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12 point library checklist for principals - 2017

The first version of this document was written in 1996 and updated in 2003, 2009 and 2012. As fast as the profession changes, I've tried to keep the document updated. As always, this tool is meant to be discussion starter, not a definitive evaluation tool. Use as you can and comments for improvement are always welcome.

A 12 Point Library Program Checklist for School Principals

The simple checklist below can be used to quickly evaluate your building’s program with your building principal’s collaboration.


Rapid changes in technology, learning research, and the library profession in the past 40 years have created a wide disparity in the effectiveness of school library programs. Is your school's library keeping current? The checklist below can be used to quickly evaluate your program.

1. Professional staff and duties

  • Does your library have the services of a fully licensed school librarian?
  • Is that person fully engaged in professional duties? Is there a written job description for all library personnel: clerical, technical, and professional?
  • Does the librarian understand the changing roles of the librarian as described in current professional publications?
  • Does the librarian offer regular staff development opportunities in information literacy, information technologies, digital resources, digital citizenship, and integration of these skills into the content area?
  • Is the librarian an active member of a professional organization?
  • Is the librarian considered a full member of the teaching faculty?
  • Is the librarian evaluated on a regular basis using a tool similar to that of other teachers?

2. Professional support

  • Is sufficient clerical help available to the librarian so that she/he can perform professional duties rather than clerical tasks?
  • Is sufficient technical help available to the librarian so that she/he can perform professional duties rather than technical tasks?
  • Is there a district library supervisor, leadership team, or department chair who is responsible for planning and leadership?
  • Do the building principal, site leadership committee, and staff development team encourage library personnel to attend workshops, professional meetings, and conferences that will update their skills and knowledge?
  • Does the librarian participate in your district’s Professional Learning Communities and in informal Personal Learning Networks, both face-to-face and online?

3. Collection size and development

  • Does the library’s book and digital resource collection meet the needs of the curriculum? Has a baseline print collection size been established? Is the collection well-weeded?
  • Is a variety of media available that will address different learning styles?
  • Have on-line resources been added to the collection when appropriate? Are there sufficient computers and Internet bandwidth for groups of students to take advantage of these resources? Is there plan in place for making the "digital conversion" of educational tools?
  • Has a recent assessment been done that balances print collection size and digital resources? Have some print materials been supplanted by on-line subscriptions? Has space formerly used to house print materials been effectively repurposed?
  • Are new materials chosen from professional selection sources and tied to the curriculum through collection mapping?
  • Do digital materials link to the schools learning management system? Are they accessible using devices used as part of a 1:1 program or recommended in a BYOD effort?

 4. Facilities

  • Is the library located so it is readily accessible from all classrooms? Does it have an outside entrance so it can be used for community functions evenings and weekends?
  • Does the library have an atmosphere conducive to learning with serviceable furnishings, instructional displays, and informational posters? Is the library carpeted with static-free carpet to reduce noise and protect electronic devices? Is the library climate-controlled so that materials and equipment will not be damaged by high heat and humidity, and so that it can be used for activities during the summer?
  • Does the library contain general instructional areas, a story area (in elementary schools), a presentation area (in secondary schools), and spaces for individuals, small groups and entire classes to work?
  • Do the rules of library encourage collaboration and group work in the least restrictive means possible?
  • Does the library contain a computer lab or wireless laptops/Chromebooks/tablets for students and teachers working with a class or independently in the library and for the librarian to use to teach?
  • Does the library contain and support multi-media workstations and digital video production facilities? Does the library house the school's makerspace with multiple types of equipment and tools needed for students to create products?
  • Is the library fully networked with voice, video, and data lines in adequate quantities? Does the library serve as the "hub" of these information networks with routers, file servers, video head ends, and technical staff housed there?
  • Does the library support any 1:1 or BYOD project by offering a "genius bar"-type help desk, charging stations, and adequate wifi strength?
  • Does the library maintain a useful, up-to-date web presence with linked resources for students, staff and families?

