Back-to-School Survey Results

As the 2020-2021 school year gets under way AASL is collecting data from school librarians across the country to gauge the status of teaching, school library use, and school librarians’ role as school/district plans continue to adapt with changes in population infection rates.

The first back-to-school snapshot survey opened August 5 and closed August 12. There were 1,117 respondents, representing all 50 states. Building-level school librarians (83%), district supervisors (12%), and educators of school librarians (university/college) (4%) all participated. Building- and district-level respondents represent public schools (89%), private/independent schools (10%), and public charter schools (1%). District-level respondents represented more than 1.3 million students, building-level school librarians represented more than 565,000 students, and educators represented more than 2,000 graduate students.

The next snapshot survey will open September 10 and close September 17.

Status of Schools and School Libraries

A majority of respondents will start the school year with 100% remote learning or a hybrid that includes remote learning. Consistent with the way decisions tend to flow from district to individual schools, fewer district-level school librarians (9%) reported final determinations not being made. More district-level respondents (62%) noted parents/guardians/caregivers having the option to have their children learn remotely only, compared with building-level school librarians.

An equal number of district-level school respondents (17%) reported their district’s school libraries would be either fully open and operational or not opened or used. At the building level, 12% of respondents reported their school library would be fully open and operational, and twice as many (24%) reported that the school library would not be open or used. Of those reporting their school library would be open, 36% of district-level and 29% of building-level reported spacing requirements and 45% of district-level and 29% of building-level reported no activities will be allowed in the school library.

Nearly 10% more of district-level respondents reported that books would continue to be circulated (94%), compared with building-level respondents (85%). The vast majority will encourage more use of e-books and online resources than pre-COVID.

School librarians have always found a way to reach learners at the point of need. School librarians whose school library will be closed or used for classroom space plan to meet learner needs by taking bookcarts to classrooms for in-class check-outs (50%) and continuing to teach remotely (55%) or co-teaching with classroom teachers (38%).

Some of the other ways school librarians are meeting their learners’ needs without four walls include:

  • Teaching in classrooms
  • Supporting teachers with materials
  • Concierge school library services
  • Adding resources
  • Curbside pick-up
  • Engagement coach
  • Tech support for teachers
  • Video tutorials on research and media literacy topics

More than half of district-level respondents (54%) expect a collection loss of 10% or less, with only 2% anticipating a 50% collection loss and zero expecting more than 50%.

Status of School Library Budgets and Spending

A majority of respondents, both building (67%) and district (73%), report that they will have funding for the coming school year. When asked  how they will spend funds, 58% of building-level and 60% of district-level school librarians reported that their budget plans have changed since the 2019-2020 school year.


A majority of building- and district-level school librarians reported spending will go to books (physical and e-books) and online databases. Both groups reported an expected 6% of their budgets going to COVID-related supplies.


Building-level respondents are concerned with the difficulty of identifying students in need of non-academic support, and that learners have not yet reached the required level of research and digital citizenship skills required with remote learning.

Respondents indicated concern for their personal safety. Answering on a scale of “0, I don’t believe I am at any greater risk” to “100, I strongly believe that exposure to students will greatly increase my risk of contracting COVID,” the average landed at 77 for building-level and 71 for district-level school librarians.

Educators (College/University)

A majority of educator respondents who teach school librarians at the university/college level were already teaching remotely (53%) or with limited in-person components (27%).

The pandemic’s two biggest impacts on their instruction were student assignments being late (56%) and the cancellation of in-class/practicum experiences (50%).

Most programs have seen no changes in enrollment (46%) or a slight decrease (27%) or a slight increase (15%), with only 12% (9% increase/3% decrease) reporting significant changes in enrollment.

Demographic Data

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