Does a Classroom Library Have the Same Standards as a School Library?

Q: Does a classroom library have the same standards as the school library? A first grade teacher came to me on Friday because a parent wants her to remove a book from the classroom collection.

In broad terms, a classroom library is different from a school library in scope and purpose, but professional standards apply to each.

In terms of selection of materials and responding to concerns about materials in classrooms versus school libraries, how this is handled is dictated by the specifics of your district’s policies and procedures. Both school library materials and classroom materials, including the books in classroom libraries, should be chosen following board-approved policies and procedures, but often there are separate policies and procedures for selection and reconsideration of library media materials and selection and reconsideration of curriculum (classroom) materials. (Sometimes districts do have a single policy covering both school library media and curriculum materials, however, there will generally still be separate procedural guidelines outlined for each.)

The books in classroom libraries typically fall under selection and reconsideration of curriculum materials in a district policy. This means that the books available in a classroom library, like everything else in the classroom, from required reading materials to movies and other media to posters on the walls,  should be chosen with the curriculum in mind and selected based on the teacher’s knowledge and professional assessment of what supports the curriculum and is appropriate for their students.

So in the case of a concern about or challenge to classroom materials, including materials in a classroom library, the district’s curriculum policy (again, as opposed to library media policy) should be followed.  Hopefully that policy outlines steps to follow in case of a complaint.

We want to add that providing a literature-rich classroom environment is certainly a way to support the curriculum, but as teachers build their classroom libraries, it’s important they choose books that they can professionally support and defend if a concern were to arise, so being mindful of age/grade recommendations for books in professional reviews and recommended lists and selecting accordingly is important. No matter how much a fourth or fifth grade teacher appreciates a young adult novel recommended in reviews for age 12 or 13 and older, for example, we would caution against including it in their classroom library.  Stick to the many terrific books professionally recommended for students in fourth or fifth grade.

June 2007; updated 2020