Knapp School Libraries Project

In 1962, the Knapp Foundation, Inc., provided a $1,130,000 grant administered to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of ALA, to raise the standards of school libraries. At that time, school libraries in the United States were noted to be substandard. While federal funds helped to fund school libraries in 1958, the AASL realized that school libraries needed more than money to fix their problems. Improvements were needed in collection development, updates in technology, more staff, and renovations in facilities.

A busy school library at Central Park Road School in Plainview, NY. RS: 99/1/18

The five year Knapp School Libraries Project started in 1963. The project had four objectives: The first was to demonstrate the educational value of school libraries. The second was to promote improved understanding and use of library resources by teachers and administrators. The third objective was to guide other libraries to develop their own programs by having them observe the demonstration schools. And the last objective was to increase interest and support for school library development by producing and circulating information about the program and the demonstration schools.[1]

Central Park Road Elementary School and the Marcus Whitman Elementary School were the first schools to participate in the project, then three more elementary schools in diverse geographic locations were also added in 1964. In 1965, the project then added three secondary schools. These schools served as a model of a well-developed and well-staffed library program for invited groups to observe. The project targeted administrative and instructional staff, teaches and faculty, and school board members, as their audience for these demonstration libraries. In 1963, invitations urged visitors to:

“VISIT one of two demonstration school libraries selected from 115 applicants to participate in Phase I of the Knapp School Libraries Project

Children examining a model of the human body at Allisonville School Library, Indianapolis, IN. RS: 99/1/18

SEE the effect of the demonstration library on the instructional program of the Project school

INFORM your community about the program you have observed as a community leader

REPORT to the Project your views on the program you have observed and the effects of your visit on the library program of school or school district.”[2]

Beyond the completion of the initial goals of the project, it also increased interest in demonstration programs in education. The success of the project also resulted in a second grant from the Knapp Foundation to the ALA of $1,163,718 for another five year project called the School Library Manpower Project.  The second project was designed to “attack three aspects of the problem of developing fully and utilizing properly school library manpower – task and job analysis, education for school librarianship and recruitment from specific manpower pools.”[3]

The importance of this project is not lost on the AASL fifty years after the fact. During the fiftieth anniversary, AASL President Susan Ballard noted, “It is interesting to note that the impetus for the Knapp Project was because the chair of the Knapp Foundation read a magazine article in This Week entitled ‘Is Your Child a Victim of the Book Gap.” Ballard continued to say that the AASL has rededicated itself to raising awareness in communities to make sure children are not lacking in books or technology in school libraries.[4]


[1] Peggy Sullivan (ed.), Realization: The Final Report of the Knapp School Libraries Project, (Chicago, 1968), Record Series 20/4/14, American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois.

[2] The Knapp School Libraries Project, 1963, Projects-School Library Manpower Project Subject Files, Record Series 20/9/5, Box 3, Folders: School Libraries Publications, American Library Association Archives at the University of Illinois.

[3] Sullivan, pg. 33-34.

[4] ALA News, “AASL Recognizes 50th Anniversary of the Knapp School Libraries Project,” 6/18/2013,

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