At the rate administrators turn over these days this is a common situation. The coming of a new administrator reminds me of the line from Exodus, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” The reputation you have built up and the relationship, good or bad you had with the previous administrator are gone. You are starting anew.
(To keep from the awkward “he/she,” I am using feminine pronouns throughout – although most of the administrators I worked for here male.)
Put your research skills to work as soon as you know the name of your new principal or superintendent. See what you can learn about what kind of a leader she was in her last school or district. If you can locate the names of librarians there, email one of them to find out how the library program did under her tenure.
The previous school/district website can provide further information as it may have messages from the administrator. This will clue you into her priorities. Also, Google her name and look for Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to get a sense of her achievements, values, and whatever else can help you get a picture of who your new administrator is.
Once you have a handle on what to expect, you still need to meet her to ensure she will regard your library program in the best possible light. Schedule a meeting as soon as possible. If she is taking over during the summer so much the better. Although she will be busier than a continuing administrator because she is still finding her way around, it is still calmer than when school begins.
If the new administrator is your principal you (and your co-librarian if you are fortunate enough to have one) attend the meeting. If it’s a superintendent, all the librarians of the district need to be there and everyone should be prepped for it. Plan on it taking no longer than half an hour. Fifteen minutes is better. This acknowledges you understand she is extremely busy and you can show you can be informative while being succinct.
Before the meeting, review what you found out about the administrator. Based on that, what is something you have done in the library that would be of most interest to her? If she is a techie, have a file of pictures from your Makerspace or Hour of Code. For a book lover, focus on any reading program you have done. You are giving highlights not the whole program so choose wisely.
Prepare questions to ask—but memorize them, don’t read them. You want to sound spontaneous. Let the administrator know you want to ensure that the library program supports her vision for the school/district. Ask what she liked best about the library program in her previous school. What, if anything, didn’t she like?
Those two questions should give you a direction. If her answers are fuzzy you know she has no clue as to what the library program does and you will have to work to slowly “educate” her. If she is specific but fairly negative, you will have to overcome a belief that is probably the result of her dealings with previous librarians. A positive attitude means you start ahead and can focus on creating a good foundation.
For the rest of the school year, you must keep your new administrator informed but not deluged with what is happening in the library program. For a superintendent, every month have each librarian share a one activity keyed to her interests, but have them send the information to one of you (rotate the task) to put together in a brief report. Always use visuals to supplement the text (Piktochart, Issuu, Animot, etc.). Do the same for a principal. Focusing on just one activity should keep the task from being overwhelming for you to manage and for them to read.
Remember the reports should be very brief. A new administrator has a steep learning curve and is being closely watched by the superintendent (if a principal), the Board of Education, parents, and sometimes the union. You don’t want to add to the burden; you want to be a help. Of course, at the end of the year, you send an annual report.
Throughout that first year and in subsequent ones, invite your new administrator to “events” in the library. If it’s the superintendent, send an invitation to both making sure each knows the other was invited. Explain to your principal that you want the superintendent to know how the library program supports district goals and mission.
Be prepared for your administrator not to come. She may not even let you know she isn’t coming. Don’t ask why just feature the event in your next report. Keep inviting. Eventually, she will come. And it may be unannounced.
Seek another meeting the next summer. This meeting is about sharing where you want to take the library program in the next year and getting her input. By this time the administrator has a good handle on her new job., and you have shown her the value of the library program.
Have you had to deal with a new administrator recently? What did you do to “market” your library program? What success did you have? What worked and what didn’t work?