Policy and planning

The SLA recommends, as an absolute minimum level of documentation, that all school libraries should have a library policy and be included in the school’s development plan. We would like to recommend that in addition it is useful for librarians to have their own separate library development plan and also a library handbook.

The Library Policy should define the visions, aspirations, roles and objectives of the school library in general terms. It should bear the official school logo and follow your individual school’s particular policy format. A quick Google search will produce many examples of school library policies but the references at the foot of the page will inform you of what should be included if you are attempting to write one for the first time. Policies are usually public documents, available to staff and parents, and published on the school website and/or intranet. Having a written policy means that you’re covered in most situations. A policy can smooth a possible confrontation between you and a parent, staff member, or an administrator. However it also means that you need to adhere to your own policies! A library policy should also reflect the school’s philosophy and aims. Like most documents, policies will evolve. They should be revised regularly alongside other school plans and should be part of the school’s cycle of reviews. They provide a frame of reference for decision making.  Policies also provide consistency over time. Well-defined policies are of great help to a library newcomer.

The Library Handbook explains exactly how the library policy will be implemented and who will be involved with the implementation. Unlike the policy which is more generalised, the handbook should be concrete and specific. Handbooks are intended for internal use by library staff. They contain detailed instructions on how various everyday library tasks should be done e.g.checkout procedures, administration of overdues, resource selection and acquisition, the processing of different resources, weeding guidelines etc. For this reason a library handbook is especially helpful for volunteers and pupil librarians. The time spent creating the handbook for these individuals will save you hours in the long run:  unexpected absences will be less stressful, precious time with volunteers will be more productive, and student aides will operate on a more independent basis. A detailed library handbook is also an invaluable tool for new staff members after you resign or retire!

A handbook is also useful-

  • To establish methods of handling repetitive tasks
  • To set standards of performance
  • To aid evaluation
  • To provide for continuity of action
  • To serve as a training tool for students and volunteers
  • To provide for uniform practices
  • To strengthen supervision

The Library Development or Improvement Plan identifies the library’s goals – its vision for its future. The Library Development Plan should give everyone an understanding of where the library is going and what actions will be taken to ensure it gets there. Proper planning is the key to success in most endeavours and the school library is no exception. If the resources—both human and material—invested in the school library are to pay dividends in terms of student achievement, the identification of goals and the initiatives to implement those goals must be in place.   It is important therefore that there is ownership of the process by more than just the librarian – here the input of a library committee can be invaluable. Keep in mind too that the vision you have for the library should ultimately relate to the goals  in the school’s own development plans.

A typical planning cycle can be thought of as a four step process:

  • Assessing Needs – identifying areas that require improvement, perhaps by comparing the existing library programs and services to national standards and guidelines
  • Planning Improvements – here prioritising goals is crucial
  • Implementing Plans – consider how, by whom ,when it will be done and the costs  that may be incurred
  • Evaluating Progress – plans should be reviewed annually to determine that appropriate progress is being made, and a major review scheduled every three to five years.   Once improvements are in place, one must check that the changes are having the desired effect

When considering the presentation of the library’s development plan you may find it more convenient to copy the style and format of your school’s development plan. Or, if you prefer you can create your own which need only be in a simple table format. A development plan should include clear time scales for implementing the improvements, any budgetary requirements and the person/s who will be assigned responsibility for meeting each improvement. So the column headings of your table could be:


It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep all library paperwork up-to-date. It is worthless if it’s stored in a drawer after being written. If it’s not updated, it will probably need to be recreated from scratch somewhere down the line. It’s much easier just to review it all once a year.

Useful resources

Duncan, S. Making a start with your primary school library. SLA (2010)

Harrison, K & Adams, T. Practical paperwork: policy making and development planning for the primary school library. SLA (2007)




(Created by Denise Reed 23, August 2016)

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