5. Curriculum and integration

  • Is the librarian an active member of grade level and/or team planning groups?
  • Is the librarian an active member of content curriculum writing committees?
  • Is the librarian a part of grade-level or content area Professional Learning Communities?
  • Are library resources examined as a part of the content areas’ curriculum review cycle?
  • Are library and information technology skills taught as part of content areas rather than in isolation? Are the information literacy skills of evaluating, processing and communicating information being taught as well as accessing skills?
  • Does the librarian curate both print and digital content to support differentiated/personalized learning efforts?
  • Is the safe and appropriate use of online resources a part of the information and technology literacy curriculum?

6. Resource-based teaching

  • Does the librarian with assistance from building and district leadership promote teaching activities that go beyond the textbook and provide materials to help differentiate instruction?
  • Do teachers and administrators view the librarian as an instructional design and authentic assessment resource? Does the library program support inquiry based and student centered learning activities throughout all curricular areas? Does the librarian collaborate with students and teachers to create a wide range of opportunities that enable the development and practice critical thinking skills and responsible digital citizenship?
  • Does some flexible scheduling in the building permit the librarian to be a part of teaching teams with classroom teachers, rather than only covering teacher preparation time?
  • Is a clear set of information literacy and technology benchmarks written for all grade levels available? Are these benchmarks assessed in a joint effort of the librarian and classroom teacher? Are the results of these assessments shared with stakeholders?

7. Information technology

  • Does the library give its users access to information technologies such as:
    • an on-line library catalog and circulation system for the building collection
    • access to an on-line union catalog of district holdings as well as access to the catalogs of public, academic and special libraries from which interlibrary loans can be made
    • full on-line access to the Internet
    • a wide variety of online reference tools like full text periodical indexes, encyclopedias, atlases, concordances, dictionaries, thesauruses, reader's advisors and almanacs
    • a wide variety of computerized productivity programs appropriate to student ability level such as word processors, multi-media and presentation programs, spreadsheets, databases, desktop publishing program, graphic creation programs, still and motion digital image editing software
    • access to collaborative learning/networking tools such as wikis, blogs and other online sharing programs and cloud computing resources such as online productivity tools and file storage?
    • access to desktop conferencing equipment and software
    • educational computer programs including practices, simulations and tutorials that support the curriculum
  •  Are the skills needed to use these resources being taught to and with teachers by the librarian?
  • Does the librarian actively contribute to resources linked to courses in the school’s Learning Management System that contribute to differentiation and cultural diversity in materials available?

8. Reference, networking, and interlibrary loan

  • Does your librarian have the expertise needed to provide effective and timely reference services to the building students and staff?
  • Is your school a member of a regional multi-type system or library consortium?
  • Does the librarian use interlibrary loan to fill student and staff requests that cannot be met by building collections?
  • Does the librarian participate in cooperative planning and purchasing opportunities with other schools, both locally and regional?

9. Planning/yearly goals

  • Does the library program have a district-wide set of long-range goals?
  • Does the librarian set yearly goals based on the long-term goals that are tied directly to building and curriculum goals in collaboration with building leadership?
  • Does the librarian collaborate and coordinate with the digital learning specialists/technology integration specialists formally and regularly?
  • Is a portion of the librarian’s evaluation based on the achievement of the yearly goals?
  • Is the library program represented on the building planning committees? On the district technology planning committee?

10. Budgeting

  • Is the library program budget zero or objective based? Is the budget tied to program goals?
  • Does the librarian write clear rationales for the materials, equipment, and supplies requested, with student and staff need as the focus?
  • Does the budget reflect both a maintenance and growth component for the program?
  • Does the librarian keep clear and accurate records of expenditures?
  • Does the librarian write grant applications when available?

