The very nature of the teacher librarian (TL) role means that both managing and leading is essential to the position. This is recognised by the Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information (2004) Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, which includes both ‘library and information services management’ (2.3) and ‘leadership capabilities’ (3.3) among its expectations of professional practice.
In terms of managing, the TL has responsibility for managing a budget, sourcing and ordering appropriate materials, timetabling, running inventories, cataloguing, processing and analysing data as well as managing staff and volunteers. Leadership possibilities in the role are dependent on a number of factors including senior management and staff’s expectations of the position, the culture of collaboration which exists in the school as well as the TL’s own knowledge, skills, disposition, attitude and ability to influence.
I work in an international British curriculum primary school. The leadership model follows a distributed leadership structure and as such I see myself as part of a “dynamic organization with many moving parts” (Ailshie, 2013, para. 4). I work with all staff and students across the school, so building the trust of colleagues, and working collaboratively is key. Issues with the TL role can include misconceptions of what the position entails so it is vital to articulate a consistent message concerning the library’s vision, values and expectations (Minkel, 2002, p. 48).
Professional development can have a significant impact on leadership opportunities (Hackman & Wageman, 2007, p. 46). This year I attended a course on creativity and storytelling which I then disseminated to colleagues in a workshop. As a result, some of the techniques I learnt extended beyond the library and into the classrooms with further connections made by sharing the children’s work on twitter (@PSlibraryDIS). This domino effect made me realise the power of what Donham (2005) describes as leading through influence (p.299). This increasingly reaches beyond the school (Hadfield, 2007, p. 259) to include citywide library network meetings, international librarian electronic networks and Teachmeets. Within the school, further leadership responsibilities include leading literacy events, school committees, collaborative planning sessions in addition to leading the library team of administrators and volunteers.
The TL combines a number of leadership styles. As an information specialist, TL’s provide expert knowledge, resources and instructional guidance to support all students and teachers. As such they can be described as ‘instructional leaders’. Within the context of educational change, TL’s need to be adaptive to and proactive in instigating change. This can include for example, leading the introduction and use of new technologies across the school. These transformational leadership capabilities require up to date knowledge and expertise and the strategic thinking skills of planning, prioritising and implementing. In my school, I create action plans aligned to school goals in order to plan next steps for the library’s development. I agree with Hargreaves (2007) who states “The past should be a motivator and not a museum” (p. 231). I want any change to be sustainable, so try to look critically at existing structures to see what works and what can be developed.
TL’s have the potential to have considerable influence by leading from the middle, reflecting on current practice and striving for continuous improvement. To do this involves being collegial, strategic, motivated, innovative and seizing opportunities whenever they arise.
Ailshie, L. (2013). Building leadership at multiple levels, grounded in guiding tenets. In State collaborative on reforming education. Retrieved from http://tnscore.org/building-leadership-at-multiple-levels-grounded-in-guiding-tenets/
Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association. (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx
Donham, J. (2005). Leadership. In Enhancing teaching and learning: a leadership guide for school library media specialists (pp. 295-305). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Hackman, J., & Wageman, R. (2007). Asking the right questions about leadership: discussion and conclusions. American Psychologist, 62(1), 43-47.
Hadfield, M. (2007). Co-leaders and middle leaders: the dynamic between leaders and followers in networks of schools. School Leadership and Management, 27(3), 259-283.
Hargreaves, A. (2007). Sustainable leadership and development in education: Creating the future, conserving the past. European Journal of Education, 42(2), 223-233. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2007.00294.x
Minkel, W. (2002). Librarian a leader. School Library Journal, 48(10), 46-49.