10 Informal Ways for School Librarians to Promote the School Library

There are many ways School Librarians can promote the school library to students, teachers, administration, parents, and the community. Here are 10 informal actions that help you effectively advocate for your school library program. | No Sweat LibrarySchool Librarians are often told to promote their school library program, to push its visibility within the school and out into the community. There are many materials available for library advocacy—from simple activities or events to entire programming kits—that allow us to be continuously alert for ways to connect with folks in the school and the community.

However, after years as a middle school librarian, I’ve found it’s our informal practices that are most effective for building awareness of the school library program. Based on what has worked for me, here are 10 informal ways to advocate for your school library program and promote its value to the school community.


Make the school library the place students need to go to get things done. I always have art materials—markers, poster board, scissors, tape, glue, etc.—in convenient totes so students can come in before, during, or after school to work on projects. The current catch-phrase is “makerspace,” but my students have always associated the library with “making” what they need!

Always have computers turned on, ready for students to use any time of day. I offer a “Tech Morning” once a week for kids to learn about a new app or online service. Believe me, kids love to learn new technology, and when teachers see students asking to use an app for a project, they become interested in learning more technology from me.

I have a variety of games that are fun, yet reinforce learning, such as Scrabble and Monopoly ($$ & math). I also have reading alcoves for students who want a quiet place to read when others are working at tables or on computers. (Our general guideline is that students can converse as long as they use 2-foot voices…a completely silent library is not conducive to collaboration.)

Student Pass to Library: Get the FREE Template to create your own customized laminated passes for students to come to the library during class-time. FREE download after joining my email group! | No Sweat LibraryMake it easy for students to come in during down-time in class. Every year I supply a personalized laminated pass for each classroom teacher to fill out with a dry-erase marker allowing students to come to the library if they need a book, computer, whatever.

You can get a FREE template to make your own personalized laminated passes for each classroom teacher by joining my email group!

Always let students help out. They may ask to shelve books—it may not be perfect, but it gets books back on the shelves and students feel good about helping. Utilize student input and help to create displays for bulletin boards and shelves. Student-created, eye-catching displays inspire kids to come inside.


Teachers have enough on their plate without us adding to it, so approach teachers with a written lesson plan that enhances their current classroom activities. This personalized service shows teachers how easy it is to include us in the lesson planning experience so we can provide quality skills and resources.

NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Template p1 - Begins with an overview area perfect for initial meeting with teacher; Section 1 delineates Subject and School Library Standards, Understandings, Questions, Objectives, & Vocabulary; Section 2 outlines Assessment. | NoSweatLibrary NoSweat Library Lesson Planner - page 2 (Download my specialized Library Lesson Plan template from the ‘FREE Librarian Resources’ page)

Make it a professional goal to be familiar with all grade level subject curricula and build the library’s collection and online resources to support that curricula. Colleagues then see us as the curriculum expert in the building and come to us for ways to enhance their classroom activities!


Collaboration is especially difficult if library skills are embedded into course curricula without specifying them as library skills. We then have to convince teachers they really aren’t responsible for teaching those (without actually telling them they don’t know how to do it and we can do it better). In fact, the biggest challenge school librarians face is getting teachers and administrators to realize we are an education professional, trained to teach students the specific information literacy skills so necessary for school, college, and their future in a global digital society.

When there is no written library curriculum, we must create one. It shows our colleagues that we have a curriculum we need to coordinate with their classroom content. To make it easier to integrate information-literacy skills into subject curricula, I created a curriculum matrix where I can track opportunities for library visits and design truly relevant lessons that scaffold info-lit skills across subjects and grade levels.

Sample No Sweat Curriculum Matrix
click to enlarge
My Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Composite example of an older version for the 1st grading period. You can get my No Sweat Curriculum Matrix from No Sweat Library, my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


Given the easy access to information through the Internet, every school librarian faces the lack of understanding from colleagues about our role in the school.  We must show colleagues that the Web increases the need for a school librarian, and that we have the training to curate and refine information overload. We must continually emphasize that it’s our responsibility to show students how to legally and ethically curate and use online information, images, and other media.

Each month I send a Media Minute email to school staff highlighting digital and online curriculum assets. This very short, one-minute contact shows we are curricula-oriented specialists:

  • an upcoming content area library lesson activity
    (gives other teachers an idea of what we could do together)
  • a new teacher resource in the library
    (builds a professional area of supportive curriculum materials)
  • a useful current lesson-related feature on a subscription service
    (reminds teachers that these are the best quality information sources for students).


Getting parental support at the start of the school year is essential. In our school students took a packet of paperwork home on the first day of school. I include a brochure about library services and a bookmark listing online resources with IDs & PWs for home access. I’ve heard that the bookmark is stuck to a lot of refrigerators!
A couple times a year I create a Library Newsletter that’s copied on the back of student report cards to tell parents about library activities and supporting resources. It’s also prominently posted on the school library website.

