Passive or active? Involved or uninvolved? Exploring the role of the teacher librarian

The role of the teacher librarian (TL) is vital and complex. From the TLs I have witnessed in my teaching career however, I could have assumed the opposite. The school libraries I have experienced have not been the vibrant, productive centres of learning which they should be.

The school libraries I have seen placed an emphasis on quiet learning environments. The TLs often undertook administrative tasks, which should not be the focus of the role (Purcell, 2010, p. 31). Teachers and students utilising the library were a disruption.

The TLs I encountered as a teacher did not create learning programs or services.  There was a reluctance to pursue tasks which could enrich and extend the learning and teaching of students and staff.

Hence, while I began this course positively, I also wondered what exactly TLs did. From the beginning, I was exposed to a very different idea of what a TL actually should do.

Using Herring’s broad definitions of a TL’s role, a TL is a curriculum leader (2007, p. 31). They provide learning opportunities for students, whilst collaborating with colleagues. A TL possesses dual qualifications, so offers a unique combination of pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge and information and technology literacy.

I believe a TL has a responsibility to provide resources and programs for students. In particular, the  Australian Library and Information Association highlights the increasing need for students to be analytical and critical with work they produce, not simply regurgitating facts (2012, p 4).

The TL also assumes the role of information specialist. I see this aspect of the role as one where the TL needs to be familiar with current and emerging technology, to help meet the needs of twenty-first century learners (American Association of School Librarians, 2007, p.6).

It is abundantly clear to me that collaboration is essential, as a classroom teacher does not have copious amounts of time to plan interesting and engaging learning experiences. By working with the TL, a teacher will gain a better grasp of where to find useful resources and how to use them. For example,it is much more effective to teach someone to create a Web Quest than showing them a completed one (Lamb and Johnson, 2008, p. 76). This strongly highlights the influential role a TL has within a school.

Furthermore, the teacher and information specialist roles merge when a TL conducts professional development, which can aid teaching and learning.

The final role is information services manager. It involves evaluation, management and future planning for the library.

Evaluation must take place for improvements to be made to a service. A useful evaluation tool is SWOT analysis (Lodge and Pymm, 2007, p. 291). Additionally, Lamb and Johnson promote evaluation as a means to test TL effectiveness and that of programs and services (2013).

I understand that the TL has a role to play in collection management, involving making decisions regarding format, age and accessibility of resources. I view this as essential for the library to remain relevant.

This leads to future planning for a school library, which should be undertaken with relevant stakeholders. As Herring asserts, “school libraries no longer exist in a vacuum” (2007, p. 27).

My view of a TL’s role has changed significantly since beginning this course and that role has much more depth than that reflected here.

Reference List

American Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the twenty-first century learner. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (2014). SWOT Analysis: Your Library’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In American Library Association. Retrieved from

Australian Library and Information Association. (2012). The Library and Information Sector: Core Knowledge, Skills and Attributes. Retrieved from Australian Library and Information Association website:

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: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

JennBranch. (2012, January 24). Teacher-Librarians in the Twenty-First Century [Video file]. Retrieved from

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2008). School library media specialist 2.0: dynamic collaborator, teacher, and technologist. Teacher Librarian, 36(2), 74-78.

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2013). Library Media Program: Evaluation. In The School Library Media Specialist. Retrieved from

Lodge, D. & Pymm, B. (2007). Library managers today: the challenges. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information services (pp. 289-310). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

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.

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One thought on “Passive or active? Involved or uninvolved? Exploring the role of the teacher librarian

  1. Well written and articulated Emma,
    You have largely avoided the pitfall of making the post a series of quotes from authors, ie. he said, she said. All this indicates to the reader is that you can read and regurgitate what other people have said, rather than your interpretation and understanding of what you have read. Your intext references indicate that this isn’t just your opinion but can be substantiated by others working in the field. This is the difference between postgraduate/Masters level and undergraduate. So well done. Try to make sure your paragraphs are paragraphs – one-two sentecnes is not a paragraph (a reminder when writing an assignment and not a blog post). Of course we chunk text when it is going to be presented on screen to make writing easier.

    Some great contrasts between your previous experiences and what you know now. Why were these libraries so under-utilised do you think? Many teachers still consider TLs to be escapees from the classroom, and have no idea that the role encompasses two distinct disciplines.

    A good response that is well on topic. Well done. 🙂 BC

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