Little Green Librarian

Blogging my way through a Masters in Teacher Librarianship at CSU!

Leading from the school library


Image of a duck leading a flock of ducks.

In much of the current professional dialogue about teacher librarianship, leadership is identified as one of the key roles a teacher librarian (TL) must play within the leadership structure of the school (Purcell, 2010, pp.31-32). In practice, however, the TL can be seen as an “add-on” to the school, making it difficult for him or her to assert any authority beyond the walls of the library. A lack of awareness of what the TL has to offer seems to be the main issue, so advocacy is critical, both from the TL and from professional bodies.

Leading within the library

The most obvious place to start discussing TL leadership is within the library itself. It is important to clearly delineate between management and leadership at this point. According to John Kotter, “Management is about coping with complexity… Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change” (Kotter, n.d., para.2-3). Ben Brocker asserts that, “Managers manage things, leaders lead people” (Brocker, 2012, March 22). The TL role inevitably involves a lot of management, and this can often become the focus of the role, particularly if there is a lack of support from the principal and executive, but leadership opportunities abound, even within the walls of the library. For example, the TL can lead in the area of curriculum support through resources. From a management perspective, this entails locating, acquiring and managing the resources themselves. From a leadership perspective, this entails actively approaching and meeting regularly with teachers to determine their needs, curating a collection of resources that will meet those needs and helping the teacher to utilise those resources in their practice. Another way that the TL can lead within the library is through teaching students. To do this, the TL can consider the principles of transformational leadership (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005, p.14) when constructing lessons and implement this model with students. Further, the TL can model best practice in areas such as copyright and digital citizenship, thereby leading by example.

Leading colleagues

The TL can play another important role in the leadership structure of the school by leading colleagues. To do so, the principal and executive team need to recognise the expertise the TL has in the areas of information and resource management. Often the TL will also be an adept user of technology, so they may also be able to provide leadership in this area. This leadership may take the form of formal training, where the TL runs professional development sessions with staff, but it could also be more informal, on a one-to-one or small group basis, depending on need. In an ideal situation, the TL would be involved in developing school policy in his or her area of expertise.

Leading in the community

The TL can also be a leader in the wider school and professional communities. In the school community, the TL can demonstrate leadership by actively seeking ways to lead parents and carers, for example, by running information sessions about areas such as digital citizenship. In the professional community, the TL can become involved with professional groups online and can, for example, seek out opportunities to lead teams in action research projects.

While some leadership opportunities may not be available to all teacher librarians, there are always ways for each TL to demonstrate leadership and to put into practice their leadership training. If we seek out opportunities and continue to lead by example, it won’t be long before our leadership capabilities are recognised and utilised more widely within the school.



Brocker, B. [BenBrocker]. (2012, March 22). Leadership theory and critical skills . Retrieved from:

Kotter, J. (n.d.). Change leadership. In Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved August 24, 2014, from:

Marzano, R.J., Waters, T. & McNulty, B.A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. In School leadership that works: From research to results (pp.13-27). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.


Image source: Leader of the Ducks by Public Domain Pictures. Public Domain.

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