The Teacher Librarian is a Leader!
One of the important issues I’ve had to understand along my journey as a Teacher librarian (TL) is that of the TL being a leader. My understanding has grown from the belief in the TL as a leader within the library to knowing the TL is a leader in the wider school community and librarian world. The subject ETL401 first exposed me to the idea of being a leader when I had to investigate the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Libraries Association (ASLA) joint statement: Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians (2004). Leadership is explicitly mentioned in the Standard of Professional Commitment, 3.3 and is implicit in many of the other standards (1.2,1.4, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3.4.) To view the entire document click on the link below.
Prior to my study, I readily accepted the TL was a leader within the library. They were responsible for budgets, resourcing the collection, managing library coworkers and students, as well as managing the physical environs of the library. I had limited experience at this stage but I saw the TL was viewed as an authority and leader within the library. I approached my learning journey with this understanding in mind. The Standards though pointed to the TL being a leader within the wider school community and in library networks beyond the school. Absorbing this, my practice began to change. When I was employed for temporary library blocks I endeavoured to reach out beyond the library. The most effective way to do this as a temporary TL was to email all teaching staff. I gave staff library information, new book titles, book award winners and welcomed them to the library to contribute their ideas for future purchases and display ideas. See below an example of one such email.
If I had the opportunity, I contributed to the school newsletter making sure the library featured in the minds of the parents, students and staff. I also actively contributed to staff meetings and on two occasions attended and contributed to library network meetings.
These actions were conscious decisions made in response to the leadership question and the confidence given to me by gaining a clearer understanding of my role. I doubt I would have spontaneously done this at such an early point in my TL career if I hadn’t felt it was part of my role. I think up til then I was of the mindset that I was a beginner and learning, which meant I couldn’t yet be a leader. I realised although true to a certain degree, I still had more knowledge than others in the school on librarian issues and potentially on issues of literacy and student outcomes.
At times I was confused about aspects of leadership in my role. ETL504 Teacher Librarian as Leader exposed me to many leadership theories and I found myself wondering whether I was leading or simply ‘managing’. John Kotter asks us to consider the difference between these two aspects (‘Change Management vs. Change Leadership,’ 2011). In my blog post ETL504 Reflective Blog Task 1 (Eyre,2013a) found at,
I express this confusion and state that I’m second-guessing what is leadership and what is not. I also comment on my confusion caused by the multiple theories of leadership. I still experience difficulty in deciding what ‘leadership’ is and what type of leader I am. However what began with ETL401 and continued with ETL504 was my understanding that a TL is leader far beyond the library walls.
Viewing myself as a leader began to change other aspects of my librarian work. I continued to email staff, produce newspaper excerpts and make announcements at staff meetings. In addition, I informed staff of developments in literacy and academic findings, relevant to schools and education in general. I did this without waiting to be asked by the Principal or School Executive. I began to view myself as an information expert and that information was no longer limited to ‘book stuff’ (novels and authors) but extended to other issues of educational and social importance to the school. E.g. IPad usage and implementation in schools, Digital Citizenship, improved student outcomes. I felt confident that my Masters level of education was keeping me up to date on many topical issues in education.
My belief in a TL as leader has been strengthened further as I’ve gained experience, further knowledge and confidence.
The Gimmick of Social Networking!
One of the biggest changes to occur in my thinking and therefore practice over the duration of this course is regards to social networking. Prior to doing the course I did not use any form of social networking. I failed to see its usefulness for me socially and doubted its effectiveness professionally. It was partly due to this as well as a desire to learn something of it all that I chose to do the INF 506 elective- Social Networking for Information Professionals. I was curious but did not think I would learn much that could actually be useful to me as a TL. Studying the various uses and effectiveness of social networking in the business and library world, changed my mind. The use of social networking within the library also fits into the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians. In particular 1.2. and 1.4.(ASLA & ALIA, 2004). I reluctantly signed up for a Facebook account as it was a requirement of INF506 (Hay, 2012) I soon noted the usefulness of the site and learnt how to use many of its features. Towards the end of the subject I noted in a blog post (Eyre, 2013b) that I could now see the value of Facebook for libraries and would be encouraging its use. This post can be found at:
I also noted that according to Cowling (2013) over half the Australian population was signed up to Facebook and therefore the platform was too large to ignore. So in the space of a few weeks I was a convert.
