Are Classroom libraries a real option?

It would come as no surprise to any of you that education budgets are constantly being stretched.

The slow erosion of funding has led many schools to debate the value of their resources to determine which ones need to be cut in order to survive fiscally.  Unfortunately, school libraries are the department that is being most adversely affected. This adverse effect can be seen either by the absence of a qualified teacher librarian and or the complete absence of a school library. Cook (2018) suggests that libraries are robbed of their funding because they are deemed useless in this internet age. I have spoken previously about the importance of a teacher librarian so this post is not about that.  But some schools, overburdened by numbers, convert their library spaces into additional classrooms. When this occurs, most often than not, these schools sometimes set up classroom libraries to combat the loss of a school library.  

According to Cook (2018), libraries are essential to a school’s success. 

But are classroom libraries the same as having a school library with a qualified teacher librarian?  We are all aware that exposure to books is positively correlated to improved literacy (Neuman, n.d.).  We are also know that not all households have the same bibliophilic tendencies. This means that there are a proportion of students who are not exposed to books in the home.  Neuman (n.d.) elucidates that it is the presence of books in close proximity that correlate directly to increased literacy.  

Schools historically are known for exposing young minds to the wonderful world of imagination and literature via the school library.  But with no school library, is the alternative a classroom library? But what if the classroom library is poorly executed? By executed, I mean poorly stocked and unable to meet the needs of the students.  This can lead to limited student engagement with the classroom materials and if there is no school library, then there is no safety net for these disengaged readers. Implementing an assortment of books in a box is not equivalent to the presence of a qualified professional. After all, teachers are not trained in information management and resourcing, and it seems foolhardy to leave the resource management to at the hands of an already overburdened classroom teacher.  

One suggestion is that the classes each have their own classroom library but they are managed by a teacher librarian. 

So rather that rather than a random assortment of materials, the books are carefully curated by the teacher librarian to meet the evolving needs of the students.  An example of this would be a box of books are rotated in regular intervals and that the reading levels within are appropriately aligned to the needs of the students (Sacks, 2018).  But whilst in theory is outstanding, the practicality is far more complicated. Sacks (2018) surmised that consistency and equity are the largest issues with classroom libraries as the titles will vary between classes.  The primary problem is that schools would need to almost double their collection for them to adequately service the needs of all their classrooms. This would incur extra costs for the school. There would also be greater difficulty in tracking the books and ensuring that they are maintained.   

The downside of having a teacher librarian manage physical classroom collections is that they are then limited in their ability to create, manage and implement information literacy programs.  

Lance & Kachel (2018) indicate that the research is clear about the correlation between high quality library programs and increased student achievement. Frierson & Virtue (2013) believe that it library programs that need to be embedded into classroom practice.  They go on to illustrate that this improvement is not just for affluent schools but for all schools. In fact, arguably the lack of a school library is discriminatory to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, that do in desperate fact, require regular access to libraries, their programs and books in order to engage equitably with educational practices.  

There are currently teacher librarians in Australia that are creating LibGuides that are specifically relevant to units of work and use the school’s learning management systems to reach their audience.

This method also means that students that are away from school due to ill health or other personal reasons are still able to engage with their learning off site.  An example of this would be the class novel study with appropriate supporting materials and related works. So with our Year 7’s currently studying the Jackie French novel “Hitler’s Daughter”, the LibGuide contains the ebook version as well as; study notes, worksheets, supporting extracts from other similar novels such as “Boy in a wooden box” by Jim Boyne, “Book Thief” by Mark Zusack and “Dollmaker of Krakow”by R M Romero.  I have also created an online museum with images relating to the book where students can view artefacts and watch short video-clips.  

All of this take time.  Time that I have because I am not curating classroom library boxes.  But if I was not there, or if the position of teacher librarian was not there, then students would not have access to these resources.  Yes, there are teachers who do have the time and energy to go beyond the normal to create amazing learning experiences for their students.  But with 50% of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, and nearly ⅓ of employed teachers suffering from a mental illness and or addiction, overburdening them further is foolish.

If prisons have mandated librarians to ensure that their collections are servicing the needs for their community, then I think our children can have the same access.  Removing school libraries to minimise costs is short sighted.  It is not beneficial for the teachers, the students and society.  

Cook, H., (2018) Extending the shelf life of the school library in the internet age. SMH. Retrieved from

Frierson, E., & Virtue, A. (2013) Integrating academic library services directly into classroom instruction through discovery tools; Bringing library resources into the online classroom. Retrieved from

Lance, K., & Kachel, D. (2018) Why school librarians matter: what years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved from

Neuman, S. (n.d.) The Importance of a classroom library. Scholastic Teacher Resource. Retrieved from

Sacks, A. (2018) Why school librarians are the literacy leaders we need.  Teaching the whole story [blog].  Retrieved from

What hat to wear today? – Module 3.2

JCamargo / Pixabay

The teacher librarian wears many hats in their position in a school library.  Each hat offers a different set of priorities and task that fall under the umbrella of jobs.  Whilst established TL instinctively know how to effortlessly wear the correct hat for the occasion, new and floundering TL often struggle to decide which role is most important.  This struggle can often lead to feeling overloaded and beset with inadequacy. Teacher burnout is real, with almost 50% of new graduates not making it past five years in the classroom, it is a worry of mine.  I am 3 years into this gig and quite frankly I am tired. Not just the tired that comes with being a parent with young children, or the tired that comes from a big week at work. I am talking about the immense emotional and mental load that sucks the joy right out of you. Right now, being a bus driver is looking like a great career.  

