May 16, 2022

District of Columbia: “Unequal Shelves in D.C. School Libraries Benefit Wealthier Students”

From The Washington Post:

Lafayette Elementary School, in upper Northwest, has one of the largest library collections in the District’s public school system, with more than 28,000 books filling stacks on two floors. Drew Elementary, 12 miles away and east of the Anacostia River, has one of the city’s smallest inventories: 300 catalogued books lining shelves along two of the library’s walls.

Reading and literacy are high priorities for the urban school district, as proficiency rates for its poorest students dwell below the averages for major cities. But the District dedicates no annual funding for school-library collections, instead relying on the largesse of parents or the kindness of strangers to stock their shelves through donations. As a result, an unequal system has developed.

As of January 2014, 22 percent of D.C. public school students attended a school with a library that had fewer than 10 books per student, while 17 percent of students went to schools with more than 30 books per student, according to an analysis of a school-by-school report on library collections obtained by The Washington Post. An oft-used national standard is 20 books per student.


“Access to books really does matter. It’s common sense,” said Ann Carlson Weeks, associate dean at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, who served on a library task force for the school system in 2012. “If kids have more books to read and they are encouraged, they are going to read more.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.