Reader-friendly policies

User friendly and flexible policies in your library attract students and help foster a love of reading.

Visit your school library

image by Enokson

Sometimes simple things like the wording of a sign, limits on borrowing, or restricted hours send negative messages to readers about what the library is all about. Think about how user-friendly and non-restrictive your library policies are, and consider them from the point of view of a student reader. Ask yourself, 'Is this a barrier or an enabler?' as you re-evaluate your library practices.


Borrowing limits
Library opening hours - library accessibility
Sound levels within your library
Your library catalogue
Further reading

Borrowing limits

How many books can students borrow from your school library? Are they able to borrow from all areas of the library? Is there flexibility for keen readers to have extra books? Are all students allowed to borrow and take books home?

Libraries with generous borrowing limits are friendlier to readers and more effective in fostering a love of reading. Greater borrowing allocations:

  • allow more flexibility of choice
  • encourage risk taking with reading choices
  • and will, more than likely, increase actual reading mileage.

Students, like all readers, read a variety of material depending on their mood, time available etc. Increasing the number of titles you have to hand, gives them more options to suit.

Consider also your school's policies around overdue and lost books and how this might restrict further borrowing. Occasional amnesties might help retrieve some books and forgive errant borrowers.

Read how Whangarei Intermediate encouraged reading through generous lending policies.

Other areas for consideration:

Library opening hours - library accessibility

When can students access your library? Is it open before and after school, and especially at lunchtime? Does your timetable allow for regular class visits, small group flexible visits and independent use out of class time?

Sound levels within your library

Students working collaboratively will not be silent, and so it is unrealistic to expect quiet in school libraries. There are times for hush, and times for animated conversations and spaces that allow for both. Some libraries play music during lunchtimes, which can enhance the atmosphere. a space for individual study, reflection, quiet reading and creative flow.

Read more about learning spaces.

Your library catalogue

  • Can students access your library catalogue - in the library, from the classroom, over the web from home?
  • Is it user-friendly for young children?
  • Can students place reserves online?
  • Does the catalogue include book cover images? links to author websites? student reviews?
  • Are there guides to help searching? The catalogue also has the capacity to identify the current popular titles, which can be shared with students.

"Things which matter the most should not be at the mercy of things which matter the least." Goethe

Further reading

Jeff McQuillan and Julie Au in (July 2001) Reading Psychology 22(3): 225-248) discuss the effect of print access on reading frequency. Studies on reading motivation have found access to reading materials has an important influence on the amount students choose to read. However, few studies have examined print access in a comprehensive way to include home, school, and community resources. In this study, surveys and reading tests were administered to a class of eleventh-grade students. The key finding is consistent with previous research and shows that convenient access to reading material was associated with more frequent reading - regardless of a student's reading ability.Use EPIC MasterFILE to access this article.

Stephen Krashen in The Power of Reading (2004) also provides an excellent summary of the research on student access to books and its impact on "free voluntary reading".

Loertscher, D.V. & Todd, R.J. (2003). We Boost Achievement: Evidence-based practice for school library media specialists. Hi Willow Research & Publishing, is an essential resource when considering evidenced-based practice. It challenges the traditional borrowing limits and recommends more generous access for students to resources to encourage reading mileage.