Over the years, too many librarians have told me their principal has no idea what they do. My reply is, “It’s your job to let them know.” A good part of the reason we have lost so many positions is because those in charge don’t know what a librarian does. It’s clear from what I’ve read on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page that librarians have played an important part in keeping teachers and students going during this pandemic. Does your administrator know?
Yes, keeping her/him in the loop is one more thing for you to do, but it may well be the most important thing. Administrators, both principals and superintendents, are under extreme pressure. When budget constraints are mandated, they are the ones making decisions that impair, reduce, or eliminate your program and possibly your job. It’s up to you to find an approach to forestall and/or alter those scenarios. It may mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Your administrator will not seek you out if there has been no previous connection. You have to create connection and that requires a plan.
Take it one step at a time. First, make a record of all you are doing and categorize it by the recipient. You can keep this general (students, teachers) or be more specific (grade, subject level, ELL, etc.) If you make it into a grid, you can also show what type of services you are providing: instruction, tech help, reading promotion, collaboration. If you find yourself amazed to see how much you are doing and how many people you are reaching – think of how your principal will react.
Because administrators are swamped make certain anything you send to them is clear and to the point. If you are wordy, they are less likely to respond. Try sending a message with the subject line, “One Good Thing” and then adding a specific reference such as, “One Good Thing: Teachers are successful with the Platform we are using.” In the body of the email, explain what’s working and how it’s helping – briefly. If all your messages are “One Good Thing,” it will tie them together, reminding your principal this all comes from you. They will recognize your emails and, hopefully, look forward to what you share.
You should also take time to consider and identify your administrator’s challenges. Do you know her/his priorities? What are they trying to accomplish? What difficulties are they facing? What is working? What isn’t? Once you know at least some answers think of how you might be able to help your administrator manage or mitigate any of these. Because of how you interact with everyone, you have a big picture scan – just as your principal does. You may not realize it, but you see things from a similar perspective.
After you’ve identified places where you can help, create one or two solutions and reach out. Again, use the subject line of the email to draw them in “How the library can support….” Diversity/Access/Test Success. Whatever it is. Let them know you have an idea and ask for 5 minutes to speak – in person if possible, Zoom or other visual if not. If you have no alternative, phone and email can work. Once you have your time, stick to it. Don’t go over. Your principal will appreciate you keeping your word and your focus. Lay out your plan, ask if he/she has questions and then follow up with an email or other documents as appropriate.
AASL also has support to help you make the connection with administrators. Past President Kathy Root’s AASL School Leader Collaborative Administrators & School Librarians Transforming Teaching and Learning” is a 2-year initiative. From school librarian recommendations, it selected seven school administrators to serve and they have done a lot including creating YouTube videos and doing a Town Hall on Leading Learning. I urge you to watch the free archived Town Hall. It’s inspiring to hear these administrators talk about how they rely on their school librarians.
Repeat any and all of these steps so you build a lasting connection. This is cannot be a onetime thing. Once you have made it, continue to foster it. Start building your own connection to your administrators. Not only will they know what you do, they will tell others about your program. Having a principal see you as a leader and collaborator will make you even more successful.