Since then, I have continued my belief in the potential of Facebook for professional reasons. My personal account has a ‘Library List’, showing various library related Facebook pages that I follow. The screenshot below shows them.
These pages inform my professional development and I often follow the links to read current and topical stories related to Librarianship. In this way, Facebook directly impacts upon my librarian work.
Although unable at my current school to have a school Facebook account, I am curious how other schools manage Facebook. St. Andrews Cathedral School and Sceggs Darlinghurst use Facebook and during the study visits for ETL507 I made a point of asking how they use the medium. At this stage I am collecting evidence and knowledge of how to introduce Facebook into my school environment, whilst certainly using my personal account to keep up to date with other libraries and events. My ready conversion to the possibilities of social networking for library use is revealed in another blog post of mine ‘Twitter! Twitter! Twitter!’ (Eyre, 2013c) found at
This post details my response to readings by Le Gac (2010), Stuart (2010) and Milstein (2009) which highlight the advantages of Twitter as a social media platform as well as what patrons of Web 2.0 technologies expect. I am enthusiastic in this post about the use of Twitter in libraries. I state that a Twitter account can reach current library users as well as those who may not have stepped into a library for some time, and this combines advocacy and promotion in one. The quick dissemination of information to a large audience,also saves valuable time and effort.
Whilst two years later, my thoughts remain the same I have not been able on a practical level to use Twitter within my own school library environment – does this perhaps reveal that Twitter is less useable than I had expected? I don’t think so, however it does point to the conservatism within schools to adopt new technologies. As with Facebook, my use of Twitter is more for updates and links to professional development ideas than for the specific needs of my library.
Pinterest is another form of social networking, which is well suited to libraries. After being exposed to Pinterest in INF506, I began ‘playing’ with the platform and investigating its uses. As with Facebook, initially I used my personal account to ‘follow’ other boards from similar school and public libraries, in order to see the uses they were making of the platform.
Once I was in a school position I began a school library account. I use this account to follow HSC Discovery boards put together by other TL’s and English teachers. Additionally I have started to create my own boards. Myself and one other person have access to these boards to create and add to. As the boards become more detailed I will make them available to the whole school and public.
My use of Pinterest and Facebook is a long way from my initial confusion and reluctance at the use of Social Networking tools!
My belief in Social Networking within the library world was created through the subject INF506, and my subsequent experimenting. Another significant factor was the final assignment for INF506. I chose to study how public libraries were using social networking to communicate with their patrons. A pivotal moment occurred as the results of this project showed the obvious success of the libraries that had active social networking sites. This convinced me of the value of these platforms and their vital importance to libraries in the 21st century.
… it is clear that all libraries, regardless of type and location, are able to be successful innovators of social networking technologies and therefore successful 21st century communicators (Eyre, 2013d)
Click on the link below to download a copy of the assignment.
Currently in a job share position in a secondary high school and approaching the end of my Master’s, I feel happy with my current level of usage of social networking for the library. I feel confident that usage will increase as schools in general move forward into the online and eLearning arena. I have moved from a novice and non-believer, to an accomplished user of several platforms and a strong advocate of schools and libraries incorporating social networking into their core business.
ONGOING AND CONTINUAL LEARNING OF THE TL ROLE.
As I near the end of my study, I have become aware that the role of TL is a diverse one dependant upon many factors. More importantly the role is a dynamic and fluid one, which much retain flexibility at its core. The TL must continually ‘refresh’ whilst striving to develop and maintain a relevant, dynamic, purposeful library. This has been the most important learning point of my degree. So how and when did this point become clear to me?
As I started my ‘requalifying’ to become a TL I was under the impression that I would study a series of subjects and during that time learn all there was about librarianship and come out the other side a fully-fledged expert- I was wrong. Almost 3 years later, hours of experience now under my belt as a TL and 7 of 8 subjects in my Master’s complete I am cognisant of how much I still need to learn. I have come a long way and know a lot but I’m still on a path of learning. The realisation that has slowly been dawning on me over the last few months is that this learning will continue throughout my career as a TL.
As early as week 4 of my first subject (ETL401, August – November 2012), I reflected on a sense of dissatisfaction at not being taught ‘how to be a TL’. I didn’t post this reflection to my blog but left it as a stand-alone document on my desktop.
