The principal has a big influence on how effectively a school library is run and the role of the TL based their perception of the role of the TL (Lupton, 2016, p.49) and whilst I was supported by the principal in my professional development as a teacher I didn’t feel supported in my role as a TL.
When I was employed for a full-time temporary position for a year as a relieving TL I was briefed to include more technology in library lessons and to modernise the library by the principal. However, I felt conflicted and frustrated by these expectations during the year as they were not able to be met due to lack of funding and support by the principal and the senior administration officer.
To incorporate more technology into lessons I was given 9 desk top computers in a separate room in the library (where there were the most connections) but was told by the deputy principal that students had to be supervised in this room while using computers due to past behaviour problems with computer usage. This made using the computers very impractical as I could not fit the rest of the class in the room. In second term the appointment of a new graduate to the school meant the installation of a computer classroom for them took desktops from the library and left the library with 5 computers. This was still an impractical number to incorporate technology use by the class.
Later in the year I asked the principal for Chromebooks for the library to help teach research skills and incorporate more technology and was told there was money available from surplus budgets but he preferred to spend it on things that made the school look better – like new signage around the school– so the community could see the money was being spent. I would rather like to argue that the community consists of students and parents who would surely appreciate money being spent on Chromebooks so students can keep up with advances in information literacy and digital technologies for research, learning and creation of their own digital artefacts.
Apart from the principal I would suggest that the senior administration officer (SAM) also has a lot of influence on the effectiveness of the TL. Despite the directions by the principal at the start of my employment that he wished the library to be modernised, many times my requests for items were refused or just not ordered. These included signage for different areas of the library – such as junior fiction, fiction and non-fiction and shelf labelling to help students to find sections on the shelves (such as alphabet lettering for junior fiction shelving and numbering for non-fiction). I was even told by the SAM that she knew the library needed work but other areas of the school needed to be fixed up first and quite often when I asked how to order things it would be a very vague answer or a reply of ‘I don’t have time at the moment’.
If I knew then what I knew now I would have applied the ‘WIIFM’ principle to the principal (Kachel, 2017, p.50) – pointing out how Chromebooks could benefit students in information literacy. I would also point out how signage could help students to quickly and easily locate information in the library and allow them to spend more time on their learning. It would have been useful to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with the principal to discuss what they wanted to achieve in the library program (Kachel, 2017, p.51), especially in terms of what type of technology they wanted to be incorporated and how they would like to it implemented (perhaps this would have also helped in the case for the acquisition of Chromebooks).
Interview question results by Lupton (2016) showed that the principal supported the TL by making frequent visits to the library and encouraging other teachers to engage with the TL, being encouraging of TL ideas and allowing time for curriculum development between the TL and stages. I was asked to attend staff meetings with alternate stages each week which was good to get an overall view of the school landscape as I often wasn’t included in the loop of things happening in the school otherwise. However, I was not given the chance to be involved in stage planning days, having to take RFF classes instead. There was also a lack of involvement with the principal, the only time the principal came to the library was during the holidays when I had rearranged the library to open it up for more flexible learning spaces and a few times to tell me how I should have applied a discipline policy according to their school or to show parents the library on school tours. Other than that, it was as if the library didn’t exist. He didn’t even visit book fairs or encourage teachers to visit book fairs or utilise the library. I think the lack of involvement with the TL stemmed from the already established culture of the school with the previous TL and as I was new to the school (on a temporary contract) and didn’t know the systems, culture and students it was difficult to push to be involved in whole -school planning regarding curriculum and fighting for improvements to the library.
Upon reflection, perhaps I could have been more strategic in my time in the library. The majority of my time was spent on library collection management and setting up functions of the library, such as establishing Premier’s Reading Challenge sections and serial sections, weeding and disposing of long out of date material and purchasing more popular fiction books to encourage student reading and engagement with the library. This may not have been the best use of my time as Purcell (2010) suggests library collection management clerical duties should be a small part of the librarian’s role and can be outsourced so the TL can focus on inquiry research. However, funding was easily available for book purchases as I could use Scholastic rewards from bookfair and the SAM was happy to pay invoices for books. Spending my time on curriculum development and advocating for more access to technology with the principal may have been a more beneficial use of my time. I think the strategies outlined by Kachel (2017) would be beneficial in future situations, such as having face to face time with the principal focusing on what they want to happen in library, so the TL always has a strong advocate on their side.
For those of you in a TL position do you regularly engage with their principal about their goals for the school? If not, what stops you from doing so?
Kachel, D. (2017). The principal and the librarian: positioning the school library program. Teacher Librarian, 45(1), 50-52. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=126080411&site=ehost-live
Lupton, M. (2016). Adding Value: Principals’ Perceptions of the Role of the Teacher-Librarian. School Libraries Worldwide 22(1), 49-61. doi: 10.14265.22.1.005.
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. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=iih&AN=55822153&site=ehost-live