When considering the teacher librarian as a leader, we are presented with conflicting understandings. On one hand, we see the TL working in a school, often not specifically part of the leadership structure and not recognised for the full breadth of experience and knowledge they can offer. On the other hand, the TL is an individual who must promote themselves as a leader, predominantly through instructional, and in turn, transformative measures.
The TL is a leader of staff and students. In this role, they work to promote inquiry learning as a highly effective and engaging instructional strategy. They demonstrate the need for lifelong learning and provide professional learning opportunities (Teachers Connecting with Teacher Librarians, 2014). The TL should be a leader who uses their various areas of expertise to benefit the school community (House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee, 2011). While not the most knowledgeable person in the school community, or the only person with certain types of knowledge, the TL should present themselves as an indispensable staff member. They should be able to be readily consulted in matters of curriculum, digital citizenship and modes of presentation which best suit a topic (House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee, 2011).
The TL also needs to lead their wider profession. Whether they do this outside of their workplace, through professional associations and links with other schools, or internally, with a focus on collaboration with a variety of faculties, is a personal choice. It is however, essential that the TL promotes their position. As the internet becomes even more pervasive and accessible, more students and teachers even, are bypassing the skills a librarian has (Lodge & Pymm, 2007). This is probably due to a misplaced idea that Google search has all the answers, as well as a lack of understanding of how to best use the information.
The teacher librarian however, typically exercises less autonomy over their domain now than ever before. As principals are given more power in terms of funding decisions and staffing allocations, it is quite possible the TL could be overlooked in many schools (Oberg, 2007a). Indeed, in the last school I worked in, the TL was simply someone who checked out books. Their lack of contribution to educational goals and programs may have been due to complacency within their position, or minimal support from the principal. Whatever the reason, a TL needs to secure their validity and value within a school, by differentiating themselves from other staff (Oberg, 2007b).
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the TL’s grasp on leadership of any kind slipping away. The TL is viewed in many schools as less and less important. This is a terrible shame, as they are truly necessary members of a school staff.
Of course, there are TLs who defy current trends and continue to make meaningful contributions to their school and educational outcomes. I recall a TL from my primary school, who was active in library lessons, encouraging of any reading and open to new technology. If today’s TLs can engage with these and other strategies, leadership will naturally follow.
A TL needs to lead through instruction, ensuring they provide positive learning opportunities and demonstrate to staff how they can improve outcomes. A TL also needs to lead through transformation, making certain their goals are not only congruent with that of their school, but also communicated and shared with as many of the school community as possible. This is not an easy task, but TLs are well up to the challenge to successfully navigate into the future.
EK Success Dr. Seuss Patterned Paper – The Places You’ll Go, C. (2014). EK Success Dr. Seuss Patterned Paper – The Places You’ll Go, CLEARANCE. Scrapbook.com. Retrieved 16 August 2014, from http://store.scrapbook.com/ek-dse021.html
House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee,. (2011). School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia (pp. 41-50). Canberra: Federal Government of Australia.
Lodge, D., & Pymm, B. (2007). Library Managers Today: The Challenges. In S. Ferguson, Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information services (1st ed., pp. 289-310). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Oberg, D. (2007a). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Toward A 21St-Century School Library Media Program, 337–44.
Oberg, D. (2007b). Taking the Library out of the Library into the School. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2).
Teachers Connecting with Teacher Librarians,. (2014). Information Literacy. Retrieved 16 August 2014, from http://www.connect2tls.info/