Herring (2007) defined eleven facets in the role of a teacher librarian, Purcell (2010) indicates that there are five major components and Lamb (2011) has seven listed.  Each of these facets comprises of a different task that a TL is responsible for. But it would be physically exhausting to even attempt to do all these roles at the same time, and if TL did try to, they would burn out very quickly.  Both Lamb (2011) and Herring (2007) prioritise the needs of the clientele. This is consistent with ASLA/ALIA (2016) mandate that a school library should have teaching and learning as the main focus of their collection. Summarising ASLA (2003), Herring summarises that there are three roles out of that original eleven that need particular focus.  These roles are curriculum leader, information specialist and information manager. The three roles manage different aspects of the TL role.

Lamb (2011) agrees that a TL has multiple roles with many of them evolving rapidly in the recent past.  The budgetary squeeze has added pressure onto TL to adapt their roles to ensure their viability in the school context.  This adaptation has redefined the role of the TL from a archivist and curator of knowledge into facilitator of knowledge in both the physical and digital worlds.  This facilitation ranges from the acquisition of materials that build a school collection, text and digital, and the implicit and explicit teaching of life long skills

The importance of connections with people is highlighted in (Lamb, 2011, p.4).  Whilst these connections can be both F-T-F, there is far more importance placed on electronic communication.  A TL must be able to connect to the school audience, which includes its students, teachers, parents, board members and community.  In doing so, the TL firmly installs the library, and its programs as a cornerstone of the school. These connections, also known as clever marketing, will promote the value of the library to its patrons and its financiers.  Whereas Purcell ( 2010) defines a TL as a leader, in that they are tasked with being involved with the school hierarchy and extended community. They can see the big picture of the school community and identify what trends are occurring within the school.  

Gellinger / Pixabay


Herring (2007) argues that for a TL to prove their worth to a school context, prioritising the inclusion of instructional partner is essential.  In this role, TL collaborate with their colleagues to implement the pedagogical practices that benefit the student cohort (Purcell, 2010). This is because there are a multitude of studies to highlight increased educational outcomes when TL plan teaching, learning and assessment with their colleagues.  This increase in outcomes is often measurable and can be used to highlight the efficacy of the library programs amidst budget cuts and cranky principals. The dynamics of a TL allows them to engage in curriculum design and create assessments that promote higher order thinking. Due to their experience and knowledge, a TL is able to create learning opportunities that are often beyond the scope of a classroom teacher.  


It was odd that Purcell (2010) classified teacher as the last and theoretically least important, the role of a TL.  This correlates with the view that many principals and teachers do not believe that teacher librarians are in fact teachers simply because many do not have face to face time.  The modern TL is challenged to do so much more. TL need to model correct information seeking behaviour in the digital world.  They also need to teach it. TL need to teach literacy skills, critical thinking skills and and at the same time model best practice to their fellow colleagues.  Teaching teachers is essential to a TL as it is impossible for a librarian to closely monitor and instruct all the kids in their learning. But if the classroom teachers know the skills, then they can re-iterate the teaching and learning to their students (Purcell, 2010, p.33).   TL are the model of 21st information seeking behaviour. As the information specialist, a TL is able to seek, find, use and create information with ease.


The irony is that Purcell (2010) places the role of information specialist above teaching.  But libraries have evolved significantly in the past fifty years from print, microfilm, newspapers, to print, ebooks, databases and websites. The internet revolution has permanently changed how adults and children seek information.  The advent of technology has speed up the rate in which this information seeking behaviour has changed. This facet of being a TL means that they have to assist students in the seeking of information across multiple modalities as well as ensure that resources within the library support the curriculum.


I honestly do not know how to prioritise the roles and which aspects of my job I should let slide.  There are some days when I do not get time to even have a bite to eat as I am flat chat run off my feet, let alone plan for what aspect is more important than another.  Yesterday was one of those days. Between prepping book boxes for classes; explicitly teaching information literacy and supervision during recess/lunch, I sat down for the first time at our staff meeting at 4pm.  Book boxes for classes we cannot fit into the library, as we are currently fully booked out, so now we prepare resources for classes that cannot get a booking and run the lesson in their room. Most classes have a range of abilities so I had to hunt for some hi-lo texts as well as find some interactive websites and digital resources for the classroom teacher.  We do make an extra effort for graduate teachers to ease them into teaching. What we don’t want is them leaving the profession. So we do try to make their lives a bit easier.


So the only thing I gave up this week was lunch.  Unfortunately, that is not translating to a svelte figure but rather the scoffing of snacks between classes and the 3.45pm biscuit binge.  


ALIA and ASLA (2016) Statement on Teacher Librarians in Australia. Retrieved from


Herring, J., (2007) Chapter 2 – Teacher librarians and the school library.  LIbraries in the 21st Century, Charting Directions in Information Services. Topics in Australasian Library and Information Studies. Pp. 27-42.  DOI: 10.1016/B978-1-876938-43-7.50002-8


Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends : Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36


Purcell M. All Librarians Do Is Check out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection. 2010;29(3):30-33


Kachel, D. (2017). The principal and the librarian: Positioning the school library program. Teacher Librarian, 45(1), 50-52.