School library handbook: management and procedures

This guide provides a framework for New Zealand school library teams to create your own school library handbook. It covers the educational and management aspects of an effective school library as well as operational procedures.


School library handbook: introduction and purpose
Writing your own school library handbook: hot tips
Communicating information from the handbook to the relevant people
Educational role, management and operations of your library
Education: the teaching and learning functions of your library
Management: general principles and guidelines for your library
Operational procedures: how you do things on a day to day basis
Collection development: planning so that you buy what you need

School library handbook: introduction and purpose

The focus for the school library is to contribute to educational outcomes for students. Your library handbook is a practical manual, which documents your management and operational procedures. It underpins and supports these educational outcomes.

Pyramid Diagram

A well written handbook enables your school library team to:

  • document procedures relevant to your own school library. This gives professional credibility and authority to library management and operations.
  • organise all school library documentation into one place in an easily accessible format
  • clarify processes and establish guidelines for accurate and consistent library operations
  • ensure continuity and consistency when there are staff changes.

Writing your own school library handbook: hot tips

  • Gather together existing documentation. You may already have some sections.
  • Decide which headings are relevant to your school.
  • Prepare a contents page.
  • Make it electronic, but print it in loose leaf format, in a clearly labelled folder, so that it can be updated easily.
  • Colour coding for the three different sections works well.
  • Keep a print copy in the library where it can be accessed by all staff.
  • Start small and build it up gradually.
  • Allocate different sections to be written by different members of your library team.
  • Write as if you were writing for a new staff member who has no previous knowledge of your school or systems.
  • Include flow charts, diagrams or photos for examples, as appropriate.
  • Include master copies of frequently used forms for copying.
  • Date each section as it is completed, so that you know how current it is.
  • Remember that your library handbook is always a work in progress and it will need to be updated regularly.

Communicating information from the handbook to the relevant people

The next step is to think about who needs to know what. Then decide on how you are going to let those people know about the sections of the handbook which are relevant to them – not only at the beginning of the year, but as soon as any procedures change:

  • What the library team needs to know
  • What students need to know
  • What teachers need to know
  • What senior management needs to know
  • What administration needs to know

Educational role, management and operations of your library

For an effective and efficient school library you will need to address the following three interrelated areas:

Education, Management and Operations of the school library.

Here are some possible headings that you could include in your handbook. Choose only those that are relevant and add any more that you may need.

Education: Teaching and learning functions.

Education: the teaching and learning functions of your library

Write this section for teachers and the library team.

  • Student learning outcomes: 'Through the use of our library students are learning to…'
  • Help available for library use and skill development: 'Our librarian is available to help with…' (for example, searching the library catalogue)
  • Library orientation: for students and staff
  • Teacher and curriculum liaison: who does it and how it happens
  • Reading and book promotion
  • Inquiry and information literacy
  • Evaluating websites: guidelines
  • Citation guidelines: outlining your school’s preferred citation style

Management: general principles and guidelines.

Management: general principles and guidelines for your library

Write this section for senior management and the library team.

Operational procedures.

Operational procedures: how you do things on a day to day basis

This section is written for the library team, so that a new staff member can read it and know exactly how your library functions.

Physical environment

  • Floor plan describing library layout and the difference sections of the library
  • Signage: including who to consult for bilingual signs, and suggestions for new signage if required
  • Displays: what they are for, who does them and how often they are to be changed
  • Emergency and safety procedures
  • See also 'Sections in the Library' which is about the sections within your library collection and how these are identified.

Opening hours

  • During the school day
  • Timetable: Fixed and / or flexible timetables
  • How to book a library timeslot for your class
  • Procedures for individuals and small groups using the library during class time
  • After hours library use - by school groups and by other groups

Library use (What happens in the library)

  • Library staff responsibilities for student supervision
  • Teachers' responsibilities during library visits
  • Guidelines for student behaviour:
    • During class time: whole classes, small groups and individuals
    • During non class time: before and after school, break and lunchtimes
    • What to do when student behaviour becomes difficult
  • Guidelines for monitoring student computer use in the library
  • Copyright rights and obligations: see Copyright for school libraries on TKI.

Library staffing (Who runs your library and sources of professional support)

  • Names, roles and contact details for library team
  • Job descriptions for all members of the school library team: see the examples and create your own using these as a guide. Schools differ as to the way responsibilities are delegated, and in the make-up of the library team, and so those for your school may differ from these examples.

