The role of the teacher librarian in the 21st century digital age must undergo change for libraries to continue to be effective places for learning and not go the way of the dinosaurs. Principal support is fundamental to this development requiring the role of the teacher librarian to be a qualified collaborator, an effective communicator within the school leadership, an advocate of their school’s vision and a participant in community networks.
Teacher librarians, as part of the school leadership team, need to have credibility. In order to be credible, teacher-librarians must be highly skilled in collaboration (Haycock, 2007). The skill of collaboration is vital as it has been demonstrated as the single professional behavior of teacher-librarians that most affects student achievement (Haycock, 2007). Oberg outlines that one of the three key ways to gain respect and therefore support of the principal teacher librarians must build credibility through qualifications such as a Masters degree, in both education and librarianship.
Qualifications are not enough, it is up to the teacher librarian to get principals on board and develop a shared vision. As curriculum leaders, teacher librarians are expected to ‘work with school principals and senior staff to ensure information literacy outcomes are a major school focus’. (Herring, 2007). They must be advocates for their vision and of their profession to work to advance school library goals. For this to happen they must know and promote the principal’s goals, be an ally, form a team for the shared vision and be patient in its implementation. Teacher librarians suffer from occupational invisibility (Oberg, 2006) and research shows that principal rarely focus on teacher librarians or libraries unless they actively promote their role. Valenza states unreservedly that teacher librarians represent our brand (who the teacher-librarian is) as a 21st century information professional. What does the information professional look like today? Ten years from today? If you do not develop strong vision, your vision will be usurped by the visions of others. (Valenza, 2010)
It is clear that Principals have a critical role in the implementation of change in schools (Oberg, 2007). Broulee Public School provides insight into how this can be done. The teacher librarian and the library program have become core to part of the school’s operation, Broulee PS no longer has a traditional school library or teacher librarian. It has an iCentre, and an iCentre Coordinator, who is playing a leading role in developing a networked schoolcommunity. It is most assuredly not a matter of semantics, but a fundamental role change.(Lee, 2011).
Not only do teacher librarians need to be good communicators they need to be dynamic, interesting, innovators and a vital member of the school team in order to effect these changes. Hartzell (in Oberg, 2007) states the only way to change Principal perceptions is to assault them directly, repeatedly and from a multiplicity of directions. Suffering from physical isolation and stereotypical ideas of librarians is not acceptable behaviour for a 21st century teacher librarian. You enjoy what you do and let others know it. (Valenza, 2010).
Teacher librarians need to be active participants in community networks. Including stakeholders in their shared vision and being part of a professional network allows the teacher librarian to tap into all the resources available for success. We need to ensure our communities know the difference we make to learning outcomes, especially the school principal (Weaver, 2010). Broulee PS has taken this concept to the limit in using community resources, Broulee PS provides a succinct insight into what is possible in an everyday state school: a vital insight into … how a school, by pooling its resources with those of its community,can significantly enhance its offerings.
The idea of the library is being challenged and to preserve it teacher librarians need to become its advocates by educating our principals through effective, ongoing communication. A redefining process, the evolution of school media library programs is in their hands and teacher librarians need to be qualified to exist as leaders in our schools. In the words of Purcell, teacher librarians assist teachers and students in functioning in an increasingly complex world. It is imperative to ensure teacher librarians play an active role in promoting their worth.
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), (pp25-35).
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp.27-42).
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), (pp27-36).
Lee, M, (2011), The networked school community and Broulee Public School, Scan, 30 (3).
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), (pp13-18).
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), (pp30-33).
Valenza, Joyce (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians, School library journal blog.
Weaver, A. (2010) Teacher librarians: polymaths or dinosaurs? Access (March), ASLA, (pp18-19)