The role of the Teacher Librarian is multifaceted. The Digital Education Revolution is greatly impacting on the education system and the way the 21st century student accesses their learning. So it is the responsibility of the Teacher Librarian as the media specialist, to put on another hat and lead the school community into the 21st century. The TL does this whilst adhering to and complying with the professional standards; leading the curriculum and information literacy; managing information services, staff and budgets; collaborating with colleagues and of course teaching (Herring, 2007). It is expected that the TL is to be able to perform their duties successfully. To do so, a media specialist is required to accept new tasks and challenges and ultimately evolve with their changing roles (Purcell, 2010, p.33).
The professional standards are designed to guide the professional practice of Teacher Librarians in schools. The SLASA Standards (School Library Association of South Australia) divide the role of the Teacher Librarian into six categories; teaching and learning, leadership, curriculum involvement, management, literature promotion and services. These standards are also evident within the National and International standards. The role of the Teacher Librarian is always subject to debate. Many people share common opinions about how that looks, while others oppose and voice differing views. Herring (2007) and Purcell (2010) 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 (2007) believes that teaching and learning should be a priority, resources are secondary. Purcell (2010) suggests that a collegial work environment is paramount to the TL’s role and should be treated as such. These views both conflict with one another because as mentioned by Lamb (2011) the TL should not favour one role over the other, rather do it all equally. Teaching cannot happen unless the TL works collaboratively with staff and program together; and working collaboratively with staff will inevitably lead to teaching.
The Teacher Librarian will always be faced with criticism and the fear of becoming an ‘endangered species’. This is due to the tired misconstrued view that has been formed over the years on the vital role they play in schools. Purcell (2010, p.32) highlights that one of the ongoing responsibilities is to serve as an advocate to show the critical function media programs perform in teaching and learning. “Aspiring teachers don’t come to think of school libraries as potential partners in curriculum and instruction” (Hartzell, 2010, p.2). Therefore, as Farewell (1998) and Haycock (2002) highlight, the principal plays a vital role as teacher-librarians and the principal share leadership and both promote a shared vision. “Librarians serve on curriculum committees, help with staff development, and participate in a wide variety of school operations. None of that happens if the principal doesn’t want it to” (Hartzell, 2010, p.4).
In conclusion, “the school library provides information and ideas that are fundamental to functioning successfully in today’s information and knowledge-based society” (International Association of School Libraries, March 28, 2006). Whilst the role of the TL is quite extensive: addressing and upholding the International, National and State standards; working collaboratively with staff and leading the school in information literacy and the curriculum and sharing the same vision with the principal, managing each ‘hat’ is crucial. Haycock (2002, pg.32) points out that “collaboration is not easy. But it is the single professional behaviour of teacher-librarians that most affects student achievement”.
Farewell, S.M. (1998). Profile of Planning: A study of a three-year project on the implementation of collaborative library media programs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Florida International University, Miami.
Hartzell, G. N. (2002). What’s it take? Professor, Educational Administration and Supervision University of Nebraska, Omaha: http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
Haycock, K. (2002). What Works: Building a Collaborative Learning Communities. Teacher Librarian, 29(4)35.
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).
School Library Association of South Australia – http://www.slasa.asn.au/Advocacy/rolestatement.html