March 2014 archive

A look at librarian role statements – international, national and state-based statements.

ASLA’s ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ clearly lays out the rationale and reason behind the standards document, defines terms and describes how the document is to be used. ASLA’s standards are divided into three main sections – professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment. There are further sub-headings in bullet points. This standards document focus is on the expectations of the teacher librarian. The AASL’s ‘Standards for the learner’s document on the other hand, as the title would suggest, places the emphasis on the learner.  It describes the skills, dispositions and attitudes that should be demonstrated by a 21st century learner.

The IASL policy statement describes the function and purpose of the school library and the responsibility of the librarian within the setting. While the statement does not go into as much detail as the ASLA standards, it covers many of the same points related to the role and the professional practice of the TL. Similarly the IFLA/UNESCO’s ‘School Library Manifesto’ is a succinct document giving a broad overview of the goals and management of a school library.

All documents agree on the important role a school library can play in a child’s education. IASL policy statement describes the library as ‘a vital instrument in the education process’ the ASLA standards, when defining a TL state that they ‘support and implement the vision of their school’ and the AASL explain in their standards that school libraries ‘are essential to the development of learning skills’. They all also highlight the importance of the librarian not working in isolation but rather collaborating with staff and students to improve student learning and outcomes.



American Association of School Librarians (AASL) (2007). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from

IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto (1999; 2006). Retrieved from

International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). (2003).  IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries. Retrieved from

My understanding of the role of the teacher librarian in schools

Valenza (2010, para. 2) states “Well into the 21st century, it is clear that the concept of modern teacher librarian practice is not clear”. Indeed, while a number of Standards have emerged, the role of teacher librarian is interpreted in a variety of ways according to different schools and educational settings. The way in which a library is run, its policies and the role of the teacher librarian within this is often a reflection of the educational aims and objectives of the educational setting.

Purcell describes ‘media resource centres’ as “the hub of the learning community” (2010, p. 30) and Herring as “a vital part of the school” (2007, p. 27). I agree that the school library should be at the heart of every school. A major part of the responsibility of the teacher librarian is to create a warm and inviting learning environment. The physical space, layout and resources available should appeal and cater to the staff and children alike.

The teacher librarian juggles a number of different roles that are all interconnected. As an administrator, the running of an efficient library involves managing a budget, sourcing and ordering appropriate materials, running inventories, cataloging and processing books as well as managing staff and volunteers. The teacher librarian should have clearly developed policies and procedures which are communicated to staff and students to ensure the smooth running of the library.

As a teacher, the teacher librarian is responsible for promoting reading and literacy throughout the school and within the wider community including parents. This can involve the organization of book fairs, reading workshops, author visits, book weeks, competitions and making links to external literature events.

The teacher librarian must share the goal of the school as a whole. Increasingly this centres on improving student learning outcomes (Girolami, 2008, p. 12) (Purcell, 2010, p. 30) (Herring, 2007, p. 31). The efficacy of this is supported by studies which demonstrate the significant impact teacher librarians can have on students learning (Herring, 2007, p. 32).   A well-developed curriculum showing clear progression is essential so that children and staff are clear on the knowledge skills and understanding that each year group are working towards and are expected to achieve. The teacher librarian will need to teach some ‘standalone’ library skills within the setting but in order to maximise the impact of learning in the library it is important for the teacher librarian to collaborate with staff to integrate instruction with the classroom curriculum.

While the role can vary in terms of role and responsibilities, what is clear is that the position is multi-faceted and is continuing to change. I feel it is the responsibility of the teacher librarian and the wider profession as a whole to be open to this change and to continually adjust goals and priorities in order to be an effective practitioner and manager.



Girolami, A. (2008). The role of the teacher librarian in learning and literacy. Incite, 29(5), 12.

Hamilton, B. J. (2011). The School Librarian as Teacher: What kind of teacher are you?. Knowledge Quest, 39(5), 34-40.

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). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Lodge, D. & Pymm, B. (2007). Library managers today : the challenges. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information services (pp. 289-310). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies,Charles Sturt University.

 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.

Valenza, J. (2010). A revised Manifesto. In Neverending Search. Retrieved from