In many cases the support of the school principal can make or break the role of the Teacher Librarian (TL) and ultimately lead to their success or demise.
I have recently experienced firsthand the sad situation of a very experienced (25 years plus) and extremely competent and dedicated TL’s sudden resignation from her job, exhausted from battling for staff, resources and due to what she perceived as a complete lack of support on the principal’s part.
This has now left a large library with no direction and inexperienced staff. This, as with every other negative situation in a school, ultimately reflects on the school principal. Therefore, principals should support their school library if for no other reason than it is in their own best interests to do so. A dedicated and motivated TL can help a school principal enhance their own performance and profile, as well as the reputation of a school in the broader community.
A well-resourced and busy working school library with motivated staff is a great showcase to both parents and visitors to the school. Especially so at events such as book week, grandparents day etc. Many schools are now relying on both financial and volunteer support from outside the school. A library that is the hub of the school leaves a very favourable impression on visitors and supporters. With the move on to now have the school community having a greater say in who is employed as their school principal, and many prospective principals having to apply for their jobs directly to the school, it is very important for them to be seen as supporting and promoting all aspects of their educational environment.
There is clear evidence that students who are exposed to a comprehensive library program benefit greatly and their achievements exceed those who have limited access to their school library. This is another reason for principals to support theTLs at their school and assist them in way of resources.
The TLs opportunity to collaborate with teachers depends on the principal’s support to allow the teacher’s schedule to do this. When TLs and teachers collaborate together to plan and implement school programs the students get a double benefit from two professionals. It is also important to remember that how often students are allowed use the library as part of their weekly school program, is tied in with the principal’s encouragement.
Principals have as much control over the success of the library as the TL, because of their influence and control in key areas such as, employment of library staff and the number of staff, operating hours, the size and scope of collections and resources, and most importantly, the budget to do all of these things. The school principal is the key person who has the say on what percentage of the budget is relegated to the library.
As a TL we need to meet with the principal on a regular basis. If they are working under time constraints ask to meet for lunch, take coffee and sandwiches with you in need be, whatever it takes to put yourself in front of them and keep your profile up. Sell them on the idea that if the library looks good, the school looks good, and then the principal looks good!
It is extremely important as TLs we garner the principals support. We need to show them we are working together towards a common goal, that reflects the school’s ethos and mission statement, and that the library is an integral part of the school community to help achieve this.