The Role of the Teacher Librarian – Some Authors’ Views – Topic 2 – ETL 401

How Should Teacher Librarians Prioritise the Roles they play in the school?

As teacher librarians, we have the exciting task of being multitasking magicians with the various roles we play within the library; many of which goes unnoticed. So should we prioritise and how?

Herring (2007) believes that teaching and learning should be a top priority and that resources should follow. As a teacher, the Teacher Librarian builds upon and extends the student’s knowledge about the topics being covered in the classroom. He says that, “while the physical environment may contract, the information and knowledge environments created by the Teacher Librarian in collaboration with the teachers will greatly expand” (Herring, 2007, p. 40).

Purcell (2010) shares some common views with Herring; particular in her example of the study she performed. She says that by reflecting on how you spend your time, you will be able to identify barriers. For example she shares that, “if you see that 25 percent of your time is spent shelving and doing other clerical tasks, then you need to overcome this barrier to spend more time actively engaging students” (Purcell, 2010, p. 31). Whilst she admits that teaching is extremely important, like Herring, she feels that a collegial work environment is an integral role that the Teacher Librarian plays. She believes that it is vital for the Teacher Librarian to work with the entire school community to decide what should be taught and the resources purchased for the library. There are many misconceptions about what a Teacher Librarian does, the common view being that they “sit and read all day and occasionally check out books” (Purcell, 2010, p. 30). So by working collegially with the school community it promotes the profession, which will have a positive impact on colleagues and will hopefully begin to change this misconception.

As suggested by the article’s title: Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette, Lamb (2011) believes that a Teacher Librarian should not favour one role over another, rather approach each role equally and taking a bit from each “colour” on the palette: People, Administration, Learning, Electronic information, Technology, Teaching and Environments.  Valenza (2010) shares her views on what the roles a Teacher Librarian play in a very extensive list, all of which are a vital contribution to the success students achieve throughout their academic journey. Most points from this list align with Herring’s (2010) view that teaching is the prominent role and the rest follow.

Are There Other Roles Played by Teacher Librarians

All four authors, Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza share common views on the roles played by Teacher Librarians. Herring (2010) shares that the Teacher Librarian’s roles are to be a teacher, librarian, information services manager, information literacy leader, curriculum leader, information specialist, instructional partner, website developer, budget manager, staff manager, and fiction and non-fiction advocate. Learning for the future (ASLA 2003) focuses on 3 particular roles of the Teacher Librarian: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager. Purcell states that a Teacher Librarian, “actively participates in various school committees and professional organizations” (Purcell, 2010, p. 32). With all that being said, it is becoming increasingly common in advertisements for permanent Teacher Librarian positions in schools, for the selection criteria to list extra curricula skills and experience wanted.

How do Lamb’s views on the Teacher Librarian Role Compare and Contrast with Those of Herring and Purcell?

Herring and Purcell believe that one area is more prominent than the other. Whilst they both recognise that there are many roles that a Teacher Librarian plays in the school, Herring believes that a teacher role is vital, while Purcell suggest a collegial work environment is paramount to make effective use of the library. Lamb is like the glue that joins everybody together with her analogy to the roles played by a Teacher Librarian is like a palette, each element is equally as important as the others. Even thought there are differences in their views about the most important role, they share commonalities in their views about what roles are played.

What existing tasks/ roles do you think you as a Teacher Librarian could give up in order to be as proactive as Lamb and Valenza want to be?

I honestly don’t believe I could give any role up. As stated in Purcell’s (2010) paper, “all of these roles – leader, instructional partner, teacher, information specialist, and program administrator are interconnected, one cannot be performed without the support of the others (AASL, 2009, p.18). I would however be smart about how I approach each task and manage my time effectively. Purcell had mentioned effective ways of ‘breaking down barriers’ such as establishing a student library team to help out with clerical duties, something that my current school librarian already does. Lamb and Valenza share some fantastic ideas and it would be challenging to juggle all of those roles and tasks, but as Purcell (2010, p. 33) mentions, “media specialist’s roles are constantly changing and they must be able to accept new tasks in order to perform their duties successfully”.

a)  Do you see yourself fitting with the roles proposed by these authors.

Yes, I do believe that I can see myself fitting with these roles. I would take Lamb’s palette approach, as I believe that each role is equally vital for the library to run successfully. It would also be a goal of mine to work collegially with the teachers and hopefully change this misconstrued idea of librarians.

b)  Would you change the order of the roles Purcell identifies e.g. should teacher come first?

I don’t believe I would. I think that in order for the library to serve the school community to its full capacity, a Teacher Librarian needs to be a leader first, to promote the libraries facilities and to be proactive in collaborating with the school community.  I then agree that the instructional partner role should be next as this is when the Teacher Librarian works collegially with the school staff to develop engaging and meaningful programs. By working together, students can engage in lessons that extend their knowledge of content being taught in their classroom through the use of resources only found in the library and access 21st century skills. Students are then able to make connections between content being taught which would then spark motivation. As Herring (2007, p.27) states, “school libraries do not exist in a vacuum and should not be seen as in anyway separate from the school environment”. So by leaving this role in second place, it emphasises the point that it is integral that the Teacher Librarian and the teachers collaborate together, then the teaching can happen.


American Association of School Libraries (AASL), (2009). Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs. Chicago: American Library Association.

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).

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. TechTrends (pp.27-37).

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 (pp.30-34).

Valenzo, J. (2010). Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Retrieved 28th July 2014 from:

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