5 Things You Want a Principal to Know About the School Librarian

Are you getting a new school principal? Job interviewing for a school transfer? Need to garner support for your position & the school library? Here are 5 things you'll want a principal—or anyone else—to know about you and the school library. | No Sweat LibraryToward the end of a school year, a School Librarian may decide to transfer to another school or leave the district for a librarian position elsewhere. In either case, a job interview with a school principal is around the corner. Alternatively, our school may get a new principal and we want her/him to know how to support the school library.

Even if we are not making a change, School Librarians nowadays must always be ready to defend our position within the school building, and in the district and the community. Sometimes a quick “elevator pitch” is enough, but at times we have to express our needs in order to serve the needs of our students and their school library program. This question can help us narrow our focus so we are, in fact, giving the “big picture” to those who can make a difference:

What 5 things do I want a principal to know about me, the School Librarian,
and about the school library?

1) I am a Teacher.

My primary role is as a teacher of information literacy. I have a set of National Standards which provide a framework for the knowledge and skills students are expected to master by the time they move on to their next school or future endeavor.

To fully integrate the information literacy curriculum into content-area lessons, I need to collaborate with teachers. Research shows that regular collaboration between the school librarian and other teachers greatly increases student achievement, so I need the principal to actively encourage faculty to collaborate with me. I document collaborations in reports and my end-of-year appraisal, and it would be helpful if the principal recommends that teachers tally their own collaborations with me.

Download this short PDF Library Lesson Collaboration Short Form from my FREE School Librarian Resources page. Make copies and keep stacked on the circulation counter, to use for a collaboration opportunity when a teacher comes into the library.

Image of single Library Lesson Teacher Collaboration Form. | No Sweat Library

click to enlarge

2) I need sufficient funding to maintain a quality school library.

yellow moneybag with dollar sign - A school librarian needs adequate funding for library collection developmentTo ensure student achievement, the school library collection—print, digital, and online—must be from authoritative sources, with current publication dates, and in support of student and teacher curricular needs. To maintain this quality, I need a budget that will provide for the acquisition of new resources and the replacement of out-of-date, lost, and damaged ones.

Most states have guidelines for the library budget and for a minimum number of materials. Here is an example of one state—Texas**—which falls about the middle of all U.S. States for library guidelines:

  • Resources budget for print and non-print materials=
    $5500 or $12.00 x Average Daily Attendance
  • Operational budget=6% of Resources budget
  • An Acceptable school library has a minimum of
    11,000(secondary)/12,000 (elementary) books or 12/14 books per student,
    plus at least 250 videos, 46 audios, 12 periodicals
  • Refresh annually at least 3% of materials, licensed databases, and other electronic resources, including audiobooks and eBooks.

I also need funds from the principal for building media that cannot be purchased with library funds. Such incidental audio/video/digital items include cameras or computer products that teachers check out for student projects.

3) Make my morning/lunch/afternoon duties in the school library.

For some students, these are the only times during the day they can come into the library to check out a book. Students may be sent to the library by morning-duty teachers to take make-up tests or to review videos or classroom presentations. For students on sports teams or with difficult home situations, these library times are a “homework hub” that allows them to keep up with school work. For project-based inquiry learning, this is also the best time and place for students to collaborate on projects!

Teachers rely on me to be available at these times to help gather materials for their classrooms or collaborate on lessons. This is also when I can sponsor a library club for students who like to help shelve books and other volunteer tasks. On busy days, this may be the only planning time I have to prepare library lessons for class visits.

Make a powerful statement to students and teachers that
the School Library is an important learning center in our school
by allowing me to be in the school library during these critical times.

4) I am a department head, even if I’m the sole library unit.

round table with 8 people around it - I need my principal to include me in various decision-making meetingsI need my principal to include me in various decision-making meetings, especially those that affect library use or curriculum and technology materials. I can provide a unique perspective that no one else can:

  • I am broadly familiar with every subject-area teacher’s curriculum.
  • I may be the most proficient technology specialist in the building.
  • Along with the custodian and school secretary, I have extensive knowledge of the physical building.
  • As the library program administrator, I have contacts in district offices and departments that can ease the acquisition of supplemental materials or equipment for classroom, school or extracurricular plans.
  • Library activities touch every subject and grade level, so I often see and hear more of student and/or teacher issues than others.

A principal will want to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and information a school librarian can provide to any committee or meeting.

5) The library may be empty, but I really am busy working.

Our principals need to know that School Librarians are busy even when the library is empty. We talk with vendors, purchase, and process new materials. We meet with teachers and work with students in the classrooms. We balance budgets and write reports. And more... | No Sweat LibraryBeing a School Librarian is a demanding job, as I must manage my time among the 5 areas of expertise that help me contribute to student success. Here are just a few of the “invisible” tasks that absorb my time when I’m not checking out or shelving books or teaching a lesson to students:

  • Teacher: create my Library Lesson Plans for student visits.
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  • Instructional partner: plan lessons with teachers, prepare materials for teachers, prepare student/teacher audio/video/digital projects.
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  • Information specialist: phone or meet with book and digital vendors, generate purchase orders for new print & digital materials and equipment, unpack, process, and shelve new print and audio/video materials for the collection, inventory materials and equipment in the library and throughout the building.
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  • Program administrator: manage the library facility, including scheduling, in an equitable manner according to need, balance the budget, generate reports on circulation, overdue books, library use, collaborative lessons, and curriculum that help you and me make decisions to benefit our campus.
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  • Education leader: update the library website, create and manage library print & social media communications to parents and the community, create presentations for staff development training, keep up with my own professional learning, and with library and educational trends.


To conclude, please remember that this isn’t about me, the School Librarian, but rather it’s to provide students with access to high-quality resources when they need them. And that can only happen when you understand that my needs are the needs of the School Library Program. When you support me in the above 5 ways, it is a dream come true!

If you like this article, you can download this 2-sided PDF document explaining the 5 important ways to best support the School Librarian and the School Library Program and give a copy to your principal. Image of the PDF document "5 Things You Want a Principal to Know About the School Librarian." | No Sweat Library

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**School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas. Texas State Library & Archives Commission and the Texas Education Agency, updated 2017. Accessed 8/15/2023.

Article updated from 2015.Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management. You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-Group Library of FREE downloadable resources!

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
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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.