Imagine all teacher librarians were the classic stereotype. Bespectacled, cardigan wearers, who do not like children or noise or disruption in their library. In fact, no one in their library at all.
Although this is an antiquated view, this may well be the way many principals view TLs. This is not altogether their fault; there is very little professional training given to principals in order to educate them about what the TL does (Hartzell, n.d.). They are often also removed geographically from the rest of the school. However, the TL can help alter these perceptions and work with the principal to promote their role and the library.
It has already been established that the role of the TL is absent from research which is aimed at school principals (Oberg, 2006; Kaplan, 2007). We need to understand why this is. The role of the TL has evolved over time to encompass a greater breadth of literacy, technology and information landscape. However, there is a lack of consistency across Australia (and presumably elsewhere) regarding the status and staffing levels of TL’s in schools. This potentially undermines the role of the TL and lowers their importance in the eyes of principals.
In order to combat this, the TL should be involved in decision making, so that funds are adequately directed to the library. The TL needs to be active in this regard and seek out the support of the principal, rather than expect an invitation to be involved in planning decisions. The TL may also need to present academic literature to the principal which accurately reflects the position they assume. This demonstrates initiative and a strong interest in how the library can help influence student achievement levels.
Student achievement is always a primary goal of the principal (Farmer, 2007). As a TL has such a strong grounding in student learning and pedagogical initiatives, it follows that the two can work with other staff to gain better outcomes. The TL in this case needs to actively promote what they can offer the school. This includes technology applications, resource selection, unit and lesson planning and inquiry learning. Through attending meetings, professional development and simply engaging in one on one consultation with the principal, the TL can encourage more effective use of their services and the library.
What we are discussing here is collaboration. Collaboration can impact positively on student achievement, more so than any other measure (Haycock, 2007). Collaboration results in more cohesive and cooperative working relations throughout a school, which can only lead to positive results.
For the TL to make this collaboration work, they need to align with the educational aims of the school principal (Farmer, 2007). They also need to promote the aims of the school library, making these transparent and accessible. Through alignment with the school principal, the TL will experience more professional success and involvement within the school community. It will also lead to greater respect for the role a TL plays, which is crucial to the profession generally.
The TL can indeed make a difference in a school. Principal support is key to this, as well as the TL’s desire to see improved learning outcomes and engagement with the library. If this support is present, the learning in a school can be beneficial to all stakeholders.
DrMsChannel. (2014, April 4). Principals know: school librarians are the heart of the school. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bihGT7LoBP0
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Hardenbrook, J. (2013, July 24). Image, public perception, and lego librarians [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/image-public-perception-and-lego-librarians/
Hartzell, G. (n.d.). What’s it take? In Laura Bush Foundation. Retrieved from www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaoration: Critical success factors for student learning. School libraries worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
Kaplan, A. (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.