The teacher librarian job description can often be a good indicator of the school principal’s expectations and value placed on the teacher librarian role. Church (2009) argues that in the capacity of instructional leader, the school principal sets the parameters and framework for teaching and learning and in doing so “can make or break the library programme” (p. 40).
The budget allocated to the library by the school principal can have a huge impact on the quality of provision provided. An adequate budget ensures children access to the latest technologies, digital and print resources, high quality facilities and the correct ratio of librarians and support staff to guide them in their learning (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21).
Timetabling and setting an environment for collaboration
Ideally teacher librarians work in an environment where there are high expectations for collaboration throughout the school which is fostered and encouraged by the school principal (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 49) (Haycock, 2007, p. 27). Practical considerations -such as flexible scheduling in the library and timetabling of common planning times for year groups with librarians – set an enabling structure for collaboration (Oberg, 2006, p. 14) (Gibbs, 2003, pp 6-7). Expectations for how the library is used and how it fits into the goals and vision of the school as a whole should be made clear to all staff.
Building a positive relationship with the school principal
The school principal I work with is approachable, open-minded and has a solid understanding of the role of the teacher librarian. I am well supported regarding opportunities for professional development, am set yearly targets and have regular appraisals. I am responsible for creating a library action plan in collaboration with library staff, which is aligned to the school strategic plan. This is then reviewed with the school principal. Regular and focused communication with the principal is vital in order to work towards a shared goal and vision, which is especially important when introducing new initiatives into the library (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 53).
Studies have demonstrated the significant impact teacher librarians can have on students’ learning (Herring, 2007, p. 32) (Kaplan, 2007, p. 301) (Bush & Jones, 2013, p. 4). Supporting the teacher librarian is therefore in the best interest of the principal and the students (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21). However, degrees of support can vary considerably. One possible reason for this are some principals’ own out-dated views on the role (Church, 2009, p. 40) as well as the fact that the audience for news and research on library practice tends to be librarians themselves rather than school principals and senior management (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21). It is essential then that teacher librarians are advocates for their profession and regularly disseminate significant information, latest research and studies which could potentially impact on their work to the school principal.
Principals can potentially have a very positive impact on a school’s library programme when they fully support and set high expectations for teacher librarians based on current best practice in the field. This support can ensure the teacher librarians are “visible throughout the school, and integral to the mission and work of the school” (Oberg, 2007, i )
Church, A. (2009). The principal factor. Library Media Connection. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com/pdf/lmc/reviews_and_articles/featured_articles/church_may_june2009.pdf
Cooper, O. P., & Bray, M. (2011). School library media specialist-teacher collaboration: Characteristics, challenges, opportunities. TechTrends: Linking research and practice to improve learning, 55(4), 48-55. doi: 10.1007/s11528-011-0511-y
Dixon, P. (2008). Acting Up: Leadership and responsibility. Refocus Journal, 6(1), 9-11.
Gibbs, R. (2003). Reframing the role of the teacher-librarian: the case for collaboration and flexibility. Scan, 22(3), 4.
Hartzell, Gary (June 2002). What’s It Take? (PDF). White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
Hartzell, G. (2003). Why Should Principals Support School Libraries? Teacher Librarian, 31(2), 21-23.
Harvey, C. A. (2009). Hands on handout. What should an administrator expect a school library media specialist to be? Library Media Connection. Retrieved from http://hoorayforbooks.pbworks.com/f/lms+evaluation+ideas.pdf
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
Kaplan, A. G. (2008). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’?’. Educational Digest, 73(7), 17.
McGhee, M. W., & Jansen, B. A. (2006). The Principal Component: Bringing Your Administrator on Board. Library Media Connection, 24(4), 34-35.
Morris, B.J. (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
Oberg, D. (2007).Taking the library out of the library into the school. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii.
QUT Faculty of Education. (2011). To school administrators. Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.