February 24

Community perceptions of the role of teacher librarians (ETL401 Assessment 1 Part B)

My first official task as a student is to share what I think parents and other members of school communities perceive the role of a teacher librarian to be. I have a gut reaction to that question. I believe that the perception of the librarian’s role would vary among different categories of school community members, in a manner similar to the “What my friends think I do” genre of internet meme.

(Blue Mountains Library Staff Connections, 2017)

I would expect the most varied and nuanced ideas regarding the scope of this role to come from teacher librarians themselves. They realise their jobs encompass student welfare, technological coaching, curriculum development and collaboration with all members of staff in addition to teaching and collection management responsibilities. Principals and other executive staff would likely have a similar view of the scope of the role, but less awareness of the myriad different tasks involved. I believe teachers would mostly think of aspects of the role that affect their own daily jobs – like providing resources that align with the curriculum, collaborating on teaching units and providing technological assistance. Students would mostly consider book recommendations and direct teaching done in library lesson time, while parents, in my view, would have the narrowest view. They probably only think about the resource management and book recommendation facets of the role.

I decided to test this hypothesis with a bit of research and conversation.

Kuon and Weimar (2012) found that media specialists, an American teacher librarian equivalent, described over 100 daily tasks performed in their jobs, of which their principals mentioned effectively 10. Both sets of stakeholders nominated connecting students with resources, teaching technology and research skills to the school community and collaboration with classroom teachers as the main facets of the role. In a small Australian research project (Lupton, 2016), principals also expressed recognition of the varied roles of teacher librarians and a view that their librarians represented “value added” to the school community. It is notable, however, that this perception of value often came with a caveat that it pertained more to the particular employee rather than the role of teacher librarian in and of itself.

I asked a small sample of parents and students, “What do you think school librarians do?” All of the answers focused on books: maintaining and circulating the collection and recommending items for pleasure and assignments. Some students had a broader perspective that included teaching, but mostly limited to research skills and library rules. This points to an issue raised by Teacher Librarian Holly Godfree (Hunt, 2017) who refers to the “invisible work” of the teacher librarian. She argues that tasks such as collaboration with teachers on curriculum and pedagogy tend to be seen and reognised in the work of the collaborating partner only, with the teacher librarian’s contribution hidden in the background.

I was pleased that my initial intuition was supported by research. Even the hierarchical graduation of perceived role diversity, starting at ‘all about the books’ by parents and progressing in complexity through students, teachers, principals and finally teacher librarians themselves, seems to hold up under testing.


Blue Mountains Library Staff Connections. (2012, May 21). “What My Friends Think I Do”: Librarians [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://bluemtslibstaff.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/what-my-friends-think-do-librarians/

Hunt, S. (Host). (2017, October 12). Why we need qualified teacher librarians for the digital future Kinderling Conversations [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.kinderling.com.au/kinderling-conversation/why-we-need-qualified-teacher-librarians-needed-for-the-digital-future

Kuon, T., & Weimar, H. (2012). How does your boss see you? School Library Journal, 58(09), 36-39. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1220638902?accountid=10344

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

Word Count: 504 (excluding references)

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Posted February 24, 2018 by marikamum in category Assessment, ETL401, Reflection, Role of TL

About the Author

Just another CSU MEdTL student creating a blog. When not studying, I write, teach and live with my husband and two high school children and our black Labrador retriever somewhere on the Lower North Shore of Sydney.

10 thoughts on “Community perceptions of the role of teacher librarians (ETL401 Assessment 1 Part B)

  1. Liz

    I love the notebook design of your blog, and I found the meme amusing.
    I wonder what we can do to increase the knowledge of the many and varied tasks and roles a Teacher librarian takes, especially amongst School leadership? I found some interesting related information in these articles, which includes informing the school community of the value of tasks like stocktake and weeding (or deselection), enhancing their knowledge of what a TL does.

    1. marikamum (Post author)

      Thank you, Liz. I will have to have a look at those sources. I definitely want to get my head around the promotion and marketing side of the TL role. Those are areas where I tend to struggle and so I can always use more pointers.

  2. Ellie

    Word count: 329

    Wow! Your assessment task was a pleasure to read. I like how you referenced relevant literature to support your point that teacher librarians do a lot of work not noticed by others. I especially enjoyed your use of the reference from Kuon & Weimar (2012) which found a group of teacher librarians described over 100 daily tasks they performed while their principals mentioned just 10! That statement in itself encapsulates one of the major problems in the perceptions of the teacher librarian role; people not being aware of the importance of the role and the depth of a teacher librarian’s work and skills!

    I liked how you tied your blog post together with your own bit of informal research which both supported your points and made your post more personal. However, one thing I could critique is that the assessment task asked us to reflect on our own experiences of school libraries thus far and I think that adding a section explicitly about your personal experience with school libraries as a parent, teacher, student etc. could have enhanced this piece of writing.

    In terms of the design and navigation of your blog, I think you have done a great job. The design is clean and the posts are easy to read. I like that you have included useful widgets such as “categories”, as this makes it easy for users to navigate your blog. However, I do think your right hand column seems a little cluttered with potentially too much going on. It could be a good idea to move some of the widgets to a different area, however I know that is not always feasible on some blog designs. It might be an idea to only implement 2-3 vital widgets (such as “categories”) in one area so you do not overwhelm your blog.

