History of School Library Standards- A Timeline

While working on my dissertation I created a timeline of important events in the history of school library standards.  Taking a look at the events and people involved with the always evolving school library profession has helped me to realize what a varied and rich historical progression has led to the current standards.

It is my understanding that AASL has a committee that is currently working on writing the book that will accompany the new standards.  This is the time for us as a profession to study the history of the standards, the new standards themselves, and to help to shape the future of student learning by giving input to the knowledge base which will affect the school library field for years to come. 

Please feel free to add items and people you think are important to the timeline.  Take time to look at the links to the comparisons Doug Johnson has done of the AASL standards and ISTE’s student technology standards as well as the comparison of the 1998 Information Power guidelines and the new AASL standards.  I hope to delve further into the current relationships AASL standards have with other organizations in upcoming posts. 

History of School Library Standards Timeline

1887-First library school established by Melvil Dewey, Columbia College (now University)

1915- NEA Library Committee-investigated actual conditions in High School Libraries

1917-Symposium of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools—1st formal report on school library standards presented and adopted

1918-presented at the NEA meeting and adopted by Secondary School Department (Contributions by New York City, Chicago, and New York—C.C. Certain, chairman of NEA committee and Mary E. Hall, president of ALA School Library section)

1920-ALA endorses the “Certain Standards” and published by NEA quantitative standards—38 page high school library standards booklet

1925-Elementary School Library Standards by NEA and ALA chaired by C.C. Certain.

1939-Middle States Association developed “Evaluative Criteria” for school libraries…versions of which were used through the 1950s…state and accrediting agencies developed standards based on the Certain Standards or the accrediting standards.

1941-ALA and NEA joint committee created statement of principles

1945-ALA publishes School Libraries for Today and Tomorrow includes quantitative and qualitative standards in post-war Planning for Libraries series. 43 page booklet guided future standards. Mary Peacock Douglas, chair and Frances Henne—AASL school library standards committee

1951-AASL moves from section to division in ALA—Leaders recognize the need for updating and addressing standards periodically in response to changes in educational philosophy and technology. A Planning Guide for the High School Library Program by F. Henne, Ersted, & Lohrer

1960- AASL under the auspices of ALA develops and publishes Standards for School Library Programs chaired by Frances Henne with input from NCTE and NEA Dept. of AV Instruction

1960-1962 Knapp School Library Development Project (Frances Henne on advisory board)

1965-passage of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—school libraries received significant federal support – part of the Great Society legislation which included Library Services and Construction Act, Higher Education Act

1969-Standards for School Media Programs published by AASL and NEA Department of Audiovisual Instruction (DAVI) coordinated by Frances Henne—terms media, media specialist, media center, media program are used

1975-Media Programs: District and School published by AASL and AECT (former NEA-DAVI)

1988-Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs, AASL & AECT

1998-Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, AASL & AECT

2007-AASL: Standards for the 21st-Century Learner



2007-ISTE’s Educational Technology Standards for Students


2008- School Libraries Work! – Third Edition


  In the February, 2008 issue of School Library Media Activities Monthly, a chart was published that correlates the AASL/AECT Information Literacy Standards (1998) to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007). The article, “SLMAM Skills Correlations–New (2007) to Old (1998)” (SLMAM, Vol. XXIV, No. 5, p. 58) is now available on the School Library Media Activities Monthly website: www.schoollibrarymedia.com at the following URL:


For those interested, Doug Johnson did a graphic comparison of the ISTE NETS and AASL 21st Century Skills standard. Results and comments at:http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2008/1/7/student-standard-comparisons-and-a-clean-garage.html

I realize this brief timeline is not adequate to fully analyze the evolution of the new standards, but I believe looking at the history will help guide our profession in the future.  I look forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions.

References and further reading:

Kester, Diane D. and Jones, Plummer Alston.  “Frances Henne and the Development of School Library Standards.” Library Trends. Spring 2004.  (This article can be accessed from GALILEO.)

Roscello, Frances. “Standards: Our Earliest History.” Knowledge Quest. March/April 2004. (This short article can be accessed from GALILEO.)

Development of a Professional School Library Association: American Association of School Librarians, was originally published in School Media Quarterly 5, no. 1 (Fall 1976).

School Library History


Cawood Cornelius

Library Media Specialist, NBCT

Sonoraville High School

Calhoun, GA



Posted on February 6, 2008, in Standards. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

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