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Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School

Dr. Judi Moreillon and her Texas Women’s University colleague, Dr. Teresa Starrett (who teaches preservice principals in Educational Leadership), just launched the powerful crowdsourced film, Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School.

The 5-minute film features administrators around the country describing the value of the teacher librarian in school culture.

I asked Judi for some background.  She shared,

Teresa, a former principal, has experienced the high impact of the school librarian’s passion for learning on her campus. I did not have to “sell” her on school librarianship!

Teresa has been gracious and eager for me to share a workshop each fall with her preservice principal students: What Every Principal Should Know about Evaluating a School Library Program and a School Librarian:

Through our conversations about this workshop, we understood our shared commitment to helping preservice principals understand the value of having a full-time state-certified school librarian as a member of their leadership teams.

Teresa and I set out to develop a video exclusively with principal testimonials in order to show her students and my preservice school librarian candidates the importance of the principal’s perspective on the school librarian’s contribution to learning and teaching. This advocacy video was funded by a grant from the Texas Library Association, Demco, and Dean’s Grant Funds from the College of Professional Education at Texas Woman’s University.

In the video, we wanted representation from across the country. I solicited video contributions from school librarian colleagues at last fall’s AASL conference and at ALA Midwinter. They captured the video on location and shared it with us. This crowdsourced video is the result.

Our intention is that our colleagues across the country in education and school librarianship will promote this video on their social media networks and use it to advocate for the essential work of librarians in 21st-century learning and teaching.

In a response to feedback on the forum, Judi later shared:

I also think school librarians can benefit from closely listening to what these administrators say in their testimonials. No one gave them a script to read. This is what they know from first-hand experience working alongside leader librarians.
We should make sure that every principal experiences the professional work of school librarians in these high-impact ways that improve learning and teaching in our schools.

Among the powerful quotes:

Having teacher librarians in elementary schools is essential.

Librarians now work with students and teachers as an information agent.

They teach teachers how to be better at their craft.

I cannot imagine not having an information literacy professional in my building . . .

Teacher librarians are the heart of the school and without a teacher librarian, there is no central focus on literature.

The true indication of the value of our school librarian is found in the excitement that our students experience when visiting our library.  It’s an obvious result of the librarian’s passion, making literacy a priority for all content areas in our building and all students and families.

School libraries and school librarians contribute in rich and diverse ways to the intellectual life of a school.

I’m a huge advocate for bringing librarians into the forefront and bringing libraries into the forefront of thinking about urban school reform.

Our librarian is a member of our leadership team.  She assists with the decision making that the team has to do.

I am not really sure what we would do without that resource . . . I’ve worked in other systems where that is one of the first things that gets cut and I would be holding on to the library teacher kicking and screaming if they told me we had to lose that out of the budget.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Thank you for sharing our film, Joyce. We hope that school librarians and administrators across the U.S. and beyond will view the video and consider the messages it contains. Principals who know the potential of their school librarians can help librarians reach our capacity to serve and meet the needs of the 21st-century students, teachers, administrators, and families in our learning communities. We appreciate the administrator stars of this advocacy film who shared their perspectives on the work of school librarians in this public and meaningful way.

    • Thank you for this amazing video. Often in our different states we feel we are alone in the effort to communicate the importance of an active and engaging library media program. Through your video, you have showcased educators from across our country with the vision to support not just an individual librarian, but a much needed shift in understanding school libraries. School librarians have never been just the “guardians of books”. For decades, we have been teaching students, teachers, administrators, and the larger learning community how to use the most current information and technology effectively. At a time when our voices need to be raised to prevent the loss of the heart of the school, I thank you again for making it plain in this wonderful video.

  2. This is a useful tool for promotion this month, especially. It is doubly useful having principals presenting the message to peers, and a reminder that TLs need to be out of the library talking with the decision makers in our districts. Much reminded me of the message WLMA delivered last year in our “Teacher Librarians at the Heart of Student Learning” video

    • I agree, Craig. The difference between the two videos is that “Principals Know…” is testimonials of principals only. We debated on using the “heart of the school” meme to hold our narrative together (because of WLMA’s video). But since “Principals Know” was developed from non-scripted interviews and those were Principal Paula Godfrey’s words, we decided to go with it. We hope “Principals Know…” will add something unique to the chorus of school librarian advocacy pieces and connect with efforts that have gone before and those that will follow.

  3. Suzie Martin says

    Frankly, I cried when I saw this video. This is not about self-promotion but about educating all as to the roles of the modern school library media specialist – leader, information specialist, instructional partner, teacher and program administrator. It is so nice to hear from all these principals who “get it.”
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I will share it broadly.


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