As I began this course, I searched for statements of the role of the teacher-librarian [TL]. These were difficult to find both locally and departmentally. At the time I was alarmed by this lack of role description as I felt that it reflected the poor value placed on the role of the TL by education administrators (Barton, 2011, 4 March). While I still believe that, in many cases, the role of the TL is poorly valued, I now realise that this lack of role description may be due more to the changing and evolving nature of the role as priorities change within schools and education.
I found it difficult to describe what exactly the TL role entailed as so much of it goes unnoticed (Barton, 2011, 4 March). Like Heimann (2011, 31 March), I assumed that TLs had a largely resource related role (Barton, 2011, 15 February). They managed the resources, ensured that people got the resources they needed when they needed them and taught other people how to use the resources they wanted to use. My personal observations of TLs stem from my experience over 14 years during which time we had 5 different TLs. As Jegers (2011, 13 April) observed, new TLs tend to focus on the library management role before later developing the collaborative and curriculum support component of the role. Perhaps each of the TLs I had experienced never moved on from their initial management phase. Because of this, I believed that the role of a TL was largely product related.
Through my reading for this subject, I realise that the service TLs provide is equally, if not more, important, than the products (Eisenberg, 2006, p. 80; Herring, 2007, p. 30; Lamb & Johnson, 2008; Londonderry (NH) School District, 2009; Purcell, 2010, p. 31). By virtue of the role title itself, TLs are teachers first (McInerney, 2011, 25 April). There is growing acknowledgement that it is important to first be recognised as a teacher to be seen as a good TL (Marscham, 2011, 17 March; Sharpe, 2011, 14 March; Taylor, 2011, 18 March). From my own experience with professionals engaged to advise and support teachers, it is difficult to respect and acknowledge the expertise of people who have not experienced teaching in a classroom. When you consider the importance of being a teacher first, it becomes immediately apparent that the service component of the role is more valued than the management component.
I recognised information literacy as a key feature of the teacher-librarian’s role early in the course (Barton, 2011, 4 March). I did not however recognise how pervasive this concept could be. Information literacy promotion is interwoven through the course of a TLs daily activities. A TL can promote information literacy practices to some extent, with teachers and students, in every information related task. A TLs input will be more valued and sought after when connections are made between IL and curriculum and learning outcomes (Kemp, 2011, 1 April).
Through the course of this subject I have had several opportunities to interact with our school TL and have come to realise that just because I don’t see things happen doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Lack of promotion of the TLs role has led to a lack of acknowledgement of their importance in the school. Perhaps it was the “invisibility” of the TL role that led me to see the role as mostly product related. TLs need to promote themselves and their library. This, I believe, will be the most difficult part of the role for me, as I have always enjoyed being the supportive player in the background. However, if the school community is to truly appreciate the role that the TL plays in teaching and learning, it is important to promote the services they provide. Where the services provided by the TL are not explicitly recognised and valued, the role itself becomes devalued, leading to the TL being deployed in other areas of the school (Williams, 2011, 2 April). Few TLs are fortunate enough to be in a school where the importance of collaboration and promotion of the library is highly valued (Swartz, 2011, 18 March).
In summary, I have come to realise that the role of the TL is more that of service provider than that of resource manager. With a trained and enthusiastic TL, it should be possible to engage in collaborative planning and to provide a real service for staff and students while promoting the development of information literacy skills. TLs can have a very positive effect on the teaching and learning that occurs in a school, if they want to. I can’t wait!
Barton, N. (2011, 4 March). The role of the teacher-librarian. Retrieved from http://nbart29.edublogs.org/2011/03/04/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian/
Barton, N. (2011, 15 February). Role of the teacher-librarian. Retrieved from http://nbart29.edublogs.org/2011/02/15/role-of-the-teacher-librarian/#more-13
Eisenberg, M. B. (2006). Three roles for the 21st-century teacher-librarian. CSLA Journal, 29(2), 21-23.
Heimann, S. (2011, 31 March). Evidence-based practice and its influence on the TL role [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Herring, J. E. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information. (pp. pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Jegers, V. (2011, 13 April). Principal support & successful collaboration: As shared vision [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Kemp, J. (2011, 1 April). Connecting the TL role with learning outcomes [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2008). School library media specialist 2.0: A dynamic collaborator, teacher, and technologist. Teacher Librarian, 36(2), 74-78.
Londonderry (NH) School District. (2009). Sample job description: School library media specialist. Knowledge Quest, 38(2), 80-82.
Marscham, M. (2011, 17 March). role of teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
McInerney, M.-L. (2011, 25 April). Topic 2 the role of the teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the roles of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.
Sharpe, L. (2011, 14 March). Re: Teacher or Librarian which comes first? [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Swartz, G. (2011, 18 March). Role of the TL [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Taylor, A. (2011, 18 March). Re: role of teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum
Williams, J. (2011, 2 April). Thoughts on Purcell (2010) [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum