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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)

Hi Doug.

I really appreciated reading this checklist, and have printed it out to keep. I am wondering if you have any suggestions for me. We have no digital resources in my library, other than the one computer used to check out books. I am currently working to get money for technology, but in the meantime, I am wondering if you have any suggestions as to the best print resources for K to 6 students. For example: Should I be purchasing graphic novels over regular ones?

Thank you!


April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Dyck

Hi Doug,

Thank you for creating this checklist and answering all of our class' questions so thoroughly! In case you were wondering, there's 18 of us.

I love that you included a bullet addressing the need for the library program to be represented on the building planning committee. The school I am working part time at is undergoing major renovations and I discovered that my partner TL was not included in the planning and design meetings. The result? Our future library space is being cut to down to about a third of the space we have now. In addition, the space, located right across from the cafeteria area, is going to have a grilled pull down gate rather than actual doors for the entrance.

In light of this, what steps would you suggest TLs in order to place themselves into that building planning committee? Is it a matter of talking to admin right away if there are going to be renovations and requesting a spot in those meetings?


April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

HI Lesley,

The first step for getting adequate funding is to actually submit a budget proposal based on goals. Search my website for budget and you'll get some ideas.


Hi Greg,

A baseline collection will always be somewhat arbitrary. I would get input from other staff members about the adequacy of the current collection and a historical perspective.

Be sure to collect usage data on the virtual collection!



Grants always tend to be the easy answer for funding but in reality they are rare and fiercely competitive. The best strategy I've seen work is to work collaboratively on a grant for other areas of the curriculum and make sure it has a component for library resources and activities.


Hi Nancy,

I would work with my building teachers (and students) to determine the best print resources for your school. I don't think this is a one right answer question for all schools.


HI Grace,

Yes, the librarian needs to be at the table at the beginning of any building/remodeling efforts. And then be flexible about spaces and how they are used. The "learning commons" concept is among the best going right now. Check into it.


April 30, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug,

This is an incredible list and a great guide for discussion between a TL and admin. I fully realize that advocacy is a big part of what we do, but I feel as if this list provides a basis for conversation and may help admin understand the variety and breadth of tasks that are part of our position.

I know some other have commented on the teaching aspect being missing and the teacher-TL collaborative element could also be addressed. I think there are a lot connections that TLs need to make with teachers about what's happening in the library during prep coverage blocks so that curriculum can still be addressed and even reinforced either by the teacher and/or TL depending on what's being taught. One of my goals this year has been to create more dialogue to "demystify" what's going on in the library.

I feel as if, as a new TL, this list gives me some more direction and can help with goal setting as well. I will definitely be using it at the end of the year with my admin.

I have appreciated all of your comments to people posting to this and you have clarified a lot even in your replies. With the continually shifting and evolving roles for teacher librarians are there any of these areas that you see as becoming more or less important in the past few years?


April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterColleen Heidrich

Hi Colleen,

You right on target "demystifying" your role in the school. Many library positions are cut simply because parents, teachers and administrators just don't know what the librarian does. And that is nobody's fault but the librarian's for not having a better communication plan.

Finding a role in teaching and administering technology in schools - especially providing support and training for teachers - has been the biggest change I have seen in the past, say 20 years. In the past 10, the role of the librarian in teaching digital citizenship skills has grown in importance. I would also like to think that linking voluntary free reading with improved reading skills has become more important!

Thanks for the comment and good luck!


May 1, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you Doug for sharing this valuable tool for assessing school library programs. In most of your 12 points I could see areas where our school library program was doing well, and also still had work to do. The exception was the last point - Evaluation, where we have a lot of work to do. This is somewhat ironic, as your whole post is about evaluation! I am not aware of any formal processes in my school or district for evaluating the success of library programs. Our librarian does not share or report to staff, students, or parents about what the library goals are, let alone if they are being met.

