“No one in the field of education can dispute the effect a principal has on the school library media program” (Everhart, 2006, p.38).
Ask any teacher librarian in a primary school what their role is, and the answers you receive will be as diverse as the school communities to which they belong. Purcell (2010) identifies five roles of a school library media specialist, including Leader, Program Administrator, Instructional Partner, Information Specialist and Teacher. Herring (2007) includes eleven possible roles of the teacher librarian, including Fiction and Non-fiction Advocate and Budget and Staff Manager as other possible roles. First and foremost for any teacher librarian is their role as a teacher and Purcell (2010) writes “if school library media specialists are doing their job well, they are making a difference in the ways teachers teach and in the ways students learn”. It should be noted that the roles of the teacher librarian mentioned do not stand alone. The roles rely on one another and when performed effectively and efficiently, make the role of the teacher librarian indispensable.
It is my belief that the roles of a teacher librarian in any school setting are dependent on the support of the School Principal. The School Principal needs to share the same whole school learning vision as the teacher librarian for any library programs to be considered in the learning curriculum of a school. The School Principal needs to “explicitly support collaborative educational goals and ensure that adequate resources are available for their accomplishment” (Farmer, 2007, p.56). The teacher librarian’s role as collaborative partner underpins the success of the school library program by bringing information literacy skills learning into the everyday learning curriculum of the classroom. Herring (2007), suggests “how students learn in the school library will be influenced by how they are encouraged to learn in the school as a whole”, and I believe that this is directly affected by the learning beliefs of the leaders of a school.
Oberg (2006) suggests that the teacher librarian can gain the respect and support of the school principal in three different ways; “by building professional credibility, effective communication and by working to advance school goals”. Each suggestion is both valid and achievable and will provide beneficial results to the school, teachers and students. As mentioned in my first assessment Blog Task, the school library could be viewed as a small business. For the business to attract attention, there needs to be effective advertising and in this case, effective communication with the School Principal. This can be done through communication with school leaders, collection of data and effective use of the data to support the work of the teacher librarian. Opportunities for teaching and learning in the library need to be highlighted throughout the school and, the teacher librarian needs to advocate their skills as an information and literacy specialist. To involve the wider school community, the services available in the library need to be highlighted to all teachers, students and their families. As with many things in life, effective communication provides a solid foundation for a synergistic relationship between the School Principal and the teacher librarian.
A School Principal cannot be forced to embrace the innovative learning programs that a teacher librarian can implement in the school library, however, with effective communication it would be remiss of the School Principal not to take notice.
Everhart, N. (2006, July). Principals' Evaluation of School Librarians: A Study of Strategic and Nonstrategic Evidence-based Approached. School Libraries Worldwide, 12, 38-51.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher Librarians and the School Library. In S. Ferguson, Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga: Centre or Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Oberg, D. (2006, Feb). Developing the respect and support of school admnistrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do Is check Out Books, Right? A look at the roles of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 30-33.