Pennsylvania Library Legislation 

Updated February, 2024

PSLA Supports HB 640 and SB 610: “One Certified Librarian per Public School” 

The House Bill 640 has been introduced by its prime sponsors, Representative Joe Ciresi (D - serving part of Montgomery County) and Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R - serving part of Lehigh County). Its counterpart, Senate Bill 610, has also been introduced by its prime sponsor, Judith L. Schwank (D - serving part of Berks County). Co-sponsors are currently being sought to show support for HB 640 and SB 610, so now is the time to contact your Pennsylvania State Representative and Senator. 

To locate your state legislators and their contact information, visit the Find Your Legislator page. You may have one set of state legislators for your home address and another for your work address. Check both addresses and contact all Representatives and Senators! The Ask: Please sign the co-sponsorship memorandum for HB 640 and SB 610, the “One Certified Librarian per Public School” bill.

Talking Points on Student Access to School Librarians:

  • Please support Pennsylvania HB 640 and SB 610, ensuring that all K-12 students have access to a certified school librarian.

  • School libraries, staffed by certified school librarians, provide the depth and breadth of reading materials that a classroom library can’t, to meet every child’s literacy needs at all reading levels and languages. Students receive personalized guidance from a trained, certified school librarian.

  • School librarians teach students to evaluate information that they read, see, or view, learning how to distinguish reliable and trustworthy information from misinformation and fake news.

  • large body of research supports that higher graduation rates and standardized reading and writing test scores are found in schools staffed with certified teacher librarians than those without, even after controlling for poverty.

  • A2022 study by Rutgers University found that college freshmen with high school research experience, particularly those from schools with certified librarians, performed better in using academic research tools and demonstrating digital literacy.

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2021-22, there were 54 Pennsylvania public school districts without any school librarians, impacting 100,000+ K-12 public school students. Another 81 districts had only one part-time librarian for the entire district. Yet, 83 districts employ enough librarians for one full-time librarian per building. This data highlights the growing inequities of school library services and instruction to Pennsylvania’s K-12 students.

  • In 2021-2022, districts without librarians occurred in 48% of Pennsylvania’s counties and almost 80% of its Intermediate Units, in all types of communities – rural, suburban, and urban.

  • Elimination of school librarian positions is a widespread problem that grows each year. 31 school districts had no librarians in 2019-20; 48 school districts in 2020-21; and 54 school districts in 2021-22 had no librarians.

  • Districts without librarians include many of our most vulnerable learners — those living in poverty, representing diverse racial and ethnic communities, and with larger numbers of English Language Learners.

  • Access to a well-stocked library and instruction from a certified school librarian should not be determined by zip codes.

  • Despite districts receiving additional federal funding, school librarian cuts continue. Elimination of librarians is not solely an economic issue; it is a matter of priorities.

  • PDE does not enforce its Certification Staffing Policy Guideline (CSPG #48) which states that every district must employ a certified school librarian and that paraprofessionals serve only in a non-instructional role and may not independently operate a school library.

  • PDE has endorsed a Library Curriculum with 43 academic standards related to information literacy and research skills that all K-12 students need to be college and workforce ready. However, there is no support for the trained librarians to teach them.

  • The decline in employment of school librarians over the past five years has resulted in more universities closing their school library preparatory programs, resulting in lost revenue for higher education institutions. There are now only two such universities left in Pennsylvania: Kutztown and University of Pittsburgh.

 Resources to Help Advocate for the Legislation SB 640 and 610 (.pdfs)

PSLA Opposes SB 7 and HB 1659

On October 24, 2023, the Pennsylvania Senate passed SB 7: Parental Control of Student Exposure to Sexually Explicit Content in Schools, mostly along party lines, with a vote of 29-21. Senator Boscola was the only Democrat who voted yes. SB 7 amends the Public School code by requiring schools to list any “sexually explicit” books or instructional materials in every school library and classroom. There is no provision for classes such as biology or health. The bill’s definition of “sexually explicit” is vague and subjective. The biggest impact is the requirement for schools to have an “Opt in” form for parents to sign that MUST include the lines: 

By signing this document I am giving permission for my child to be provided books, handouts and instructional material that may include written or visual depictions of sexual conduct. Sexual conduct is defined in law as "Acts of masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality or physical contact with a person's clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if the person is a female, breast."

This language is intentionally provocative, using words such as “bestiality” to shame parents into not signing the form. As we know, parents have always had the right to ask for an alternate assignment if they disapprove of a curricular element or wish for their student not to check out a particular book from the library. No school library book or other inquiry material is compulsory. The bill language only addresses a single facet of material made available in the library and the curriculum, not taking the whole work or the maturity level of the students into account. If signed into law, it will unnecessarily restrict student access to books and materials that will fall within this overly broad definition. 

PSLA stands firmly opposed to SB 7 and its companion bill in the house, HB 1659. Please contact your Pennsylvania House representative to ask them to oppose this bill. An in-person conversation is ideal, but emails and phone calls are also effective and necessary formats to engage in the conversation. While we do not know how this will fare in the house, Democrats – who are usually our allies – have only a razor thin majority. 

(link to Find My Legislator)

(link to Contact My Representative)

(link to House Education Committee Members)


Example language:

Dear Representative ____________:

I respectfully ask that you oppose House Bill 1659. This bill would greatly harm our education system and the students in it. Parents have always had the right to ask for an alternate assignment if they disapprove of a curricular element or wish for their student not to check out a particular book from the library. School librarians already welcome conversations with parents about what books meet the educational needs and values of their family. This bill places a limit on sexual content without taking into account the full work, the maturity level of the students, or the context for use. Nor does it offer an exception for state mandated classes such as biology or health. If signed into law, it will unnecessarily and arbitrarily restrict student access to books and inquiry materials. Please oppose HB1659 and allow ALL parents to choose what is right for their own family, but not to speak for all of the students in Pennsylvania.

Resources to Help Advocate for the Legislation

All these resources and more can be found at the PA School Library Project LibGuide.

Prepared by the PSLA Advocacy Committee. Updated February, 2024.