The Role of the Teacher-librarian – a critical reflection

The variety and scope within the role of the teacher-librarian has not been obvious to me in my teaching experience.  I have often seen the TL supporting the classroom teacher by providing resources and taking lessons, usually computer skills based, but rarely has this support gone beyond some resourcing or computer skills aspect of a current unit of work.

On reading several views of the role of the TL it is interesting and promising to note the significance given to the collaborative nature of the role (Herring, 2005; Lamb & Johnson, 2008; Purcell, 2010).  Purcell’s roles of program administrator and information specialist have been visible roles of the TL but the roles of instructional partner and teacher have had limited significance.  While I believe the TL role offers a great opportunity in the way of leadership (both in the areas of curriculum and information literacy as distinguished by Herring), I believe that this potential often goes largely untapped, either through lack of acknowledgement by administration or through a lack of effort on the part of the TL.  Lamb and Johnson suggest that TLs leadership activities should be “woven through the school curriculum”.  So much depends on the individual person’s interpretation and implementation of the role.

On searching for my school’s role description for the TL, there was none.  Nor could I find one on the departmental website.  Is the role of TL so poorly valued that it is often not even worth a description?  I am undertaking this training in the hope of obtaining a TL position at some time in the future.  Yet it is possible to obtain a TL position without even having the required qualifications prior to job start.  Some organisations require some commitment to undertake this training but is this enough?  In how many career choices is it possible to obtain the position without the qualifications?  This is not a comment on unqualified TLs currently working within the system but rather on the system itself that holds so little value for the position that it is willing to employ unqualified personnel.

Through my reading about the role of the TL, I am developing an understanding of the many roles that they are required to fill.  Of these, I believe that collaboration and leadership, in the areas of curriculum and information literacy, are most vital.  Indeed, what was previously the most obvious (to me) role of the TL, that of resource management, now seems very minor indeed.


Herring, J. E. (2005). the end of the teacher-librarian. Teacher Librarian, 33(1), 26-29.

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2008). School library media specialist 2.0: A dynamic collaborator, teacher, and technologist. Teacher Librarian, 36(2), 74-78.

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.

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