Building Common Ground • School Leaders

School librarians can build common ground with school principals through these main points. Communicating about the school library's contributions and the program's needs, sharing information at faculty meetings, preparing for principal evaluations, and budgets and grants.

School libraries are an essential part of student learning. School principal's interests are often priorities that the school library program can help address, but the principal doesn't always have that view of an integrated school library program. Something you can do to help your principal understand the role of the school library is communication on a regular basis, and not just when there's an issue or a problem. Find out how your principal prefers to communicate, and when you share information report on lessons, reading, information seeking, student and teacher needs, and parent involvement.

From the document, "Implementing the Common Core State Standards," the role of the school librarian, we see that school librarians will play an essential role in ensuring that 21st century information, literacy skills, dispositions, responsibilities and assessments are integrated throughout all curriculum areas. Whether you live in a common core state or not, that emphasis on student achievement and the school librarian's school-wide role is a really important role to present to your school principal. When you communicate with your principal, demonstrate that school library alignment with school priorities.

Maybe it's English language learners, STEM and STEAM skills, home and family connections, maybe safety and student well-being. Be positive when you speak to your principal, and offer solutions, not just problems. According to Harada and Yoshina, use assessment data to support school goals. Also, communicate across your stakeholders on an ongoing basis, explaining how programs and practices are affecting student learning. So you're going to collect information, analyze it, synthesize it, and then communicate it.

One important venue for communicating; sharing information at faculty meetings. Ask for this time ahead of time, be brief and share positive news. Maybe new materials, new resources you've learned about, and brag on behalf of your collaborating colleagues or your students, or give your colleagues a chance to talk about their library experience instead of you talking. This is part of advocacy too in getting others to communicate on your behalf.

Provide follow-ups of the information via tweets or your library website. Another important step is preparing for your evaluation. There's a checklist in the resources with this lesson, with great steps for preparing for this. And note that your professional faculty evaluation is distinct from, but related to, the evaluation of the school library program. A key step, learn about your state or district's evaluation instrument. With your department or on your own, set up a time early in the year to discuss the process of collecting evidence for this evaluation.

It may be new to the principal to consider other responsibilities and ways of measuring teacher performance besides the more traditional teacher observation. So when you think about what data to show your principal, consider this: the critical question for 21st century library media specialists is not, "How many books are we circulating?" or the related questions, "How many visits?", "How many databases are we using?" But really, our programs and practices making a difference in terms of student learning. This comes from the book Assessing for Learning.

So apply this thinking to your evaluation as well as your ongoing monitoring of your library program. Consult the checklist that I've given you for specifics. Generally speaking, as you collect evidence through the year, you want evidence of student learning outcomes, so both work processes and products, collect teacher feedback, parent feedback, document planning processes with standards aligned. Show your lesson plans, including reflections for what you will do next time, document and save your online presence. Take screen captures to the library, website, tweets, your library blog, and also document your professional organization participation and leadership.

When you think about professional organizations in relation to your evaluation, aim to show your active participation and not just your membership. Finally, another way to connect with your school principal is through the B-word, budget, but also grants. So I've grouped these two financial topics together. We'll start with grants. Offer to co-write grants with teachers or even your school leaders. Technology, library programs, and author visits are a few obvious ways to write a grant and collect money for funding these programs.

I did this with a couple of my school principals when I was a school librarian. In fact, it was part of their evaluation to show that they had, as administrators, apply for grants. I helped my school principal earn a laptop lab grant at the time—this was pre-tablets—and it was really great to show that he had earned this grant as part of his professional evaluation. And we got the laptops for the library.

The next year, our assistant principal and I worked on a grant to support a teaching tolerance program, and for this accepting of differences in diversity program, we also got a grant. So they had a favorable impression of the school library through that experience with the grant. In terms of budget, have a budget ready every year with justifications and curricular alignments for all purchases, whether or not there is money allocated. Ask for funding in the context of the school-wide reach of the school library, not just for stuff you need, but materials to support the curriculum and your students through grants and budgetary allocations, preparing for evaluations, sharing information with faculty, meetings and communicating about the library's contributions all the time, you will be able to begin fostering good partnerships with school leaders.

MLA Citation Morris, Rebecca J. "Building Common Ground: School Leaders ." School Library Connection, September 2015,

View all citation styles

Entry ID: 1980850

Back to Top