The Role of the Teacher Librarian in Schools

The role of the teacher librarian (TL) in schools is not only multifaceted but also invaluable for excelling school learning outcomes (Education Services Australia 2011 ; Herring 2007 ; IASL 2003). TLs play a leading role in teaching and learning in schools and are uniquely skilled as research and information specialists coupled with their pedagogical and curriculum knowledge and expertise (ASLA 2012). Unfortunately their role is little understood by administrators as few have been teacher librarians themselves (O’Connell nd. ;  Moore 2002).

Teacher librarians are first and foremost teachers and the key teaching role for TLs in schools is in promoting information literacy skills (Herring 2007 ; SLASA 2008). In today’s digital world, the acquisition of highly developed information literacy skills is essential for 21st century learners for school and beyond (AASL 2007 ; IFLA 2013). In the teaching of Information Literacy, TLs come to the fore as school leaders. As Information specialists, they can work collaboratively with staff creating and team-teaching information literacy programs. (ALIA & ASLA 2009 ; Herring 2007 ; Purcell 2010).

Collection development has always played an essential part of the role of the TL. This has traditionally centred on curating physical resources. The bulk of the collection comprised non-fiction information sources and fiction books to promote reading for pleasure and ultimately literacy (AASL 2007 ; Herring 2007). Today’s TLs have had to evolve and become tech savvy so as to include digital formats and multimedia as part of the library’s virtual collection (Lamb 2011).  Virtual school libraries now also include eresources such as ebooks, audiobooks, digital video, databases, music files and electronic newspapers, journals and magazines in the library collection. The 21st Century virtual school library can now be accessed anywhere, anytime (Herring 2007 ;  Latham & Poe 2008 ; Valenza 2010).

Technology leader is another crucial role for TLs. It is essential that TLs are not only competent in the use of technology for library management systems, they must also have expertise in productivity tools, recording and reading tools, social and participatory tools and a wide range of learning tools (Lamb 2011 ; Purcell 2012).  As a technology leader, TLs will model best practice in integrating ICTs into the curriculum. Best practice will always focus on enhancing student learning when embedding technology, rather than using technology for technology’s sake (Churches 2009 ; Johnson 2010 ; Johnson 2011). As a consequence of the TLs’ role of technology leader, the role of professional developer becomes a natural progression. Due to their demonstrated expertise in this area, TLs can share their knowledge and skills by developing and presenting in-service training sessions for other teaching professionals. (Purcell 2012 ; Lamb 2011).

Teacher Librarians play an integral role in the learning outcomes of 21st Century Learners. The roles outlined above are but few in the many and varied roles that TLs can adopt in developing lifelong learners and information literate citizens (IFLA &UNESCO 2006). By assuming the outlined roles of information specialist, physical and virtual collection developer, technology leader and professional developer TLs are best placed to not only promote learning outcomes but also their own vital role in the school community (ASLA 2012 ; Education Services Australia 2011 ; IASL 2003).



American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from:

Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from:

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2009). Retrieved from:

Churches, A. (2009). Blooms’ digital taxonomy: It’s not about the tools, it’s using the tools to facilitate learning. Retrieved from:

Education Services Australia. (2011). Social media and ICT in schools. Connections, (78)

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). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Hughes-Hassell, S & Mancall, J. (2005). Collection management for youth: Responding to the needs of learners. Chicago. American Library Association.

International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). (2013) Riding the waves or caught in the tides. Navigating the evolving information environment. Insights from the Trend Report. The Hague, Netherlands. Retrieved from:

International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) & United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2006). IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto. Retrieved from:

International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). (2003). IASL policy statement on school libraries. Retrieved from:

Johnson, D. (2010). Changed but still critical: Brick and mortar school libraries in the Digital Age. For InterED, Association for the Advancement of International Education [AAIE], Fall. Retrieved July , 2013 from

Johnson, D. (2011). Stretching your technology dollar, Educational Leadership, 69(4), 30-33. Retrieved from:

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Latham, B. and Poe, J. (2008). Evaluation and selection of new format materials: electronic resources in J. R. Kennedy, L. Vardaman & G. B. McCabe (Eds.), Our new public, a changing clientele : bewildering issues or new challenges for managing libraries (pp. 257-265)

Moore, P. (2002). An analysis of information literacy education worldwide. White paper prepared for UNESCO, the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and the National Forum on Information Literacy, for use at the Information Literacy Meeting of Experts, Prague, The Czech Republic. Retrieved from:

O’Connell. (nd). Is school librarianship in crisis and should we be talking about it? Charles Sturt University. Retrieved from:

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, 29(3), 30-33.

Purcell, K. (2012). Libraries 2020: Imagining the library of the (not too distant) future Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from:

School Library Association of South Australia (SLASA). (2008). SLASA Teacher Librarian Role Statement. Retrieved from:

Valenza, J. (2010). Manifesto for 21st Century Teacher Librarians. Teacher Librarian. The Journal for School Library Professionals. Retrieved from:

One thought on “The Role of the Teacher Librarian in Schools

  1. Can someone please help me with the URLs in my reference list. How do I wrap the text so that it doesn’t flow outside the text area.

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