I believe teacher librarians (TL) are uniquely qualified information specialists and educators with a common aim: to underpin teaching and learning in our schools (“What is a teacher librarian”, 2018). How we reach this aim varies greatly according to the roles we have in our individual school communities (“School Community,” 2014).
School administrators, who are knowledgeable and supportive of the school library (the Library), view TLs are valuable faculty members (American Association of School Librarians, 2016):
- instructional leaders, who support development of all aspects of learning and literacy development;
- information specialists, who support teachers through collaborative teaching, resource gathering and professional development and
- promoters of literacy, who foster the reading habits and information skill development of students (Lupton, 2016, p. 56).
This is unfortunately not the view of all administrators and many TLs find themselves marginalised in terms of staffing, funding and space allocation. Lupton’s (2016) research showed that the principal’s perception of the role of the TL is pivotal in the influence and participation a TL has in a school community (pp. 52-53).
The attitude of teachers towards TLs is the most important factor that allows librarians to become part of the learning process. TLs rely on teachers to invite them to support and collaborate in classroom activities. It is unfortunate that some teachers see TLs as adding to the complexity of their work (Markless et al., 2016, pp. 25-26). TLs have to create opportunities – from structured planning meetings to casual staff room conversations – to build trusting relationships with teachers, aiming to convince them that the Library and its resources present opportunitiees to extend classroom learning (Formanack & Pietsch, 2011, p. 9).
Parents’ perception of the Library often originates in the opinions of their children, or in their own recollection of their school library experience. Parents are more likely to have a personal interest in the school library if they have younger children (and visit the library with them). A more general awareness of the Library can be generated by general school wide communication (email, news bulletins, podcasts and the school website). I find it unfortunate if a parent’s only contact with the library is through overdue notices, or the challenging of book choices! Parents’ view of the role of the TL and the library can be positively influenced by encounters such as book fairs, author visits, and open-day events, as well as a positive working relationship with the school’s parent organisation.
It is the perception that students have of the TL and the Library that lies the closest to this TL’s heart. Not all students will be readers, and not all will be regular visitors to the library, but being able to provide a “third place”or community hub, and making the Library and its services an accesible and supportive place, is what I aim for (Coppola, 2010, p. 14; Devenish, 2017, p. 4). Studies such as “School libraries work!”and “The beating heart of the school” suggest that the Library can play an important part in teaching and learning, but I believe that it is up to each individual TL to craft their role, and the perception thereof, in their school community (School libraries, 2016; Libraries All Party, 2014).
American Association of School Librarians. (2016, June 25). Definition of an effective school library program. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/positionstatements/AASL_Position%20Statement_Effective_SLP_2016-06-25.pdf
Coppola, G. (2010, Fall). Library as the third place. Florida Libraries, 14-15. Retrieved from https://libraryallegra.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/library-as-the-third-place.pdf
Devenish, A. (2017). Turning the school library into a thriving community hub. Connections, (103), 4-5. Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/media/1656/connections103.pdf
Formanack, G., & Pietsch, L. (2011). Fixed schedules can support 21st- century skills. School Library Monthly, 27(6), 8-10. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=iih&AN=58657146&site=ehost-live
Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group. (2014). The beating heart of the school. Retrieved from http://www2.eastriding.gov.uk/EasySiteWeb/GatewayLink.aspx?alId=620060
Lupton, M. (2016). Adding value: Principals’ perceptions of the role of the teacher-librarian. School Libraries Worldwide, 22(1). Retrieved from https://iasl-online.org/resources/Documents/05luptonfinalformatted49-61.pdf
Markless, S., Bentley, E., Pavey, S., Shaper, S., Todd, S., & Webb, C. (2016). The innovative school librarian (2nd ed.). London: Facet.
School community. (2014, October 21). Retrieved February 14, 2018, from The Glossary of Education Reform website: https://www.edglossary.org/school-community/
What is a teacher librarian? (2018, January 29). Retrieved February 14, 2018, from Australian School Library Association website: http://www.asla.org.au/advocacy/what-is-a-teacher-librarian.aspx