11. Policies/communications

  • Are board policies concerning selection and reconsideration polices current and enforced? Is the staff aware of the doctrines of intellectual freedom and library user privacy? Do these policies extend to digital resources?
  • Does the district have a CIPA-compliant safe and acceptable use policy (or responsible use policy) for Internet and technology use?
  • Does the librarian serve as an interpreter of copyright laws? Does the librarian help others determine the rights they wish to assign to their own intellectual property?
  • Does the librarian have a formal means of communicating the goals and services of the program to the students, staff, administration, and community? 
  • Is the library's web presence professional, easy-to-navigate, current and useful? Does the librarian use social networking tools to communicate with stakeholders?

12. Evaluation

  • Does the librarian determine and report ways that show the goals and objectives of the program are being met and are helping meet the building and district goals? Does the librarian create an annual library report for administrators, staff and parents that includes qualitative and quantitative measurements?
  • Do all new initiatives involving the library and technology program have an evaluation component?
  • Does the district regularly evaluate the library program using external teams of evaluators as part of any accreditation process?
  • Does the librarian participate in formal studies conducted by academic researchers when requested?

The purpose of this tool is not serve as formal evaluation of either the librarian or library program, but to help the building administrator become aware of areas where you may need additional resources and assistance in order to make a major impact on you school’s overall program.

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Reader Comments (37)

I like this post, but I think there should be more emphasis on the instructional part of our job. There is only one mention of collaborating "with students and teachers to create a wide range of opportunities that enable the development and practice critical thinking skills and responsible digital citizenship." The nature of this post is to give equal importance to all aspects of our job. But not all of the 12 major points are as important as others.

March 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bilmes

Hi David,

On re-reading my post and reflecting on your comment, I agree with your assessment. Do you have any suggestions for additional items or categories to list? In future editions, I will make sure the teaching aspect gets a higher priority in the list too.

Thank you!


March 31, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you! This checklist is such a valuable resource for me as I look ahead to my transition from Classroom Teacher to Teacher Librarian in September! You’ve provided me with a long-term overview for the many ways I can improve our school library’s learning conditions. Our school library has been in steady decline for the past few decades with limited funding and a steady turnover of Teacher Librarians. Currently, it is a room that houses books, and not much else. As I enter this role I am beginning with the first steps towards creating a vibrant Library Learning Commons. This is no quick fix – I’m committing to years of designing and implementing programs and strategies to move us along the continuum towards an exemplary school library.
You’ve given me a lot to think about – and I’m particularly excited by your point #12 the Evaluation checklist! This is an area where our library has not made any noticeable gains in the past decade, but as I am planning for the activities I’ll be bringing with me to the role, the value of assessment for learning is an integral part of my thinking and design process. I agree that the key component will be in communicating goals and sharing the (measurable) results with school staff. It will be imperative that I communicate with our school’s teachers, administrators, and parents how my library programs are supporting the work being done in classrooms with an eye towards extending student learning. I want our school community to know that the activities we do in the library are directly tied to our school and district goals – not something done in a vacuum! Therefore, as I design my program I can see it can only be done well in collaboration with classroom teachers. What do teachers want in their library program? How can they feel more supported? How can my work be directly tied to the Core and Curricular Competencies of our Provincial Curriculum? How can we work together to design activities that directly tie-in to classroom teaching and then how best can I assess that work and share those results with students and staff?
With these guiding questions, and your checklist I have a road map, of sorts, to begin this journey.

April 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Thanks, Kelly. Your comment made my day. I'm glad the checklist is helpful to you.

All the best,


April 18, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you for posting this I found it very helpful as a prospective TL. I wonder if it would be helpful to have a Secondary and Elementary list or if there is not enough discrepancies to make alternate lists worth it. I also was hoping to see more aspects of collaboration and teaching included rather than emphasis on aspects that I may not have control of however I understand that this varies from district to district. Overall a very informative piece!

April 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you, Amanda, for your suggestions. All of my work is under Creative Commons license so feel free to use and modify as you will! If this can serve as a starting point, that's great.

Is commenting, by any chance, a class requirement for you? Noticing that I have been getting comments on some of my older writings lately.

All the best,


April 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug,

Yes, to answer your question to Amanda, commenting is part of our teacher librarian coursework!