Professional development opportunities (To gain further knowledge and expertise)

  • Professional registration (for more information refer to LIANZA website)
  • National Library Courses - (to see which courses are available, go to Professional Development page)
  • For advice on school library matters call 0800 LIBLINE (0800 542 5463) to talk to a Library Adviser, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm or email
  • Visit the National Library: Services to Schools website for a wide range of information and professional support
  • School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA): for collegial support. See also the SLANZA wiki
  • Professional Tools:
    • Periodical subscriptions: For details including websites for specific journals, see Magazines for School Libraries and also the list of reviewing journals with subscription details, in Selection guide
    • Professional websites and blogs
    • RSS feeds, to keep up to date with current changes in selected websites and blogs
    • Books for your professional reading
  • School library networks or cluster groups, and online communities
  • Student Librarians Guide for recruitment, training and rewards
  • Volunteers: guidelines for volunteers working in your school and on library based tasks

People and organisations who provide support

  • Names and contact details for key school staff (for example principal, deputy principal, reading/literacy teacher, Heads of departments, secretary, caretaker, ICT support person) or the school’s Staff List
  • ICT Support
    • Who to contact about school computers and school network issues
    • Who to contact about library software problems (Helpdesk)
  • Curriculum Services, National Library of New Zealand for borrowing additional resources
  • National Library Advisory Service 0800 LIBLINE (0800 542 5463) to talk to a Library Adviser, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm or email
  • Your local Public Library
  • New Zealand Reading Association
  • New Zealand Book Council
  • New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) field representative
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)
  • Names and contacts for local school library colleagues
  • Schoollib Listserv: subscription details

Suppliers: who you buy from

  • Book suppliers' contact details
  • Magazine / Periodical suppliers
  • E-Resource subscriptions
  • Library suppliers (consumables, such as covering materials, tapes, signage, etc)
  • Suppliers of shelving and library furniture

General administration in your Library

  • Workroom organisation and details

Borrowing procedures in your Library

  • Adding borrowers to your system
  • Borrowing guidelines. For example: How many items? how long for?
  • Issuing and returning items
  • Overdue and lost books
  • Reserves

Sections in your library

  • Picture books
  • Senior / sophisticated picture books
  • Non-fiction
  • Fiction
  • Quick Reads
  • Reference
  • Information file (if you have one): include guidelines for selecting topics, material and management
  • Magazines / Periodicals

Collection Development: planning so that you buy what you need

See the overall principles in the Guiding statement.

Collection Assessment

  • Assess your collection to identify the gaps (How you do this)
  • Identify your needs from the curriculum and teaching programmes (How you do this)
  • Decide on the literacy needs of your students (How you do this) for example teaching assessment results; asTTLe
  • Prioritise these needs into a Collection requirements plan.

Selecting new resources

  • Selection tools (What you use to help in choosing what to buy) for example, periodicals, websites or blogs
  • Ordering (How you place an order)
    • How to get an order number
    • What happens with the invoice

Cataloguing and processing new items

  • SCIS and / or SchoolsCat details; usernames and passwords
    • Rapid entry details (if applicable to your system)
    • What we need to add after importing a catalogue entry
    • How to catalogue an item not on these databases
    • What you do with cover images
  • Processing
    • School stamps
    • Labelling and covering
    • Making the item available for borrowing
    • New book displays

Collection maintenance and management

  • Mending guidelines
  • Weeding the collection
    • Weeding guide
    • School policy on how to dispose of weeded items included in your Library Collection guiding statement.
  • Stocktaking (How you know what you have)
    • When to undertake stocktaking and how often
    • What happens after missing items are identified - procedures outlined step by step

Managing your library system

ILS basics: for example: starting up, passwords for logging on, shutting down

  • How to back up your system and recover information
  • Cataloguing and data entry - passwords, who has access
  • Levels of access:
    • Getting in to the system
    • Different levels of access and what they allow
    • Where the usernames and passwords are available from
  • Upgrades (keeping your library system up to date)
    • Who installs the upgrades
    • How your support fee is paid
  • Helpdesk contact details
  • Which reports you generate and how you use this information
    • Generating overdues: How to do this and how often
  • Managing the OPACs: Turning them on and off and signing on ready for student use
  • Updating the front page of your library system (for web based systems): What you want there and who does it
  • Library system front page
  • Catalogued websites: How you access and catalogue them; for example through SCIS

E-resources and web presence

Following are some possible options. Select those used in your school and describe how it happens.

  • Library web pages - who updates these
  • Library blog - who contributes content, loads and updates content, and how often
  • Index New Zealand (INNZ)
  • Username and passwords needed to access particular databases or websites (for example, EPIC databases)

Library promotion and marketing

  • Attendance at staff meetings, assemblies, departmental meetings and school events
  • Library surveys
  • Suggestion book guidelines
  • School newsletters
  • Library blog
  • Use of emails, text messages or Twitter

Library based equipment

  • Guidelines for the use of technical equipment based in the library (for example cameras, data projectors, interactive whiteboards, audiovisual equipment, laptops)
  • Tips for trouble shooting in the use of this equipment
  • Security system management and trouble shooting

Teacher resources

Library based responsibilities for cataloguing and maintaining teacher resources

Departmental resources

  • Library based responsibilities for cataloguing and issuing resources from other departments