Intermittently I make positive phone calls to parents giving feedback about a particularly memorable thing their child did in the library, especially for those students who often get negative calls home. This makes me a visible and valuable member of the school faculty, and these positive contacts make a world of difference for getting overdue books returned at the end of each semester!

Most importantly, the school’s PTA can be our best supporter, so do favors for, and become good friends with the ladies who run it, since they often have a direct line to the principal’s ear!


Within the school, the principal is definitely the most influential person when it comes to the school library. Submit regular reports showing both hard & soft data about the library and its activities—and make it colorful so it stands out among all the other paperwork on the principal’s desk! Give copies to the assistant principals and counselors, too…they have more direct contact with students and that increased awareness will often encourage them to send students to the librarian for assistance.

At the district level, the curriculum coordinator can impact school libraries and librarians. You may have a district library coordinator who works with them, but individual librarians can also share information. I include the curriculum coordinator on my Media Minute email list.

I’ve discovered our greatest district advocate is the Public Relations department—they control the public’s perception of the school district and if they are on your side, you are gold. They’ll post pictures of library activities, promote reading programs, and make sure everyone in the community, from parents to businesses, and administration to support staff, is aware of your importance. They can also be instrumental in publicizing fund-raising efforts!


Here are 10 informal ways School Librarians can advocate for the school library program and show the importance of having a certified school librarian! | No Sweat LibraryHelp folks realize you can do more than checkout and shelve books. Be a troubleshooter and trainer for technology used in the classroom. Volunteer to photograph or videotape student presentations in the classroom. Make the library website an essential part of the school’s web presence.

Sponsor a school club in the library (chess? school news?). Open a school supply shop during lunches with essentials (pens, pencils, notebook paper) and periodically offer “fru-fru” (feather pens, funny erasers, neon color paper).

In other words, don’t advocate with words about the importance of a school library; advocate with actions to show the importance of having a certified school librarian.


Volunteer for any committee that even remotely impacts the library program or the school librarian, especially those that showcase your librarian and personal skills. Nurture ties to subject area department heads so any curriculum-planning activity includes you. Become best friends with your school secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria staff so they view you as an essential member of their team, too. It’s amazing how often the phrase, “Let’s see what the school librarian has to say about this!” shows how vital you are to the school and its mission.


One year we got a new principal, and to familiarize himself with the school culture, he set up interviews with staff members during the summer. One question he asked each person was, “If the principal was suddenly gone for some reason, who are 3 people in the school you could rely on to keep things running smoothly?” I was flattered that quite a few folks mentioned me, the school librarian, so I made it my goal that everyone would mention the school librarian in answer to such a question! By encompassing that broad concept I was able to see more possibilities for involvement than listing disparate things I wanted to accomplish.


I’m fortunate that my district supports the library program with substantial funds for books and online resources, so I don’t have to, as so many do, weasel money from a principal or try to raise funds on my own. I am, however, adamant about one way a librarian does NOT raise money: with fines for overdue books.

Fines don’t work. Well-off students don’t care about the paltry amount and poorer kids get stressed trying to pay a fine and still have money for lunch (or dinner on their way home), and basically it just makes a lot more work for the librarian, especially if there’s a whole class trying to check out books in the last 10 minutes of the period.

There are much more effective ways to tease kids into getting overdue books back. And really, it’s just a book and there’s plenty more on the shelves—a child and their feelings are a lot more important than a fine (or even a lost book)!

Well, those are the 10 informal ways I promote our school library program. I hope you find these ideas helpful. Happy advocating!

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This post is updated from 2015.

Show Everyone What School Librarians Do! Make a KANBAN

School Librarians can create a Kanban—a large whiteboard with a grid to organize sticky notes—so we can stay on top of all our projects and show everyone the many tasks we perform to make the school library an effective learning center. | No Sweat LibraryA recurring lament on School Librarian listservs & social media is that our education colleagues don’t really know what School Librarians do. Some teachers have even said to us, “It must be nice to spend all day reading books.” If only it were that easy!

The amount of work we School Librarians expend to keep the school library functioning is daunting, not to mention keeping up with everyone’s curriculum and designing meaningful lessons for students. However, there’s a simple way to conquer misconceptions and reveal the enormity of school librarianship…

Hang a KANBAN!

Kanban is a visual process management system that allows us to plan projects, arrange priorities, keep track of progress, and manifest what has been accomplished. More importantly, Kanban is an eye-catching display that shows everyone—teachers, principals, visitors, students—just how busy we School Librarians really are!


Kanban, from the Japanese word for signboard, was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Inspired by the “bin” system used in airplane factories in the United Kingdom during World War II, then later applied to shelf re-stocking in their supermarkets, Ohno adapted it as a method to implement “just-in-time” production that responds to consumer demand.

During the early 2000s, software development companies adapted the Kanban from a production system for manufacturing into a software development workflow to coordinate tasks in project teams. Since then it has morphed into systems for change management, marketing, human resources, knowledge work, and personal workflow.

