Perspectives on the role of Teacher Librarians

The way Teacher Librarians prioritise their roles in a school environment will depend on the school situation.  Are they members of a team of library specialists or alone in the world of books and technology in their school?  In today’s technological information rich society a focus on information literacy, with engaging collaborative teaching practices to influence student learning would be taking priority over the administrative roles of the library. As Herring (2007) states the school library should firstly be seen as the centre of effective learning followed by a centre of learning resources. Regardless of the technology or resources available for use the Teacher Librarian should engage and challenge learners with planned curriculum for lifelong learning skills and ideals so that they adapt to the changing world they will experience.

Teacher Librarians often find themselves with many other roles apart from the curriculum idealist, information literacy expert and the technology guru in the school.  They can be a point of call for liaison with the community by offering services to their school environment with programs assisting with literacy and reading with families and other community members. They may be the source of historical archives for their community and a centre for community use out of hours offering their technology for use by the general community.  Within schools Teacher Librarians with their leadership and general organisation skills may also find themselves with administrative roles beyond their normal duties. In my experience the skills of a Teacher Librarian are varied and many and this leads to their involvement in many differing roles.

Lamb (2011) portrays the Teacher Librarian as more than an information technologist, administrator and teacher. Teacher Librarians may be curriculum consultants, community collaborators, digital detectives, but the emphasis remains on teaching and learning and how the Teacher Librarian affects student achievement and outcome.  The Teacher Librarian is the focal connection between all learning and those providing the learning opportunity, be it in varied mediums and locations.  The Teacher Librarian being focused on teaching and provision of learning opportunities in innovative, flexible environments that fully utilise technological mediums.

Herring (2007) and Purcell (2010) also acknowledge that the role of a teacher Librarian is varied and diverse; however they aspire to emphasize the leader and advocate role of Teacher Librarians in all that they do.  Ranging from the curriculum role to teaching information skills, to being the technology inspiration in their schools, Teacher librarians should be at the forefront of whatever is happening in the school environment.  Herring (2007) places the Australian focus for Teacher Librarians as the school curriculum leader as well as the information specialist and information services manager. Although the role is constantly changing, the Teacher Librarian must adapt to new pedagogies, and new technologies in order to facilitate the multi-literate students who enter our doors.

Purcell (2010) supports this belief but also advocates that the numerous roles being placed upon Teacher Librarians are interconnected and cannot be performed without the support of one another and consequently Teacher Librarians are required to constantly adapt to the new and challenging roles being placed upon them.

In order to be as proactive as Lamb (2011) and especially Valenza (2010) would firstly need to give up the library administrative role I play and then the teaching load I perform.  In order to have the time to complete the “technological” tasks outlined I would need a new, faster network system and devices so that I could even attempt to commence the communication and information landscape activities suggested.

I see myself as fulfilling some of these roles as proposed by the authors of the articles but probably not to the full extent I would desire.  Practical issues such as technology available and time limit what I can do. Information literacy is practical in my environment but as my lesson time is teacher release time I work alone.  I do incorporate units of work relevant to the classroom tasks in my lessons but I do this to the side of the teachers planning.

When considering the role order offered by Purcell (2010) where leader is listed first before Teacher, I would say yes I would alter this order.  We are after all titled Teacher Librarians so the teaching component will always be first and this is what we do regardless of the medium being used or the information sought.

 

References

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Eds.). Libraries in the twenty-first century:  Charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Stuart University.

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. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.

Valenza’s, J. (2010, December 3). Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/

 

 

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