When I began this course, and particularly this subject, I did so because I was (and still am) passionate about teaching and learning and reading and students. Becoming a TL seemed like a natural progression to my classroom teaching practices and it still seemed like it would be a role with enough dimensions fuel my passion. My knowledge about the role of a TL was extremely limited and was based on my experiences firstly as a student, and then as a teacher through observing my colleagues. The TL’s main role, in my experience, was to check out books to classes, create pathfinders (usually printed) for disorganised teachers, and catalogue and process new materials. Occasionally, their role would see them address year levels and inform them of new resources, or of the importance of referencing their research correctly to avoid plagiarism. All of this, however, was usually done in a rush and squeezed into a brief twenty minute assembly. As Purcell, suggests, I wrongly thought that “all librarians do is check out books. . .” (Purcell, 2008).
Although I knew this course would challenge my preconceptions about the role of a TL, what I didn’t expect was the potential enormity of their role. Herring (2007), identifies 11 roles of a TL, whilst Purcell (2008), identifies five roles. This seems really discrepant given that TLs are so often undervalued by the executive staff and the teaching staff who see them as the equivalent of a “chimney sweep”! (Braxton, 2003). Evidence suggests that the school Principal plays a vital role in determining how effective the school library is (Hartzell, 2003) and evidence suggests that the school library plays a pivotal role in the learning outcomes of its students (2-9% of student achievement can be attributed to the school library) (Lance, 2001 in Oberg, 2002). I knew that a good TL- like any good professional, is proactive (Oberg, 2006), but I was surprised at the lack of Principal support that many TLs seem to receive as I would have liked to believe that all Principals value all members of their staff and that the library (or media centre, or information resource centre) is a valued school resource.
What I didn’t expect (perhaps somewhat naively) in undertaking this course and the discussions about information literacy, was the role of the TL as information literacy teacher. (Herring, 2007; Purcell, 2008, Eisenberg, 2006). Braxton (2008), states that “literacy through literature was the prime responsibility of the teacher-librarian”. Indeed, it was this literature role that I was most familiar with. Although my first blog post spoke about my passion for information literacy, it also, as many other students’ did, spoke about my love of books (Warner, 2011). Now, however, the role of TL as literacy teacher is much broader as the concept of literacy has expanded to include all types of information. Prior to this course, I thought that it was primarily the role of the subject-teacher to teach their students to think critically about information and how best to use it. Ideally, they would be doing this as they were the ones to set the inquiry based projects. Walker, however, states that the school library media specialist must “understand those skills that students need to read and, most importantly, to read for understanding, [they have] . . . the special expertise necessary to bridge the technical skills of reading with the experiential side of reading” (in Cart, 2007). With this information then, it is necessary that the TL be proactive and work collaboratively with classroom teachers across all aspects of the curriculum to ensure that these technical skills are being brought to light. One way to do this, is to “envision the ideal and then work backwards” (Higginbottom, 2010).
The role of a TL entails so much more than reading and processing books. TLs today are dynamic collaborators who, with their passion for information and technology in all forms are able to help students become critical, literate and engaged. My perception of the TL has expanded and will continue to do so as the roles and responsibilities afforded them adapt to the changing information environment.
Braxton, B. (2003). Raising your profile- again. Teacher Librarian. 31 (1). Pp 41-42.
Braxton, B. (2008). The teacher-librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian. Retrieved from: www.redorbit.com/news/education/1324258/the_teacherlibrarian_as_literacy_leader
Cart, M. (2007). Teacher librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian. 34 (3). Pp 8-12. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
Eisenberg, M. (2006). Three roles for the 21st-century teacher-librarian. CSLA Journal. 29(2). Pp 21-23.
Hartzell, G. (2003). Why should Principals support school libraries? Connections. 43.
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed. ) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Higginbottom, J. (2010). What is a literacy leader? Literacy Leader (blog). Retrieved from: http://newteacherlibrarians.pbworks.com/w/page/23157211/Literacy%20Leader October 7, 2011.
Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement? School Libraries in Canada. 22(2). Pp 10-13.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian. 33 (3). Pp 13-18.
Purcell, M. (2008). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the rols of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection. 29 (3). Pp 30-33.
Warner, J. (2011). Welcoming myself to blogger (again). Unshelved. Retrieved from http://tlunshelved.blogspot.com October 5, 2011.