I understand now that there are many reasons why you can’t simply be taught how to be a teacher librarian. Different school systems (public, private, independent) all use different library management systems and so teaching detail of one system is not useful to everyone. For example during my different blocks I have used the Oasis system, Destiny, RFD and Millennium systems. Additionally, the role of a TL can and does vary dramatically from school to school. Each school system can have different expectations of a TL, the size of a school, the demographics of the student cohort, the size of the library itself and the number of staff working within it all effect and help mould the role of the TL. The support of the Principal and school executive, along with the library budget can also impact and finally the individual personality, age and experience of the TL heavily impacts upon the role. Even the most comprehensive university degree could not hope to teach for all the possible scenarios occurring.
Further evidence of the TL role being an ever changing and dynamic one comes from my current position. I am in a job share role in a school with an experienced and efficient TL. Policies and procedures are current, and constantly updated, Information Literacy and Digital citizenship is taught and the library has a high profile within the school and support of the Principal. If the TL role was a stagnant one, then coming in as a new TL fresh out of training, one would assume there was little for me to contribute to. This has not been the case. Learning on the job at the same time as completing my Master’s, has meant that I have fresh ideas and am open to changing and adopting different practices. There have been several ways I’ve been able to effect change in my role. Firstly I noticed the desperate need for bag racks at the entrance to the library. The existing ones were small and not adequate to hold the number of student bags outside the library during most of the day.
I sourced new ones, took photos of the existing entrance, raised the issue within my library team and then the school principal. January this year saw the installation of new bag racks. This is an example of a new set of eyes looking at a situation. It also shows how a TL can lead a push for change.
Another example of changes which can occur from having a flexible view of the role is a set of bookmarks I created and placed out at the circulation desk. This had not been done previously by the TL and I thought it was a good way to promote particular novels and authors, whilst also raising the profile of the library. The bookmarks also helped to ‘brand’ the school as they had the library and school logo on. The students were delighted and several of them expressed their surprise that they were ‘free’. Another simple example of a different TL with different experiences and personality bringing about change. It’s important to note that as the junior job share person, I would not have been able to introduce any of these changes if the current TL had the attitude that she knew it all and had done it all in regards to her role. The fact she has been willing to support, encourage and ultimately learn from these new ideas, shows that she too understands the nature of librarianship and flexible libraries. My ‘all staff’ emails which are reviews of books I’ve been reading, general library information as well as promoting new book purchases, are also something that had not previously been done.
A final recognition of the continual journey of a TL is that of professional development. This forms part of our professional standards (1.1, 3.4). The school provides us with opportunities for Professional development and I believe being a recent student my information is quite up to date and relevant. I recognise though that I need to be proactive in seeking out opportunities to continually inform and improve my practice and knowledge. Recently I requested the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by Kevin Hennah called ‘Cultural Weeding‘ and supported by Syba Academy and SLANSW. An interesting, informative and highly practical workshop, I came away from it not only with a lot of new ideas and practices but also with a reinforced belief that my journey as TL, whilst started was no way near its end and that I would be continually adapting and evolving.
New! Library culture, image, promotion & resources are all put under the spotlight, as Kevin poses his thought-provoking ideas on why libraries need to weed more than just print to remain relevant. http://www.kevinhennah.com.au
Flexibility in the role of TL is also required in terms of keeping up to date with changes in curriculum and learning theories which is necessary to fulfil the collaborative aspects of a TL’s role. Subject teachers within a school often change at regular intervals and it is essential a TL develops and maintains ongoing relationships with teachers in the school. A flexible attitude is required for this. Additionally, a quick look at professional library associations websites, Facebook links, twitter feeds, also reveals how often ideas are changing, evidence being produced and general announcements being made which all require the TL to keep abreast of and potentially change their practices.
Weeding the Collection is Vital to a Good Collection.
Another point of learning for me was connected to Collection management. The importance of weeding the library collection came as a surprise for me. On paper it appears an obvious and easy thing to do but there are difficulties associated with it. Dillon (2001) details many of these difficulties, whilst making it clear that weeding is as important to a strong collection as the selection of materials is.
