School principals: Creating libraries as centres of learning

The principal is key to the success of the library.

School libraries are changing, and principals have a critical role in leading change and establishing a school culture that recognises the library's role in supporting teaching and learning.

School principals leading change

According to the Ontario School Library Association, school principals are 'key in establishing and encouraging working partnerships among staff and students. The principal must provide the climate for cooperation, experimentation and growth.

Creating a shared vision for your library encourages working partnerships. Use the points below to help create your shared vision. Describe how you want your library to:

  • motivate and support learners
  • promote learning
  • support access — both physical and virtual
  • support collaborative and formal practice
  • provide a personalised and inclusive environment
  • adapt to the changing needs of the school community.

Working partnerships with your teaching team

Once your shared vision is created, you and your leadership team can encourage new ways of working to develop a collaborative culture. For example:

  • include library staff in professional learning
  • advocate for and profile the library in your school community
  • articulate the role that a school library has in supporting student learning.

Achievement is raised where access to the school library is flexibly scheduled, the library is staffed appropriately , librarians spend time collaborating with classroom teachers, technology augments the local collection and students use the library to learn and practice information skills.
Powerful libraries make powerful learners: the Illinois study (pdf)

Leaders and school librarians at Ohaeawai School, Viscount School, Hurupaki School, Matarau School and Ormiston Senior High School have discussed the importance of whole-school collaboration in supporting student learning.

Leading a Learning Community (YouTube)


Support for principals

The Ministry of Education notes that although principals are in a crucial position to lead change, they can't do it alone.

Key principal leadership activities — Ministry of Education

Contact Services to Schools for independent and impartial advice as you work to transform your library from a 'book hub' to a modern learning environment.

Services to Schools — contact


Find out more

Together for learning — Ontario School Library Association, 2010

Future learning and school libraries — Australian School Library Association

Key messages about change in schools: a literature scan for Sport New Zealand — New Zealand Council for Educational Research

Leading learning: standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada — Canadian School Libraries

Library to learning commons: A recipe for success — Terri Hayes, Canadian Education Association

One common goal: student learning. Executive summary of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey School Library survey phase 2 (pdf)— New Jersey Association of School Librarians

School leadership and student outcomes: identifying what works and why best evidence synthesis — Education Counts