and greater parental oversight.
- Contradictory opinions on themes in children’s books, with a majority favoring book rating systems in school libraries.
- Insights into parental trust in school librarians, comfort levels with certain book themes, and opinions on book bans and school library policies.
- Demographic information about the respondents, including their political affiliation and relationship to the children.
The survey contains several positive findings about school libraries and librarians. There is a strong belief in the importance of school libraries in K-12. A vast majority of the parents surveyed asserted that every school should have a school librarian. The survey results show that a significant percentage of parents (80%) trust school librarians to select appropriate books and materials for school libraries. The survey found that only 41% of the parents have met their child’s school librarian, however. There is a gap in the level of engagement and interaction between parents and school librarians.
Read the full report at https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/parent_perception_school_libraries_2023
The survey does reveal some cautionary or negative findings for school libraries and librarians, which our sector needs to understand and engage. Parents have considerable concerns about unrestricted access to books in school libraries. Most parents and guardians in the survey feel that access to certain books should be age-restricted or require parental permission. A majority of parents believe in proactive parental involvement, such as being notified when their child checks out a book, or having the option to opt their children out of using the school library altogether. An even larger majority of parents favor book rating systems in school libraries, indicating a desire for more control or oversight over the content available to children.
The survey included questions about school library policies, such as whether the school website should list every book in the library and whether parents should decide if their child can access information on challenging topics like sex education and racism. Contrasting the comfort levels of parents about ‘social justice’ with their comfort levels about race and LGBTQ+ is interesting and important. A higher percentage of parents (52%) are “very comfortable” with children’s books about social justice. This suggests a general acceptance or support for educational content that addresses broader social justice issues. However, the comfort level decreases for books specifically about race/racism, with 47% of parents being very comfortable. While this indicates a relatively high level of acceptance, it suggests that race as a specific topic might be more difficult than generalized social justice themes. The comfort level of parents drops more noticeably for LGBTQ+ characters and themes, with only 34% of parents being “very comfortable” and fully 20% being “uncomfortable”.
The contrast in these comfort levels between a general term like social justice and specific terms like LGBTQ and race highlights how different aspects of diversity and social issues are perceived among parents. While there seems to be a general openness toward discussing social justice, race/racism and LGBTQ+ content appear to be more divisive. This disparity could be due to various factors, including cultural, religious, or personal beliefs. It underscores the challenges that school libraries and educators may face in addressing challenges to these topics.
We also surveyed parents and guardians about the grade level for students to have access to age-appropriate books with LGBTQ+ characters, books about race/racism, and books about social justice. The responses varied across different educational levels (Pre K, Elementary School, Middle School, High School), indicating diverse opinions on when it is appropriate to introduce these topics. The responses indicate a complex set of opinions on how and when children should be exposed to topics like LGBTQ+ themes and race/racism in educational settings.
The survey report sheds light on topics ranging from book bans to parental involvement in children’s reading choices and highlights both positive and cautionary findings for school libraries and librarians. Overall, the “Parents’ Perception of School Libraries and Librarians” findings underscore the need for more engagement and interaction between parents and librarians to address some of the concerns highlighted by the survey. If we engage these findings, we should identify areas of mutual interest and concern where more dialog is needed.
This survey was the third in a series of Parents’ Perception of School Libraries and Librarians Survey (Dec 2023) findings at https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/parent_perception_school_libraries_2023. Please see “Parents’ Perceptions of Public Libraries” (Sept 2023) and “Parents’ Perceptions of Librarians” (Nov 2023) for additional insights on this dynamic topic.
Filed under: News
About John Chrastka
EveryLibrary’s founder is John Chrastka, a long-time library trustee, supporter, and advocate. John is a former partner in AssociaDirect, a Chicago-based consultancy focused on supporting associations in membership recruitment, conference, and governance activities. He is a former president and member of the Board of Trustees for the Berwyn (IL) Public Library (2006 – 2015) and is a former president of the Reaching Across Illinois Libraries System (RAILS) multi-type library system. He is co-author of “Before the Ballot; Building Support for Library Funding.” and “Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding”. Prior to his work at AssociaDirect, he was Director for Membership Development at the American Library Association (ALA) and a co-founder of the Ed Tech startup ClassMap. He was named a 2014 Mover & Shaker by Library Journal and tweets @mrchrastka.
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