    Overall, you have written a very informative blog post that was a very enjoyable read and your blog is clearly set out with an easy navigation.


    Kuon, T., & Weimar, H. (2012). How does your boss see you? School Library Journal, 58(09), 36-39. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1220638902?accountid=

    1. marikamum (Post author)

      Thanks, Ellie.
      After posting I reviewed my reflection and the task description and I agree with your critique that I was a bit light on the personal experience facet of the task. The only widget areas I have with this theme are sidebar and footer (which is so far down as the posts accumulate!) I will see what I can do to open things up a bit. Much as I love the design aesthetic of the notebook, I may have to move to a different theme in order to optimise the functionality of the site. Thank you for the pertinent comments to help me in that process.

      1. Ellie

        Yes I also have a theme with only one widget area! It does make things harder and I am trying to decide if I should change themes (again!) or not. I think as we progress through the course we may need more widgets so like you, I might need more widget space.

        You’re welcome, it was a really great and well written post!

  3. jodie.webber

    Part C: Peer Review

    Hi Marika, last weekend when I looked at your blog Mrs Simon says I was impressed with the theme you had selected and the professional Librarian look that it had. The layout was easy to follow, especially the posts categorised on the right side within your navigation bar. 5 days later and revisiting your blog, I can see you have further edited your blog layout and the photo of you really personalises this page. As a first-time blogger, it gives me a chance to see the potential my blog has (lots to consider).
    Your post Community perceptions of the role of teacher librarians was an interesting and informative read. I especially liked reading your personal reflections before you backed up your thoughts with research. Kuon and Weimar’s (2012) findings that principals identified 10 daily tasks of a Librarian’s 100 daily tasks was an insightful and thought-provoking article. It made me reflect on tasks like more toner in the photocopy machine, dealing with plumbing issues of Library toilets, mould on the carpet under the staff fridge, closing the louvres whenever it rained. I read the article online and LOVED it, what an awesome read, especially the table with the Principals 10 tasks and then the Librarians 10 tasks.
    You wrote that you asked a small sample of parents and students ‘What do you think school librarians do?’ I know you were restricted by word length but it would have been good to know some specifics about this group. By that I mean: primary or secondary, or a mix of both? All from the same school? How many parents, how many students etc. As relieving TL last year, I set up a display of new books and had a student comment ‘Wow Miss you have been doing a lot of reading.’ Her perception was the Librarian reads EVERY book before it is purchased for the library!

    Word count 314

    (Thanks for your blog Marika, Mrs Simon says is a cute name)

    Kuon, T. & Weimar, H. (2012). How does your boss see you? School Library Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.slj.com/2012/09/industry-news/how-does-your-boss-see-you-proof-that-principals-value-librarians/#_

    1. marikamum (Post author)

      Thanks, Jodie!
      My sample was small enough to warrant the technical designation “tiny”, I believe. It did however represent a bit of a mixture. I posed the question to two parents, one of a Year 9 student and one who has two children, one in Year 7 and one in Year 3. The students I surveyed were the children of those parents plus my daughter, who is in Year 10. So I did have both primary (one school) and secondary (two schools) represented in my scant handful of respondents.
      What an interesting perception from your student, it provides food for thought about how personally taken our recommendations can be. That is a thought that is both inspiring and sobering.

  4. steven.annis

    I really enjoyed your post on the perceived role of a Teacher/Librarian and like me you conducted a poll, yours was in a different relevant area. Mine was a voice poll of students and I realised that while their answers were the same, the meaning of their answer had a different significance. I suspect that my previous role as a LOTE teacher is seen in the same way and that perhaps I should have used your approach on my colleages who often fall into the category of, I studied French, can’t remember any of it, so what use was it? camp.

    Thanks for your insights

    Steve A

    1. marikamum (Post author)

      Thank you, Steven.
      I enjoyed reading your post (Annis, 2017) as well. It is really helpful to get insight from people working in different school contexts. Being in a secondary school and in a different socio-economic area to my usual haunts there were marked differences in our experiences, but it was interesting to see places where they overlap as well. The library being both a place of respite and of learning is one of those areas.
      I was inspired by your idea of inviting students to be part of your selection committee and giving them responsibilities for maintaining the space they are using.


      Annis, S. (November 20, 2017). Shalvey style [Blog post]. Retrieved March 9, 2018 from stevieworld: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/stevenannis/2017/11/20/shalvey-style/

  5. lefitz46

    Hello Marika,

    This is an outstandingly well used blog – you are using it as it is intended: a frequently visited personal learning journal. You’ve got it organised well by categories, and are clearly doing a great job of reflecting on your two subjects. You’ve written a thoughtful peer review on Steph’s blog, considering appearance and content. Your reflection on perceptions of the community and parents on the role of the TL was interesting to read, and it was innovative to set it in some personal research amongst students and teachers, as well as quite substantial use of sources, to confirm that it is TLs who have the clearest view of the scope of the role, followed by principals, then teachers, then students, and least of all parents. You use your sources correctly for APA format, with some minor errors in the reference list over use of capitals… APA only uses initial capitals, so that the Adding value entry had too many caps!

    I was interested in your thoughts on collaboration, that the teacher collaborating is more visible than the TL collaborating. Maybe there’s scope there for your literature review. Future proofing inquiry learning through fostering of collaboration. Just a thought.

    Well done, Marika, you are a very engaged student.

    ETL401 SC

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