The Case for Support - Restore Philly School Librarians

April is School Library Month, and the Philadelphia Alliance to Restore School Librarians (PARSL) wants everyone who cares about the future of education in Philadelphia to reach out to your Philadelphia state legislators and to all 17 City Council members to encourage them to support increased school funding so that K-12 students can have libraries and certified school librarians in our city public schools.

Please support increased school funding for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to support libraries and state-certified school librarians for our city students.

Did you know ……

  • There is a serious lack of librarians and libraries in SDP. For its 218 district-operated schools and 116,000+ students, SDP currently has only the equivalent of TWO full-time librarians. Most schools do not have a functioning library.
  • There is a serious deficiency in reading among SDP students. In 2022-23, only 31% of SDP 3rd graders scored proficient or above on the state reading test; only 34% of students in grades 3-8 scored proficient or better in English. According to NAEP, only 15% of Philadelphia's 4th graders demonstrate proficiency in reading, along with 17% of 8th graders.
  • There are serious needs among SDP students. 100% of SDP students are economically-disadvantaged; almost 20% are English learners; 19% receive special education services; over 4,700 are homeless; and 167 non-English languages spoken.

  • There are serious inequities in funding SDP. With federal Pandemic aid running out, SDP is facing a $407 million budget gap for fiscal 2025. The district has no taxing authority and is 99% dependent on state and city dollars for its operating fund.

But we know that…

  • School librarians and libraries help students gain reading proficiency. Students in schools with full-time school librarians score significantly higher on reading tests than students whose schools do not have librarians. And, there is a long-term impact to reading scores when students who have access to a library with a librarian from elementary through high school. Librarians help students not only to read, but to read to learn. Librarians promote the habit of reading, enhancing students’ skills in deep reading, comprehension, and interpretation.

  • School librarians are teachers. School librarians must be credentialed teachers in PA. Endorsed by the PA Department of Education, their instruction includes critical thinking, research, information/media literacy, and digital citizenship skills.

  • School libraries support marginalized students. In a PA study, Black students and Latinx students were found to have on average better academic gains than all students combined in schools with librarians.

  • School libraries even improve writing skills. According to the same study, while libraries improve all students’ writing scores, Black and Latinx students more than doubled their percentages of Advanced writing test scores and cut their Below Basic writing scores in half.

  • Well-resourced libraries make a difference. Students in schools with more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to school libraries increase literacy, student achievement, graduation rates, and college and career readiness.

  • Adding school librarians is possible! Realizing that access to school libraries is an equity issue, several large, urban districts are reinstating school librarians and libraries, including Boston, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, NYC, and San Francisco. They know the difference librarians can make in student learning. Philly students deserve this too!

We know, too, that school libraries and professional staff cost money. Both the state and city are poised to help. Gov. Shapiro’s budget proposal includes a substantial investment of $1.8 billion in public schools, with additional financial support for students who are currently disadvantaged by the existing school funding system. Mayor Parker is proposing a budget that would increase city funding for the district, with a current budget of $4.5 billion, by $24 million in fiscal 2025. 

School librarians and libraries can help close the literacy gap and provide safe spaces for students before, during, and after school. SDP students deserve to have functioning school libraries and certified school librarians like most other schools provide. We need you to encourage Philadelphia state legislators and City Council members to support the increased funding that can provide libraries for SDP children and teens. 

If you are a Philadelphia resident, please send an message to them today. Support PARSL and follow us on our new FaceBook page at