The evolving role of the TL – from keeper and stamper of the books to…

 

Current Feels…image source: Pixabay

One of the things I find fascinating about studying my MedTL is the stark contrast between the subjects and topics I am engaging with. I experienced it last semester and I find myself in a similar situation this semester given the combination of subjects I have enrolled in. On any given day I can be learning about anything from metadata and cataloguing to exploring how the TL can work in a leadership capacity. It is a constant reminder of just how complex the role of a TL really is. At this stage of ETL504, it would be remiss of me not to admit to being completely overwhelmed by the leadership aspects of this role. Coming from small schools with small libraries, I have found it difficult to relate to the case studies presented so far. Despite this, when paired with the literature, I am beginning to understand why the TL would need to have a firm understanding of leadership principles in order to effectively run an effective library which effectively serves it’s school community.

What skills, strategies and leadership styles must the modern librarian employ in order to be a forward thinking and innovative contributor to their environment?

From what I have read so far, and that is what I am basing this on as I have no leadership experience, my understanding is that the best leaders adopt strategies from a variety of leadership styles. Smith (2016, p. 75) suggests that using an integrated model of leadership which draws upon a variety of leadership styles allows a leader to develop strong relationships, which he argues is the basis of strong leadership. This argument is supported by Moir, Hattie and Jansen (2014,  p. 5) who’s studies show that secondary teachers see relational qualities such as trust, respect and effective communication as essential in effective leaders.

Several weeks ago, I would not have understood how this could relate to the role of the TL. However, I now understand that libraries are not always the small spaces with two part-time staff that I am accustomed to. A school librarian will often be managing a team of staff who work undertake a multitude of tasks. They are also providing services to teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as students. This therefore requires a far more complex skill set from that of ‘stamper and keeper of books’. TLs are, in their own right, leaders within the school and while I know I have much more to learn, of this fact, I am sure.

 

References

Moir, S., Hattie, J. & Jansen, C.  (2014). Teacher perspectives of ‘effective’ leadership in schoolsAustralian Educational Leader, 36(4), 36-40. Retrieved from http://www.minnisjournals.com.au/acel/

Smith, B. (2016). The role of leadership style in creating a great schoolSELU Research Review Journal, 1(1), 65-78. Retrieved from https://selu.usask.ca/documents/research-and-publications/srrj/SRRJ-1-1-Smith.pdf

Reflecting on leadership styles

Even before beginning my career as a teacher, I wanted to be a school principal, though I’m not entirely sure why. Shortly after I entered the teaching profession, I quickly decided that I no longer wanted to be a principal and that I was destined for life as a classroom teacher. Even throughout the most challenging years in my teaching career, my love for the classroom has remained constant. Wanting to combine my love of the classroom with my love of children’s literature, I decided that I would make the move into the role of a teacher librarian. Since beginning my Masters in teacher librarianship, I have come to realise that the role of TL is far more complex than I originally thought. You can read more about that here. Yet another part of the role, as I am beginning to understand, is one of leadership. Given that I am only a week into this subject, I have not yet made solid connections between the role of the TL and leadership, however it has been interesting to learn about an array of leadership styles and to reflect on which of these I have experienced personally, and which of these I have employed within my own classroom.

A brief overview of leadership styles covered so far

Situational leadership – a leadership style which changes depending on the situation and the actions of the followers (Bales, 2019).

Transactional leadership – a leadership style which uses rules and incentives to motivate employees (Bales, 2019).

Transformational leadership – a leadership style which focuses on improvement and is particularly applicable to situations which require change, as it employs strategies including goal setting, planning and incentives. There is a strong emphasis on personal and professional development in addition to team building and collaboration between staff (Bales, 2019).

Instructional leadership – a leadership style which centres on the principal and their team but also draws on other key staff and community members to aid with decision making. While directing ‘from the top’, staff are given the opportunity to develop best practise (Bales, 2019).

Inspirational leadership – a leadership style in which the leader aims to empower and enable their followers through accepting and encouraging everyone on an individual basis (Smith, 2016, p. 69).

Which leadership style is most effective within a school context?

As I was reading about the leadership styles named above and considering my current leader, I found it difficult to pinpoint exactly which style she drew from. According to Smith (2016), this is actually a positive thing. Smith (2016, p. 75) surmises that employing strategies from transformational, transactional, inspirational and instructional leadership styles to create an integrated leadership model is important in order to build a strong school culture and have a positive impact on student achievement. While I don’t believe it is possible for everyone to be happy all of the time, there is certainly a strong learning culture within the school at which I am employed. Professional learning is encouraged and ‘thinking outside the box’ is supported in my workplace as per the inspirational leadership style. At the same time, there are certainly some transactional leadership strategies being used to ensure that tasks such as data entry continue to be carried out on time.

References

Bales, J. (2019). ETL504, Module 2.2, Leadership theories, Class notes. Retrieved from School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University, website: https://www.csu.edu.au/

Smith, B. (2016). The role of leadership style in creating a great schoolSELU Research Review Journal, 1(1), 65-78. Retrieved from https://selu.usask.ca/documents/research-and-publications/srrj/SRRJ-1-1-Smith.pdf

 

ETL 504 – Initial thoughts

After reading Liz’s blog post, I thought I would just pop down some of my own ideas about the subject – ETL504 – Teacher Librarian as a Leader. As I commented on Liz’s post, when you have no experience with a particular topic, idea etc. it can be easy to form your ideas and opinions based on what is being presented to you. In this case, I am engaging in a subject called Teacher Librarian as a Leader, so my first response was to go ahead and assume that teacher librarians are leaders. However, reading Liz’s blog prompted me to ponder over this a little and consider what I have observed of Teacher Librarian’s, since I haven’t worked as one as yet.

Do I think librarians are leaders? In ETL503 and ETL401, I learnt about the importance of advocating for the role of the teacher librarian. I really hadn’t considered a librarian to be a leader before I undertook these subjects. My experience of teacher librarians suggests that they are not leaders, at least not in the schools that I have worked in. However, if we can embrace the task of advocating for our role as a TL, and embrace the opportunity to showcase and share our skills to others, perhaps we might just be recognised as leaders within our school.

I am curious to learn more about how the TL can be a leader within his/her school. While again, I have not practical or theoretical knowledge of this topic, I am confident that I will complete this subject, just like I did in my previous subjects, armed with an array of new knowledge, awareness and skills to help me move successfully and confidently into my new career as a teacher librarian.

Managing in the information era – Response to Literature

In his article, Colvin (2000) discusses the shift in thinking about the role of people in the workforce. He discusses the theory of Taylor’s Scientific Management developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor and its contribution to work efficacy in the 20th century. He goes on to explain how this type of management system is less relevant for the 21st century, as we move from a manual labour force to one of information and knowledge.

So how does Colvin’s article relate to school libraries today? The 21st century has brought with it the ‘information age’ which sees information and knowledge as fundamental and desired skills within the workforce. Colvin (2000) calls this a ‘knowledge based economy’, which is strongly supported by the use of information. As Colvin (2000) aptly points out ‘the whole world is changing’. Those working within the information sector are well-placed to help people develop the necessary skills to be able to actively work within and contribute to this economy. School librarians and information specialists play a crucial role in ensuring that the students of today, who will become the workforce of tomorrow, are able to locate, access and use this information to engage in the participatory work culture that is both required and valued from 21st century managers.

 

References

Colvin, G. (2000). Managing in the info eraFortune, 141(5). Retrieved from http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2000/03/06/275231/index.htm?iid=sr-link1.

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