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.