How To

“Is That All You Do?” Self-Promotion as a School Librarian

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

I recently met a person who asked what I did for a living.

“I’m a school librarian,” I said.

“Is that all you do? Don’t they let you do anything else?” they asked.

I had a million responses to this, none of them very polite, but I did what Canadians do and just smiled and shrugged and said something like “well, we’re really busy here.”

It got me thinking about how insular a school librarian position can be, specifically in schools where there are so many departments and things going on. It can be difficult to promote yourself and to prove your worth, because a lot of librarians don’t have that gene in them that allows them to shamelessly toot their own horn. That’s just my opinion; I could be wrong, but I cringe when I think about emailing mass amounts of people and boasting about the cool things we do in the library on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

I’d also like to say that if you are a school librarian and want to create a case study on anything great that you’ve done recently, you can do so at the Great School Libraries Campaign.

In addition, here are a few ways to promote yourself as a school librarian:

Whole School Assemblies

This will introduce you to students and staff, especially new ones. I’m fortunate that I get to speak at whole school assemblies throughout the year. Of course in the era of COVID these are all done virtually, but nevertheless it’s a great way to get your face out there. Speaking to a large group of people is worse than death for some people, but doing it virtually can quell some of the nerves and get your message to a large group of people.

Staff Briefings

We still have our socially distanced staff briefings, and at the end all people present are given an opportunity to speak to the teachers present and promote an activity or remind them of an event coming up. In the past I’ve brought in student library assistants to speak and promote our programs just to mix it up a little bit. In addition, I asked our headteacher if I could have a dedicated space on the wall of the staff room to promote our programs, so now I have a board that is just for the library.

Bring the Library to Them

I had our student library team, known as The Booklings, create a staff room pop-up library where they wrote book reviews on postcards and attached them to books that they thought staff would like. These books were then brought to the staff room and a manual check-in /checkout sheet was provided. It was so successful that we had to restock all of the books that were provided. In times of the virus, I will have The Booklings get the books ready, then the books will be place in a 72-hour quarantine before I deliver them to the staff room.

Another successful event includes having students wrap up books before the Christmas holiday to give to staff. Staff then read them over the break and provide reviews. 

Attending Meetings for Subject Leaders

Attending these meetings has been a huge boon to the library. At the beginning of the year I ask senior leadership if I can spend five to ten minutes promoting the library. I explain that I can be used to provide context, digital literacy and responsible researching lessons for students of any age. This has resulted in me attending lessons for Dance, Drama, Music, History, Media, and of course English to deliver these lessons. 

Invite Teachers and Staff to All Events

Any time I hold events in the library, staff are invited to attend. This includes (now virtual) author visits with our year group bubbles, our Dungeons and Dragons Club (which is now in a Year 9 bubble) and any other event that takes place.