I think this is unfortunate. If our work is driven by the goal to improve student learning, which it should be, shouldn’t we be measuring our success in that area? I know this is a topic that is sensitive to educators, who rightfully fear the spectre of outside evaluators demanding quantitative measures of student success that can ultimately impede our work. However, there must be a place for our own internal evaluation of our programs. Our decisions should still be evidence-based and in line with what we know about best practices. Our programs should be focused on growth and improvement, and not haphazard.

In your experience is my school the exception, or do you see other schools and districts that are lacking a formal evaluation process for their school library programs? Do you have examples of schools who are doing well in terms of the Evaluation section of your checklist? And what has the result been students?

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDionne

This checklist is a great reference tool to see what you are doing well, and what you should be working on. It is great to have such a clear list of questions to help evaluate and improve.

October 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermmackey

This is a very comprehensive list of what is possible to achieve in a Library Learning Commons. I think we have to be careful when presenting this to principals, lest they think this is all achievable without support and a full-time teacher-librarian. I think this list should be a conversation starter between admin and librarians. I suggest colour-coding the list first, then presenting it to your principal. Categories should be something like:
What we are currently doing
What we could reasonably implement if everything stays the same (budget, staffing, etc)
What needs district/admin support (ie. upgrading wireless, district tech involvement)
What can be done with direct increased support (money, tech, staffing)

This way we can advocate for increased support in the Learning Commons, by showing what is achievable if we are given the time, money, and resources we need.

October 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJenn Weisner


I noticed going through these questions that many focused on goal-setting and evaluation. My district’s teacher-librarian job description has no mention of being involved in this type of planning. I’ve also never heard of the district evaluating any of its school libraries. While I can work on setting goals for my own library, I have little control over what happens at the district level. Do you have any resources that give an example of what an evaluation of a school library might look like?


October 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Hi Doug,
Thank you for this comprehensive list. Our school currently does not have a TL, just a clerk. We currently have a tradtional library.
I think my starting plan as a classroom teacher, hoping to move into the TL position. Would be first to share this document with my principal as a way of advocating for a TL position in our library.

Thank you for this valuable guideline.

October 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjedda

Thanks to all who left comments. I appreciate your insights and am happy that you have found this tool, if not helpful, at least a conversation starter.


October 18, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug

Thanks for sharing and continually updating your Library Checklist. Even though it was a little discouraging to see how much my School library needs to improve on, it provided me with something concrete that I could share with my Principal to at least start the conversation. It's always good to know where you need to go!
In terms of Evaluation, I am wondering if you have ever considered including the student voice in the evaluative process? Asking students to evaluate certain aspects of the library program could offer viewpoints and perspectives that could be very meaningful.


PS: Just out of curiosity, have you ever come across any schools that are doing most of the things that you have laid out in the checklist?

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDeleen

Hi Deleen,

I think some school library programs are stronger in some areas that others. I would say this is more of an aspirational document, but I do think good programs are serving children all over the world.

In terms of student voice, yes. Here is a survey example for students ​It is a part of my "What Gets Measured" tools for library assessment.

All the best,


October 24, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Deleen,

I think some school library programs are stronger in some areas that others. I would say this is more of an aspirational document, but I do think good programs are serving children all over the world.

In terms of student voice, yes. Here is a survey example for students ​It is a part of my "What Gets Measured" tools for library assessment.

All the best,


October 24, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Good list, but very dangerous.
Based on my experience (and latest conversations with many librarians) librarians are being pushed to do more and more things because of the reputation of our profession. Usually by Principals that don't have any idea about libraries, consider librarians as "Storage managers" without any voice in the schools.

Why this list is dangerous? Because for those Principals, this will not be a list for reflecting about the responsibility and needs of having a library, but for a checklist to ask the librarian to do more and more things.
Basically, this will be a list of obligations of a librarian, and the points that are not comfortable for the Principal (as budget or librarian participation in decisions) will be dismissed.

