Honor Harlem Students’ Legal Right to School Librarians

Research and Action
As of May 2017, according to our latest analysis of NYC Department of Education data, 87% (40 of 46) Harlem schools serving grades 7-12–across Districts 3, 4, 5, 6, and 75–are violating students’ legal right to library staffing and services. (In June 2015, the New York City Department of Education verified an earlier Harlem Council of Elders finding that 77% of schools across Harlem were without library media specialists.)

In February 2016, we took a stand and launched a petition calling upon city and state officials to comply with the law and honor the librarian-related rights of all Harlem students by the 2016-2017 school year.

Systemic Neglect of Children of Color
Over four years after the New York City Council hearing in which the NYC Department of Education testified that over 50% of secondary schools citywide were violating students’ rights in this area, and close to three years after the New York State Education Department wisely denied the NYC DOE’s request to suspend students’ library-related rights, this longstanding and disproportionate neglect of Harlem’s predominantly Black and Latino/a student population points to New York’s systemic failure to monitor and address racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to basic educational opportunities.


Community Coalition Informs Families and Neighbors of Students’ Librarian Rights
In partnership with the Harlem Council of Elders-led Honor Harlem Students’ Legal Right to School Librarians Campaign Coalition, which includes the Black Student Network and the Coalition of Latino/a Scholars, both of Teachers College, Columbia University; Community Education Council 5 (parent leaders elected by District 5 parents or appointed by the Manhattan Borough President); and Total Equity Now, the Harlem Council of Elders continues to raise awareness about this issue. Since spring 2016, the Coalition has organized dozens of volunteer shifts to gather petition signatures from fellow community members, including major outreach efforts in front of the schools where students are being deprived of access to school librarians.


Call to Action

Thousands of Harlem‘s young people are counting on you to demand that state and city officials provide access to school librarians. How much longer will our children have to wait? How much longer will they receive less than children in other communities?

Sign the petition:

Media Coverage

DNAinfo.com (1/26/16):  77% of Harlem Secondary Schools Don’t Have Librarians, Group Says

School Library Journal (2/17/16): Harlem Advocacy Group Demands School Librarians

Village Voice (3/22/16): NYC High School Students Stand Up for Their Educational Rights Onstage