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Institute of Education Sciences

Celebrating School Library Month: A Look at Library Media Centers


April is School Library Month, which recognizes the important role that school librarians and libraries play in K-12 education. More than 90 percent of public elementary and secondary schools have a library media center, according to the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), which collects data about school librarians and libraries. In honor of School Library Month, here are some facts and figures from the NTPS.


Library staff

  • Public schools employed approximately 56,000 full-time librarians and library media specialists in the 2015–16 school year, as well as an additional 17,600 part-time librarians and library media specialists.

  • Since there were more library media centers (82,300) than librarians and since some schools may employ more than one librarian, not every school with a library media center also employed a school librarian. On average, had 0.7 full-time and 0.2 part-time librarians and library media specialists.


Library media centers

  • In the 2015–16 school year, 91 percent of public schools had a school library media center. Overall, there were approximately 82,300 public elementary and secondary schools with a library media center.

  • The presence of school library media centers varied by the grade levels taught at schools. In the 2015–16 school year, higher percentages of primary schools (96 percent) and middle schools (95 percent) had library media centers than high schools (80 percent) or combined schools (79 percent).

  • The presence of school library media centers also varied by the type of community in which schools were located. About 88 percent of city-based schools had a library media center in the 2015–16 school year, which was lower than the percentage of schools located in suburban areas (92 percent) and rural areas (94 percent).

  • While the vast majority of public schools have a library media center, the percentage fell slightly between school years 2003–04 and 2015–16, from 94 percent to 91 percent, respectively (see Figure 1 below).


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools reporting the presence of a library or library media center: 2003–04 to 2015–16

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Data File,” 2003–04, 2007–08, 2011–12, and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), "Public School Data File,” 2015–16.


More information about school libraries, public libraries, and academic libraries is available through the Library Statistics Program and the NCES Fast Fact on Libraries. In addition, analysts can access these data using DataLab to conduct their own analyses of NTPS and other National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) surveys.


By Maura Spiegelman

Celebrate National Library Month: The Future of Libraries

By Christopher Cody and Bao Le

April is National Library Month! Did you know that NCES collects data on libraries?

While libraries have traditionally provided the public with a physical space for learning and accessing resources and information, the role of the library has expanded with advances in technology. With the dawn of the digital age, libraries have been working to meet the challenges of expanding access, learning opportunities, and overall public connection.[i] Academic libraries in particular, which are libraries located within postsecondary institutions, have embraced technological improvements, as shown in data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The Academic Libraries (AL) Survey has a rich history at NCES, starting in 1966 when we began conducting the surveys on a three-year cycle as part of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The survey moved around a bit, but is now fully housed in IPEDS and is currently administered on a yearly cycle.

IPEDS’s AL Survey offers an abundance of data to track the advancement of libraries, including data on topics such as collections/circulations, expenses, and interlibrary services. These data show a clear progression of libraries into the digital age. Here are some highlights:

  • In 1996, “80 percent of institutions with an academic library had access from within the library to an electronic catalog of the library’s holdings, 81 percent had internet access within the library.”[ii]
  • In 1996, about 40 percent had library reference service by e-mail. Just 10 years later, 72 percent of academic libraries provided library reference service by e-mail or the internet.[iii]
  • In 2006, only 6 percent of all academic library collections were e-books. By 2014-15, about 23 percent of all collections were e-books and 31 percent of the total library collections were from electronic and digital sources (e-books, e-media, and databases) as shown in Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2014; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2014: First Look (Provisional Data).
  • In 2014-15, postsecondary institutions housed approximately 1.1 billion items in physical library collections (books and media) and about 521 million items in electronic library collections (digital/electronic books, databases, and digital electronic media).


Over the past 20 years, libraries have evolved to ensure information is accessible to the public through the latest mediums of technology.

So in honor of National Library Month, take advantage of the abundant historical academic and school library data available through NCES located on the Library Statistics Program page. More recent academic library data can be accessed by visiting the Use the Data portal on the IPEDS website.


[i] Clark, L., Levien, R. E., Garmer, A. K., and Figueroa, M. (2015). Re-Thinking the Roles of U.S. Libraries. In D. Bogart and A. Inouye (Eds.), Library and Book Trade Almanac: formerly The Bowker Annual 2015, 60th Edition (pg. 3-22). Medford, NJ: Information Today Inc.

[ii] Cahalan, M. W., Justh, N. M., and Williams, J. W. (1999). Academic Libraries: 1996 (NCES 2000-326). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

[iii] Holton, B., Hardesty, L., and O’Shea, P. (2008). Academic Libraries: 2006 (NCES 2008-337). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.