ETL401 Pond – Topic Two: The Role of the Teacher Librarian (Pt 1)

Comparing teacher librarian role statements

After comparing my main schools teacher librarian role statement to the ASLA’s Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians and the ASLA’s Statement on teacher librarian qualifications I have noticed they almost mirror each other except for layout and a specific focus on the attributes of a primary school library. My teacher librarian’s statement also looked at the librarians responsibly to organise and direct clerical staff, student, parent and community volunteers in the school library. For example volunteers might come in to cover or repair books.

One thing that I didn’t know about the role of the teacher librarian at my school was that they are responsible for the day to day operation of the computer network in the library.

The overview of the role of the school library program in Michigan schools in the YouTube video was also similar to that of my school’s teacher librarian role statement. Where by;

  • every member of the school community is included
  • library media specialists develop strong programs that

-          teach students effective information literacy

-          see teacher librarians as teaching partners

-          maximise access to resources

-          teach students to use information ethically, effectively and efficiently

-          develop students resource skills for college

  • teacher librarians /library media specialists as technological gurus

The video presented library media specialists as valuable and vital members of the school community. At times this does not always seem to be the perception given about the value of teacher librarians in some of the schools I have worked in.

Are teacher librarians an endangered species?


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.
  •  Valenza, J. (2010). Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Retrieved from

Thoughts on the changing nature of the roles of teacher librarians:

  • While teacher librarians have many different roles to play, Herring (2007, p. 27) says that school libraries need to be seen as a ‘centre of learning first and a centre of resources second’. Teacher librarians should effectively prioritize the roles they fulfill by the needs of the students, staff and parents in the school community (Herring, 2007). In today’s society the educational role teacher librarians play in teaching students to become information literate is vital (Herring, 2007).
  • Herring (2007, p. 35) sees the need for the development of new strategies to effectively teach information literacy skills in schools, that will encourage ‘students to take a wider view of information use and to examine how they might effectively recognise a need for information and then find and effectively use that information in all areas of their school work and in aspects of their lives outside school’.
  • As the library is a centre for learning before anything else, I see teaching information literacy as one of the most important roles the teacher librarian needs to prioritise. This role if done effectively could positively impact on learning inside and outside the classroom and give students the skills they will need throughout their lives.
  • Teacher librarians should not be islands as they need to effectively work in collaboration with teachers to source information for programs, the organisation of special events (visiting authors, book week) and how to support the student learning that is taking place in the classroom.
  • Purcell (2010, p. 30) states that if teacher librarians (school library media specialists) are working effectively ‘they are making a difference in the ways teachers teach and in the ways students learn’. Teacher librarians perform a vast variety of roles that ‘serve to strengthen the entire school community’ (Purcell, 2010, p. 30). So in this respect teacher librarians should prioritise the roles they play by evaluating which roles most effectively serve the students, teachers and wider school community.
  • The teacher librarian’s main roles are essentially being a leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator. The focus of which should always be on the learning and teaching interests of students and teachers.
  • The expectations of teacher librarians is constantly changing and to be relevant and successful they must be able perform these new duties. Purcell (2010) brings up an important fact about professional and personal development. ‘Professional and personal development is vital because media specialists must not only know what tasks they must perform but also how to perform those tasks to the best of their ability’ (Purcell, 2010, p. 33). Lamb (2011) also highlights the need for professional development as being key to teacher librarians putting their desire to effectively fulfill their roles into reality. For this to occur teacher librarians need to have the support of the wider school community. To have that support they need to make sure there is a clear understanding of the important and valuable roles that they fulfill in their community for the present and future of education in schools.
  • As Herring (2007) pointed out teacher librarians are effective when they collaborate with teachers, administers and the principal. To achieve profitable collaborations yet again it is vital that all involved understand the valuable roles that a teacher librarian fulfills.
  • Herring (2007) and Purcell (2010) both put forward the notion that teacher librarian’s main role should be supporting and actively take part in the learning and teaching of students and teachers.
  • Lamb (2011), Herring (2007) and Purcell (2010) view teacher librarians as being teachers, leaders and advocates for reading, inquiry and learning, that work in collaboration with classroom teachers. All three authors highlight the changing nature of the duties of a teacher librarian has and the need to be flexible to ‘revisit, reframe, and re-imagine knowledge, skills, attributes, and dispositions’ (Lamb, 2011, p. 27).
  • At university I started to develop an idea about teaching and the skills that we need to bring to work every day. I imagined that I had a tool kit of ideas and skills that I could pull out and use depending on the situation I was facing. So I like Lamb’s (2011) idea of teacher librarians having a palette of colours to paint with each day. These roles/ colours being people (communicating face-to-face and increasingly via virtual interactions), administrator (a move from managing physical resources to virtual resources), learning (a shift towards modelling pioneering thinking and investigation), electronic information (instead of giving information, facilitating information use), technology (the idea of moving towards the library and classrooms connected through technology), teaching (teaching skills that can be integrated across the curriculum)  and environments (moving towards flexible learning environments).
  • I can completely relate to the young librarian at the start of Valenz’a (2010) article. I am three weeks into this course and I am just now getting a clearer idea about what ideally a teacher librarian should be doing. I also relate to the idea that some librarians have retooled and others have not. As I continue my readings I can getting a clear focus on the changing nature of what a teacher librarian should be doing.
  • It is so essential for libraries to innovate so they can help students become life long learners and lovers of literature in its many forms. Valenza (2010) teams traditional and emerging book formats (audio books, Playaways, Kindles, iPads, Nooks) as a way to promote and celebrate reading. I love Valenza (2010) still sees a future in literature in libraries and is trying to make it even more accessible by using these new technologies. Heather Moorefield from our 30 second thought podcasts puts the idea of combining the traditional book with technology as to bring students to the book and the tap.
  • Valenza (2010) also touches on the idea of working with students to help them understand their responsibilities in relation to social networks. With society’s growing concerns over cyber bullying and the permanency of what can be created on social networking cites, teacher librarian and classroom teachers have a growing responsibility to ensure students understand the online world and its positives and negatives and how to navigate it safely and responsibly.

