Barriers in your school library

Paul Gorski says it is imperative that we need to remove barriers to learning for all students, not fix the student or teach them to be resilient. (Gorski, 2015).

In Empowering Learners, one of the Common Beliefs is “Equitable access is a key component to education. (AASL, 2009).

Identifying barriers in your libraryimage

Organization of the library space

  • Take a good look at the signage in your library. Are the signs accurate? Are they easily readable from a distance? The signs should be large and have strong contrast.
  • If you use color coding on your book labels, is this information provide in another way? Remember, not all people see colors in the same way. There are likely students who cannot see the difference between the blue and purple labels, for example.
  • Teach them your organization and how to use the library catalog. As more librarians join the genrefication bandwagon, it becomes more important that students know how to use the catalog and how to figure out the system. It used to be the case that all libraries had the same system so if a student went to a new school he/she could find the sports books without asking anyone. As organization systems change, it is imperative that students know how to independently find what they need in your library.

Universal design of library instruction

  • Research is the perfect differentiation activity. Students can choose their topic, their essential question, and their sources on their own reading/understanding level. They can take notes in their own way, report in their own way. (Woodring, Woodring, & Hall, 2015) What is most important – the process or the product?
  • Whole class read-alouds: Can all students see the pictures? What about those sitting in the back of the room or those with vision issues? Can everyone clearly hear you read? Are there words used in the book that require some background knowledge? How can you be sure all students understand the vocabulary before you read the book?
  • If your activity requires movement, how will you ensure that all students can participate, even if someone in the class has limited mobility?

What are some possible barriers to success in your library space and instruction? Take a fresh look through the eyes of your students. Where can you make simple changes to break down the barriers?


AASL. (2009). Empowering learners. American Association of School Librarians, Chicago, IL.

Gorski, P. (2015, October). Equitable learning environments for low-income students and families. Presented at Teaching, learning and poverty: Meeting the needs of a new demographic. Farmville, VA.

Woodring, A., Woodring, A., & Hall, A. (2015, November). Innovative research process with interactive technology. Presented at AASL Fall Conference. Columbus, OH.


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