The last—personal workflow—is why a Kanban is useful for School Librarians: the variety of tasks we do—from budgeting to collection development to facility management to creating lessons to professional development to school committees—can all be organized and tracked using a Kanban.


Instead of a print or digital organizer that no one sees, use a Kanban so everyone can see what a School Librarian can accomplish during a single school year! | No Sweat LibraryWith so many print and digital organizers available, it may be tempting to use one of those for task organization—in fact, many School Librarians already do that. But I say DON’T—no one sees a print or digital organizer!

I do use print and digital checklists for myself during workdays at the start and end of the school year, but during the school year I use a Kanban whiteboard with colorful square sticky notes to display all my ongoing tasks and projects and how they are progressing.

That big whiteboard with its columns of bright-colored notes is pretty hard to miss. In addition to helping me stay focused, it prompts a lot of conversations with others, and conveys to them just how many things we School Librarians must do to make the school library a valuable learning space.


The simplest Kanban is a whiteboard divided into 3 columns and labeled TO DO, DOING, DONE. Each task is written down on a square sticky note and moved from column to column as the job progresses.

Image of a simple Kanban board with 3 columns labeled To Do, Doing, Done.

Lasovski, Jeff. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/, 9 July 2022.

I recommend using at least a 24″ x 36″ whiteboard—remember, we’re planning for the entire school year, and it’s amazing how quickly the board fills up with tasks. Instead of drawing column lines with a whiteboard marker, use narrow black (or other color) tape in order to move notes around without smearing the grid.

I prefer to divide my whiteboard into 4 columns, adding an IDEAS column at the left to accumulate possible tasks or projects as they come to mind. I also use IN PROCESS instead of “Doing,” because I’m not always actively working on everything in that column. In addition, I merge the bottom of the two middle columns and label it AWAITING INPUT to indicate that other folks need to do or give me something in order to continue.

A whiteboard divided into 4 kanban columns labeled Ideas, To Do, In Process, Done with bottom of center 2 merged and labeled Awaiting Input. | No Sweat Library

No Sweat 4-column Kanban

To make my Kanban really useful, I color-code the sticky notes for categories of related tasks. In this way I see where the bulk of the year’s work will be so I can prioritize tasks & projects for a smooth workflow. Here are the colors and categories I use:

Image of color sticky notes labeled with my task categories. | No Sweat Library

No Sweat Color-coded Categories for Kanban Tasks


Kanban is great planning & organizing tool for School Librarians. Here are 5 strategies that can make it even better! | No Sweat LibraryA Kanban makes it easy to prioritize activities. I put my most immediate or most important tasks at the top and less needful ones lower down. If timing becomes more critical for something, I just move the sticky note upward.

For large projects with several phases, I use a sticky note for each phase (with project title along the top) and stack them in consecutive order. As each piece of the project begins & progresses, I move notes to the appropriate column, stacking as needed, usually in a single row across the board, and slightly separated from disparate tasks.

One advantage of the whiteboard is being able to use a dry erase marker to draw arrows or symbols next to a sticky note, which is very helpful to align phases of a project. Plus, so much of what we do in the school library is interrelated, so if I have to work on something else before I can go ahead with a task, I can line-link the notes together without moving them.

Certain of our school librarian chores recur from year to year, so we can reuse those notes. For example, I do mini-inventories of sections of the library over a 5-year period instead of one big inventory—it takes less time and is less disruptive to students and teachers. I use five 3”x5” rectangle sticky notes and list a column of Fiction Subjects and a column of Dewey numbers for each year. When I complete each section, I check-mark it. At the end of the school year I move the top note to the bottom of the stack and put the stack back in the TO DO column, ready for the next school year’s mini-inventories.

Example of a recurring project: inventory with double-sized note for each year, 1-5. | No Sweat Library

When a task or project is finished, it’s tempting to throw away the note, but don’t do that! I accumulate them near the top of the DONE column until the end of the grading period so I am sure to include finished tasks in my Report to Principal. Then I move them as a batch toward the bottom of the Done column. There’s great satisfaction in watching the sticky notes build up toward the top in that last column, seeing how much I’ve accomplished throughout the school year!

Be sure to place your Kanban in a prominent place to easily check status and to show others what School Librarians do! | No Sweat Library

A No Sweat Library Kanban with Tasks & Projects


It’s important to hang the Kanban in a prominent place where it’s easy to keep updated, and also where it can be seen by others. I hang mine on the back wall of my librarian office, where anyone at the circulation counter could see the colorful display through the windows. Many students and teachers ask about my Kanban, which gives me an opportunity to talk about how the school library can assist them.

At the end of the school year, I take a snapshot of the Kanban with all the finished tasks, then paste it into the final Report to Principal and include it in my professional evaluation report to visually emphasize how busy my year has been!

So, go to it! Create your own KANBAN!

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