Blog Task 1
The Role of the Teacher Librarian & Principal Support
The role of the Teacher Librarian in the 21st century is one undergoing great change. The Teacher Librarian of today is often quite unrecognizable from the Teacher Librarian of the mid 20th century. The catalyst for most of this change has been and continues to be the ‘digital revolution’ of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Many factors can promote and facilitate this change. There are also factors that inhibit this change. Research shows that Principal Support is an area of great importance with regards to the role of a Teacher Librarian.
To keep the role of Teacher Librarian current and viable, several areas must be addressed. Firstly, there is the problem of how the role is perceived by students, teachers and Principals. According to AASL Guidelines for School Learners 2009,
“The profession remains challenged by misconceptions about the SLMS’s (school library media specialist) role” (AASL 2009, p 46).
How can a Teacher Librarian react and respond to the changing needs of their profession if their message is being lost amid misconceptions? So a more proactive approach combined with some good old-fashioned self promotion may help to address some misconceptions. The principal can support this by including the Teacher Librarian in school committees, planning days and generally helping to raise the profile of Teacher Librarians in the school.
Collaboration with other teaching professionals is another way teachers and Principals can help to address misconceptions about the role of Teacher Librarians. Research has shown the benefits of collaboration to student outcomes (Haycock 2007). Further research shows that, when collaboration is supported by the Principal, it then occurs more often (Haycock 1996 & 2007). Ideally, Teacher Librarians are positioning themselves and their library programs with a view to collaboration at every possible opportunity. Done with the Principal’s support the chances of success of such collaboration are increased.
Of course Principal support can not always be relied upon. Several factors can be responsible for this. In its submission to the School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia Report, the NSW Primary Principals Association acknowledged that the library and Teacher Librarians role can be overlooked.
“the perception around libraries is ‘let’s go and fund something else because the library is already in place’ The library physically might be all in one place but the learning… might not be in one place, and , yes, I feel it has been neglected”
Principals themselves admit that budget concerns often inform their decisions about Libraries and Teacher Librarian funding (Aust. House of Reps Education and Employment Committee 2011, part 3.97). This is further supported when it is seen that Independent schools appear to value their Teacher Librarians more than in public schools (House of Reps Report 2011 part 3.87). Funding is less of a concern in these schools. As recently as Saturday July 28 2012 in the Sydney Morning Herald, Independent schools were showcasing their recent library and learning initiatives. Roseville College has just redesigned their library and invested in a new digital library. Presbyterian Ladies College Sydney has added a digital library to its existing library. Libraries and Teacher Librarians in these schools are changing and adapting to the digital revolution.
The role of the Teacher Librarian has changed overtime and must continue to change to remain relevant. Principal support is vital to process. A change of perception of the role of Teacher Librarians must also occur. This can be done by the work the Teacher Librarian is seen to be doing within the school, as well as by being included in planning and design committees by the Principal. The Principal can also support Teacher Librarians by promoting collaborative efforts within their school. Funding will of course remain an inhibitor for many school Principals and this ultimately needs to be resolved by the education authorities and government bodies.
This is an interesting and exciting time to be involved in education. Teacher Librarians should embrace this time, ‘step up to the mark’ and be a part of the race towards better student outcomes.
American Association of School Libraries (AASL) (2009). Guidelines for School Learners Chicago: American Library Association, 2009
Cambourne, K. (2012). Novel Approach to Literacy. Article Sydney Morning Herald, Independent Schools Liftout, July 28.
Haycock, K. (1996). What works: Leadership in implementing collaborative programs. Teacher Librarian, 22 (5),33.
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical Success Factors for Student Learning. School Libraries Worldwide, vol 13, Number 1, January 2007.
House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee. (2011). School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
My journey along the path to being a Teacher Librarian is about two weeks old now. My journey requires me to complete a Masters in Education, paying my way as I go along and combining study with all the other demands of a 42 yr old with a busy life.
Prior to starting my study I was fortunate to be talking to another T/L who had completed the same course about 2 yrs ago. She told me about ‘Listserv’ which is a service for T/L’s to email with questions, answers, useful information, requests for resources and generally just support each other and the T/L community.
One of the ‘hot topics’ on this ‘listserv’ has been how to prove a T/L’s worth. This has been interesting for me to get an insight into the concerns of current T/L’s. Not only does it reveal their nervousness about the future of their profession, it also reveals to me ‘first hand’ – not just from academic readings- the variety and scope of a T/L’s role and the enormous amount of ‘good work’ being done by them in our schools. It is also wonderful to see the collegiality revealed through such a service as ‘Listserv’.
As a new student it has been great for me to get this insight and it allowed me to start to consider the T/L’s role, its future as a profession and also where I sat in that mix. At the start of an expensive higher education Masters, it would be naïve of me not to wonder if I’d made the right decision. (Husband of course has his eye on the end game i.e. will I get a job?) Now as two weeks have passed – how do I feel?
Firstly it’s wonderful to be in touch with other students who are all enthusiastic future T/L’s and the feeling of sharing and collegiality is continuing. Also knowing they are studying the subjects I am, and being taught about the needs of the T/L to be adaptive encourages me that they, at least will be a part of the new breed T/L. These are positive observations and give me hope for the future.
Secondly the first batch of readings whilst extremely useful, have in fact reaffirmed some of the feelings and worries expressed on the Listserv. What can I conclude from this? How do I feel about this? I have drawn 3 main conclusions so far.
- There is definitely an issue surrounding the future of T/L’s.
- My readings show me that the academic world of Education and T/L’s is aware of this issue and are ‘on the ball’ with addressing it. (Lets hope they have done so in time)
- The ‘listserv’ shows me that the T/L’s currently working and in the system are aware of this issue and are starting to work on self-promotion and accountability.
So where does that leave me – aside from wishing I had a crystal ball?
It leaves me aware but hopeful. My early readings mean I can see the challenges ahead and I can see both paths to the future of T/L’s and libraries in general. Conclusions 2 and 3 above leave me hopeful that changes are not just beginning to take place, but have already begun to take place to address the future of T/L’s and libraries.
Further to the above and perhaps carrying more weight for me than any of the above, is the evidence referred to in my readings that shows students outcomes are better and students results are higher in schools which have qualified T/L’s and successful Library programs. This is the proof and encouragement I need, that not only will my future job be making a difference to the lives of students, but it is in fact VITAL to a students future.
Surely governments and funding bodies won’t turn their back on such an invaluable resource?
Hello All, wow my first post on a forum today and now my first blog post!
Now of course I have to get back to the subject outlines and find out what else I have to do!