A teacher librarian has many roles to perform. They are a teacher, a researcher, a collaborator, an information specialist, and many other roles that staff and administrators around them may not be aware of (Purcell, 2010). The principal’s support is paramount to the success of the teacher librarian fulfilling these roles, through funding, timetabling, and providing opportunities for collaborative learning among staff (Haycock, 2007). Without it, the teacher librarian will struggle to maintain and implement an ideal library program.
Principals see the role of the teacher librarian as an important one within the school environment, however they do not always fully grasp the broad nature of the role and may not completely utilise the teacher librarian to their full capacity (Kaplan, 2007). Many principals see a teacher librarian as a resource and information provider that staff will seek out on a needs basis (Oberg, 2006), or as a literacy specialist, developing a love of books and reading in students. When I asked a principal what she believed to be the teacher librarian’s role at her school, she listed:
- Supports teachers in locating resources to use in the classroom
- Taught library skills to students
- Maintained the library collection
- Networked with other libraries
I asked if the TL collaborated with staff in planning and she said it didn’t happen as often as she liked.
Collaborating with teaching staff is a very important aspect of the teacher librarian’s role, by assisting them with planning, training and professional development. Collaboration helps build a positive view among staff of the teacher librarian’s role (Haycock, 2007), as it allows the TL to demonstrate to other staff members their level of expertise across the board. It is essential for a TL to gain the respect and support of the principal and teaching staff in order for them to perform their roles to their full potential. Haycock (2007) identifies collaboration as the most important factor of a TL’s role that will affect student achievement. Therefore, having the support of a principal in implementing staff training sessions is essential to ensuring the teacher librarian and the school library program is successful in helping students reach these outcomes.
Libraries – and as a result, librarians – are often isolated from the rest of the school. Without regular interaction with the TL, the principal and staff members may not get the chance to learn what a TL is able to do. Hartzell (2002) refers to this as ‘occupational invisibility’. TL’s are not seen as directly involved with the learning; rather that they assist students and teachers to achieve results. TL’s must be proactive in providing evidence of how their contributions to the teaching and learning cycle have affected the teachers and students outcomes.
Principals must be supportive, but it is a two way street. Teacher librarians themselves are the catalysts to changing perceptions of their profession, by taking themselves out of the library and demonstrating exactly what they contribute, proving themselves to be invaluable to the teaching and learning process.
Hartzell, G (2002). The principals perception of school libraries and the teacher librarian. School Libraries Worldwide , 8(1), 92-110.
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
Kaplan, A. G. (2007).Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.