I really enjoyed reading your 12 Point library program checklist. I noticed that the first version was written in 1996, 2003, 2009 and 2012. With technology changing so rapidly many of the libraries transitioning to a LLC, just wondering if you are going to be updating this document again in the near future? Are there any areas that you think need to be added to the list?

Also, wondering if you would be able to clarify for me 12) Evaluation: *Does the district regularly evaluate the library program using external teams of evaluators as part of any accreditation process. What would this look like?

Thank you so much,

Jenn Fernandes

April 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Wow! This checklist is so comprehensive. I'm currently taking a TL course and we have been referred to your checklist.
I'm not a TL yet, but I hope to be in the future.

I understand this checklist is designed to be reviewed with the school principal. I'm wondering if you could give suggestions on which areas you think are of critical importance to be tackled first? I think I would be apprehensive in approaching a principal with this list, especially if I was new to the staff.

I think that building a good rapport with classroom teachers and collaborating on inquiry-based learning would be a good first step. After that, what do you think would be an important area to tackle?

I'm also wondering if you have any suggestions for TLs that work in lower-income areas? We don't have access to the same funds and BYOD or 1:1 devices aren't really an option at this point.

Thank you,

April 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Coyle

HI Jenn,

Since the last update was done in 2017, I don't anticipate updating any time soon. Since the document is under CC license, users can modify as they wish.

Some schools are part of accreditation organizations and they conduct evaluations from external reviewers (North Central was one I was involved with, many international schools are accredited by different organizations.) I would only say that if your school does seek accreditation, the library program should be part of that review.


Hi Margaret,

I have always emphasized section 9 - planning and yearly goals -when working with a principal. You might want to check out this column I wrote on the topic as well <>

Adequate budgets seem to be an issue in all school libraries, regardless of the income of the location. My sense is looking for grants and participating in grants may be a source of funding for these school. I would also highly encourage collaboration with public libraries and other organizations.


April 23, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you Doug for such an incredible list!

This is a great reference for building a more functional library. I particularly appreciate the questions about Professional Support. As our schools are rebuilding library programs there is quite a gap not only for TLs but also for clerical support. So many duties seem to befall onto the TL because there is a hole left. Even district supervisor doesn't seem to understand the needs of our schools in their rebuild.
I also have a question regarding evaluation of library programs. If the district regularly evaluates school libraries, what would they evaluate? In such a changing world of technology and BC curriculum, how effective is this?

Thanks again for your information and time!

April 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterConnie M

Thanks, Connie.

Program evaluation is something I've written about for a long time (See What Gets Measured, Gets Done) Evaluation can be as complex as formal program assessment or simply an end of the year conference with your principal. Here is a self-assessment guide you may find useful.

Good luck with your program!


April 24, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks, Connie.

Program evaluation is something I've written about for a long time (See What Gets Measured, Gets Done) Evaluation can be as complex as formal program assessment or simply an end of the year conference with your principal. Here is a self-assessment guide you may find useful.

Good luck with your program!


April 24, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug

You have put together a very extensive 12-Point Checklist. The magnitude of it can be overwhelming as you go through the list knowing that there isn’t district money and resources availabe to tackle the technology part of the LLC. The cuts to libraries over the last 15 years have been extremely deep. Librarians are being hired; but, many are finding themselves in libraries that have been so neglected.

This leads me to my question: How do you tackle implementing the technology section on your list when you only have one computer in the library and it is for circulation? Where do you even start when you know that it will take years and thousands of thousands of dollars, if you are lucky enough, to have the resources needed to develop the technology side of things? You also mentioned BYOD and charging stations. Are BYOD’s becoming more the norm in schools? How does this work with inner-city schools where the families can’t afford BYOD? Does this cause an even bigger divide between the haves and have-nots?

Thank you, Patti

April 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatti R

Hi Patti,

A good library program can seem overwhelming. We provide an increasing number of resources and service to our students and staff. If tackling this entire list seems overwhelming, work with your principal to focus on 2-3 mutually agreed upon areas of focus.