I have had this discussion before with my professional college. They made a list of "All the things that a librarian can do". It destroyed me. Of course we can manage human resources, do accountability, teach IT, manage a library, give instruction to many different ages... but also we are experts in information management (so we can manage all the administrative documentation of the school), we have knowledge of archives, we can do book restoration... BUT NOT ALL OF IT AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!

I am tired of seeing positions of "K-12 Teacher Librarian and Media Specialist" meaning lessons from 3 to 14 years old, managing 3 libraries and be an expert in IT for the same price.

So, I agree that we should put standards (IBO said that the library is the center of the education, but never did). But be careful: one thing is ALL the things that we can do, and other different is the things that we CAN do in every specific school and situation.

One good resource also, and with international power:

November 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorse

apart from the obligations of the librarian/s, we should start defining more specific standards:
which services, size and amount of libraries, budget needed, etc. and resources we need according to the size of the school, grades, number of students, etc.

in a school, there is an IT manager, then some IT technicians, then an IT teacher for Primary, and and IT teacher for Secondary.
There may be more specialists: if the school has a website, usually is by an external company.

School library: 1 librarian? Some assistants or volunteers? To teach media, information literacy, reading activities, and manage human resources, budget, orders, planning, spaces, signs...?

My meaning: what do we want to do , and what do we need? And please be ambitious and realistic, as with IT people:
ACCORDING TO THE SIZE, GRADES, NUMBER OF STUDENTS, ETC. of one school, how many libraries, number of resources (books and databases) and STAFF (Librarians and others) does the school need. And without bargain!!!

A school with K to HS needs from 2 to 3 libraries.
Depending on the amount of students and groups, it will need X budget and X amount of books.
The librarian can dedicate 30% of the time to teach, 30% to prepare meetings and planning (like any other teacher), and 40% to manage THE library (meaning Elementary library OR HS library, not A library from Nursery to High School).

A library needs X amount of professionals: depending on the amount of groups and students, 1, 2, 3 librarians, plus assistants.

-An Elementary library with 15 groups can offer lessons for all the groups (grades 1 to 5) (15 hours), 15 hours to prepare and 10 to manage (not enough) (including meetings and lunchtime?).
Will need X amount of books and a budget of X to upgrade the collection (and a separate budget for office stuff and activities).

If there are more groups, then the library will need: 1 librarian to teach, 1 librarian to manage, 1 assistant.

The librarian has the authority to create plans, designs and policies of the library, as he is the expert in that field.

For me, it is very important that we take out our complexes and start to fight for recognition. But then we have to start with ourselves.

Many times we find ourselves giving lessons to 30 groups, 10 different ages, and managing libraries without a budget, and treated without any authority as "Storage manager" that have no authority or respect from the schools.

It is good to have your list. But it seems to me more a tool for Principals to control the librarian is doing a lot of things, that a list of points that the Principal has to follow to have a good library.

My suggestion is:
-Standards of libraries for schools: according to the situation, which are the resources that the school has to PROVIDE. This is a must. This is what a school has to know and accept.

-Our obligations, as planning, teaching, evaluate, etc. are for us as specialists and technicians. It is the same than teachers or ITs have their collegiate obligations.

Giving a Principal a list of all the things that a librarian can do is giving him/her munitions to push us more and more without any obligation from the school’s side.

How can I tell my Principal that he has to hire another librarian because we have so many grades and classrooms?
How can I tell him that he has to buy 5.000, 10.000 or 20.000 books and dedicate X amount of money for that?
How can I tell my Principal that if I give 10 lessons I need 10 hours to prepare them (like any other teacher)?
How can I tell him that I take all the decisions about the library because I am the expert to do that?

We need standards for that. URGENTLY!!!

November 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorse

Thank you, Daniel, for your comprehensive reaction to this post. It's rare to get such a response, but welcome.

Would like to write a guest post for my blog expressing some of these ideas? I would need to know your name and affiliation in order to post it. Thanks for considering it.


November 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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