As a future teacher librarian I can see the need to put a greater emphases on technology and about how it will physically change the way libraries are used and stocked. Instead of solely purchasing hard copies of books I would need to look into how my students and teachers would benefit from virtual copies to make learning and reading more accessible.

30 Second Thought Podcasts

Henry Jenkins on the question ‘Are school librarians an endangered species?’

  • teacher librarians are not extinct
  • there is a need to redefine their role
  • we have never needed them more
  • they need to be “coaches to navigate an evermore complex media and information landscape
  • an online mentor

Doug Johnson on the question ‘Are school librarians an endangered species?’

  • teacher librarians are not endangered
  • there is a need to maintain core values such as

-          creating a secure, comfortable and welcoming place

-          creating good digital citizens

-          creating critical users of information and ideas

-          maintaining intellectual freedom

Michelle Luhtala on the question ‘Are school librarians an endangered species?’

  • The need for TLs is growing as we move into the information age and beyond.
  • TL’s prepare students for twenty-first century citizenship
  • integral to meeting intellectual objectives across disciplines

Heather Moorefield-Lang on the question ‘Are school librarians an endangered species?’

Teacher librarians:

  • are more vital, needed and necessary than ever
  • are the information literacy leaders of our schools
  • show new technologies to the school community
  • “bring students to the book and the tap”
  • are nothing less than crucial to our schools

Delia Neuman on the question ‘Are school librarians an endangered species?’

  • Teacher Librarians have the unique expertise in finding, evaluating and using information for learning
  • Teacher librarians teach students the skills needed for life in a technological society

So do I see myself fitting in with the roles proposed by these authors? Yes, but only when I have learned a whole lot more and on a continuing basis, with my focus still being to meet the needs of the students first.

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