Most schools have quite a lot of technology. The question is often of location. Labs should be in or adjacent to the school library in most cases.

Some schools do BYOD, but most who do, supplement the program by giving devices to students whose families cannot afford them. I prefer a direct 1:1 program for equity sake.

All the best,


April 27, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you for this comprehensive list Doug. It gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration as I move into a TL position in my school district! A lot of concepts in your list were new to me!

I am wondering if you had considered or could address the possibility that the list may be misused by an unsupportive administration? Due to the fact that the list is titled as 'for principals,' I'm curious if you think that this impacts the use (or misuse) of it as a evaluative tool to measure a TL's progress? What are the benefits of titling the list as 'for principals' instead of as 'for TLs and principals'?

Additionally, the list seems to be missing (intentionally?) more of the 'fun' side of the LLC. I know others have mentioned the collaboration teaching piece, but I'm referring specifically to the community building aspects. Things such as showcasing student work, contests, book fairs, advocacy of library services around the community, promoting reading goals through book clubs, and cultivating staff community through offering the LLC as a place for teachers to use in their down time. I suppose these aspects aren't really mandated as part of our job, but I believe they are an essential part of our role in our schools.

What are your thoughts about creating or merging lists from 'for principals' to 'for TLs and principals'? Should they have similar/the same lists to refer to?

Thank you for your time!

April 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa J

Hi Melissa,

I like your suggestions about adding TL to the title of the document. It was designed to be used collaboratively and such a change would indicate that. Any tool can, of course, be used in a negative way, but I have not heard of this checklist being used against a librarian.

Yeah, I suppose this doesn't single out "fun" but my takeaway from your comment is that a section on atmosphere or welcoming or comforting environment needs to be added. (I can't believe that I didn't think of that before now!)

I appreciate and grow from comments like yours,


April 27, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug,

Thanks for provided such a comprehensive checklist – I will definitely be using this as a reference point as I move into a teacher librarian position in the future. Looking at the list as a whole is pretty overwhelming, so I do plan to follow the advice of taking it one bit at a time! I am particularly excited to extend what the library has to offer by creating a VLC for a library program (or continuing with one, depending on which school I get my first librarian position). What I predict to be most challenging is getting the professional support, particularly the technical and clerical help that would support a library in running smoothly. Your list has given me lots to think about!

Thank you!

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCaleigh J

Hi Doug,

I appreciate you creating such an extensive checklist for program evaluation. This will be an invaluable resource for me in the future. Given the current budget restraints in regards to our public school libraries, I wonder how I can effectively advocate for the funding necessary, from my school principal and school district, to meet some aspects of this resource.

Thank you!

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLesley

Hi Doug,

Thanks for this very thorough blog post. I am a new-ish teacher-librarian, and I must admit that I am struggling a little on the collection front. Your questions will definitely be food for thought as I begin to weed out and add to my collection. I just spent a lot on our virtual collection and hope to continuously expand it. I have a difficult time with the weeding part, what to discard and what to keep. How do you establish a baseline print collection? Is it based on population?

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Look at all these comments. You might think we're all enrolled in the same course or something...

This is a comprehensive and valuable list for new and existing TLs (I fall into the latter category) as well as for administrators who more often than not did their teaching years without the support of a trained TL in the school. In some cases, even upper school district management struggle to remember a time when schools had full time Teacher Librarians. In lower income areas, such as mine, where library funding has been at zero for a number of years, it can be difficult to access funding to provide the necessary resources for our students. It seems that a lot of grants (Indigo/Chapters, Sedins, etc) are focused on the elementary schools and middle or secondary schools are left out. Is there a comprehensive list of grants and funding opportunities that you are aware of? I've often thought of MyClassNeeds or other crowdsourced fundraising opportunities, but they're often controversial. I want to build a solid library program but lack the funding to do so, yet crowdsourcing may further alienate those who I want to support my program (those being the district big-wigs, the PAC, etc.)

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

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