In the short time since leaving school, and the associated safe haven that school libraries provide for nerd youth like myself, my experience of school libraries has been small but significant; fledgling but formative; casual but crucial. And maybe dominated by my love of English language and literature.
My perception of what a Teacher Librarian (TL) is has changed a few times over the years. While at school, the librarian was a mentalist, always knowing which shelf I would find my next favourite book. At university, I found myself in awe of librarians; no longer there just to ‘shush’ patrons, but active contributors to the 21st century learning environment, with their immense knowledge of information systems. After graduation and in the world of freaking out because somehow someone decided I could be trusted to be the teacher coolly being a Casual Relief Teacher, I sadly slipped into not having much to do with school libraries other than borrowing the odd resource for classes I was covering.
This happily changed when I was part of the orientation process for fresh Year 7 students in an all-boys high school at the beginning of 2016. Encouraging the hush on entering the library, I felt the same tingle that I did when I was in their shoes (albeit, mine were Mary Janes). That library calm still existed here, in this concrete jungle of a school. While the jostling didn’t necessarily stop, as there were limited soft furnishings to sit on and the boys were loath to have a regular chair when presented with such finery, there was definitely a revered sort of semi-silence, so much so that once again the library became my place of worship.
My understanding of the role of TLs can be summed up thusly: the familiar face, the lover of literature, the tech whiz, the always-there support for teaching staff, and the enabler of repose from the hustle-and-bustle of the rest of life, both inside the school and elsewhere.
While I have the utmost admiration and respect for Career Relief Teachers, my personal experiences have pushed me dangerously close to the quarter of recent graduates who choose to leave the teaching profession in the first five years (Mansfield, Beltman & Price, 2014). I worry that coupling my lack of time spent as a classroom teacher, along with a position that is “sometimes… undervalued and not appreciated” (Bonanno, 2010) is maybe not a great life choice. Farmer (2007), in her article on predictors for success of TLs, at first confirms that the first few years will be hard. However, her discussion then follows with the clincher: Successful TLs are “extroverted… self-confident risk takers or at least open-minded, lifelong learners, and flexible” (Farmer, 2007).
In a perverse way, I am even looking forward to being the youthful TL with a lack of experience. There seems to be much bustle in the argument of whether students these days deserve the best in 21st century technology, or if reading patterns are better served in the traditional physical form (Rosenwald, 2015). Even in my limited experience I can see the shift away from the former, but believe that being a digital native myself can help me marry the two perfectly, being a TL who can appropriately meet the needs of the modern learner.
Bonanno, K. (2010). Reflections 1: Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools. Access, 24(3), 9–11.
Farmer, L. (2007). Predictors for Success: Experience of Beginning and Expert Teacher Librarians. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the… Annual Conference, 2007, 1-29.
Mansfield, C., Beltman, S., & Price, A. (2014). ‘I’m coming back again!’ The resilience process of early career teachers. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 20(5), 547-567.
Oatley, K. (2011). Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction. John Wiley & Sons.
Rosenwald, , M.C. (2015). Why digital natives prefer reading in print: Yes, you read that right. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/why-digital-natives-prefer-reading-in-print-yes-you-read-that-right/2015/02/22/8596ca86-b871-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html.