At this point, I was working in a girls high school which had not had a permanent TL for over 12 months and the previous TL had been in the position for a long time before eventually retiring. The collection was close to 100 years old and seemed not to have been culled in a long time. As I realised the importance of culling and began to develop ideas for a collection development policy I began to critically evaluate the collection and then began an aggressive cull. Concentrating on fiction only,I removed a huge number of books. Initially I felt conflicted at removing so many but kept reminding myself the library was a library and not a museum or archive. As the culling proceeded I realised the collection was still going to be a large one, and I was able with a generous budget to continue to replenish it and so I relaxed. I began to formulate a policy on weeding and purchasing – not a complete collection development policy but a beginning for a school which had never had such a policy. The obvious need for this particular collection to be culled was seen when the permanent TL who came in after me, continued the cull and widened the parameters to include non-fiction.
My concern over weeding and its necessity continued in my next role but moved to nonfiction. Considering the internet and online resources the non-fiction section readily becomes irrelevant and dated. My budget at my new school was considerably less than at the previous school and I have to make careful choices about purchasing. An inspection of the non-fiction area revealed that it had been ‘on hold’ for several years. No new purchases had been made but neither had any culling been done. It had been in limbo as the effects of the internet were monitored. However, the attendance at the ‘Cultural Weeding’ workshop combined with my encouragement resulted in the decision to weed non-fiction. Over 234 books were removed. Space has been cleared which gives us more flexibility to rearrange shelving and to provide flexible library spaces. None of the culled resources have been missed.
I found that my knowledge of weeding and its importance, directly and swiftly had an impact upon my work as a TL. Equally I was surprised that little weeding had been carried out over the years in the two libraries I was now familiar with. Reflecting on this makes it apparent that weeding is indeed as difficult in practice as it appeared to be in theory.
There have been many learning moments along this journey and some of these have had more impact than others. Whilst some of these stand out and have been apparent all along (and these are the ones which have formed the bulk of my portfolio), I have the distinct impression that some will reveal themselves as significant only at a later date in my career.
The synthesis which has occurred over time of much of my learning makes it difficult to separate ideas in order to honestly reflect upon them. I believe this shows that the more successful the learning, the more complete the synthesis of ideas is. What were once individual ideas have now morphed into something completely different and I hope that ‘something’ is a qualified and knowledgeable Teacher Librarian. The key for me and my career as a Teacher Librarian is that I have the skills to continue to learn and investigate information and ideas as necessary. This in turns ensures flexibility and adaptability remain vital components of my librarianship as we move further into the 21st century and the digital domain.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) & Australian School Libraries Association (ASLA) 2004, Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/TLstandards.pdf
Cowling, C. (2013). Social Media Statistics Australia – Dec 2012. Retrieved from http://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-december-2012/
Dillon, K. (2001). Maintaining collection viability. In K. Dillon, J. Henri & J. McGregor (Eds), Providing more with less:collection management for school libraries (2nd ed.) (pp.241-254) Wagga Wagga, NSW:Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Eyre, K. (2013a). ETL504 Reflective Blog Task April 8 [Blog Post] Retrieved from Kitkayte.wordpress.com
Eyre, K. (2013b). INF506 OLJ/Evaluative Statement Feb 7 [Blog Post] Retrieved from Kitkayte.wordpress.com
Eyre, K. (2013c). Twitter! Twitter! Twitter! Feb. 4 [Blog Post] Retrieved from Kitkayte.wordpress.com
Eyre, K. (2012). Blog Task 1, INF506 Assignment 1 Nov 19 [Blog Post]. Retrieved from Kitkayte.wordpress.com
Eyre, K. (2013d) Assignment 2 Social Networking Report. Unpublished Assignment Task.
Hay, L., (2012). INF506 – Social Networking for Information Professionals [Subject Outline]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/INF506_201290_W_D/page/eca97660-af9b-406f-003e-74438d836f96
Kotter, J. (2011). Change Management vs. Change Leadership — What’s the Difference? In Forbes. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkotter/2011/07/12/change-management-vs-change-leadership-whats-the-difference/
Le Gac, M. (2010), ‘Twittering Libraries: How and Why New Zealand Public Libraries Use Micro Blogging’. Retrieved from http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/1402/thesis.pdf?sequence=2
Milstein, S. (2009). Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians). In SCIS. Retieved January 20, 2013 from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/twitter_for_libraries_(and_librarians).html
Stuart, D. (2010). What are Libraries Doing on Twitter? Expanded Academic ASAP. Available from, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/