If your principal has been at your school for more than 4 years, your school just beat the national average retention rate for a principal. And, if you plan to be a "lifer" as a school librarian, you will likely work with or for (depending on the principal's leadership style) five to six principals. With a seemingly constant turnover of school administrators today, how does the school librarian maintain consistent and ongoing support for the school library program (SLP) in order to meet the instructional and informational needs of students and staff?
RESEARCH ON THE PRINCIPAL "CHURN"
Today both students and teachers sometimes feel buffeted by the ever-changing directives and school initiatives resulting from administrative changes. Principals are instrumental in leading school improvement due to their responsibilities in hiring effective teachers and staff, setting expectations and a school vision, creating a positive school culture, and providing strong instructional and managerial leadership (Rangel, 2018). Research suggests that it takes 5 to 7 years to implement new policies and programs in schools (Fullan, 2001) and that today's cadre of principals have only an average of 6.6 years of experience as a principal (Taie & Goldring, 2017). So, if the average number of years that a principal spends in a school building is 4 years (Taie & Goldring, 2017), how can any changes be fully implemented and assessed for effectiveness? According to research, principal turnover is negatively related to student achievement, teacher turnover, school culture, and resources (Rangel, 2018).
SCHOOL LIBRARY IMPLICATION
Principals wield considerable control over factors that determine the quality, and sometimes success, of the SLP Financial support for collections, staffing, technology, and professional development is critical. Inconsistent budgeting can wreak havoc with database subscriptions, ebook licensing, and web-based learning platforms. Yet students and staff rely on these resources and need to know they will be available from year to year. As physical library collections shrink to make room for collaborative student work and makerspaces, a growing dependence on licensed content makes ongoing budgetary support essential.
However, it isn't always about money. The supportive principal enables flexible library access, creates schedules, and appoints librarians to leadership committees. Collaboration among librarians and teachers will only sporadically occur unless the principal encourages, sets expectations, and provides time for coplanning and coteaching. Additionally, when principals appoint librarians to important committees, faculty will also perceive the librarian as a building leader.
LEARNING ABOUT THE NEW PRINCIPAL
If possible, volunteer to serve on the interview committee for a new principal. This immediately tells candidates that the librarian is a...