I am fortunate as a teacher to have worked in both high school and primary school before I became interested in working in a school library. Across the two levels of schooling I witnessed many similarities in the role of the teacher librarian (TL) and a few differences, predominately in the main key role of their duties.
The key role of the high school TL appeared to be information sourcing. Much of her time was taken up with helping students find resources for study and collecting resources for teachers – books, dvds, journals etc. She would also provide ideas for teachers for resources to match lessons. According to the New South Wales Teacher’s Federation (1993), the TL “develops, organises and manages information resources which meet the educational, cultural and recreational needs of students and the professional needs of teachers” (“professional role”, point 5) as one of their key roles.
Alternatively, the main role of the primary school librarian appeared to be more on encouraging reading. The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) highlights one of the roles of the librarian is to “maintain literacy as a high priority, engaging students in reading, viewing and listening for understanding and enjoyment” (ASLA, n.d., “Teacher librarians as curriculum leaders”). Indeed, the New South Wales Teacher’s Federation (1993) states another of the key roles the TL does is “provides experiences to encourage reading.” (“professional role”, point 4). The TL’s I observed tried to foster/maintain students’ interest in reading by reading and discussing books etc and facilitating literacy – based competitions such as the Premier’s Reading Challenge.
A second key role of the high school teacher librarian was the responsibility for managing technology through coordinating the library computer bookings, assisting with computer and printing problems and processing printing payments.
A common role across both levels of schooling was supervision of students in the library. In primary school this mainly occurred before school (in some schools) and at lunch time (usually for children to play with computer games, toys or colour in). The high school teacher librarian also had before school and lunch supervision plus the responsibility of extra supervision of students completing open study courses and ensuring the library was quiet during senior study and examination periods in the library.
Interestingly, neither teacher librarian was thought of as a ‘real’ teacher by other teachers rather as a ‘librarian’, which perhaps stems from the easily visible roles of library administration such as borrowing, returning and shelving of resources (mostly books).
However, overall, the high school librarian seemed to be more valued as a resource than the primary school librarian. The general impression of primary school teachers was that teacher librarian is an ‘easy’ job, not really teaching and many teachers appeared to not really care what happened in library so long as they got their Release from Face to Face (RFF). The role was often also undervalued in primary school as not many teachers utilised the librarian for support with the curriculum or resources for it.
Whilst these are the main roles and perceptions that I observed about TLs, there are many more roles that go undetected. What other roles have you seen TLs carry out?
Australian School Library Association. (n.d). What is a Teacher Librarian?. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/what-is-a-teacher-librarian
New South Wales Teachers Federation (1993). The role of the Teacher-Librarian in the School Community. Retrieved from https://www.nswtf.org.au/pages/role-teacher-librarian-school-community.html