March 10th 2014 archive

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