Examining Herring (2007), Purcell (2010), Lamb (2011) and Valenza’s (2010) thoughts on the topic of the changing role of the Teacher Librarian (TL), it is quite clear that there is no one approach that will work. Lamb (2011) discusses the ‘shifts’ required for the TL to move away from the traditional approach of teaching information literacy, managing the collection and so on towards a more everywhere with everything approach, but with a clear focus on the end result. Herring (2007), Purcell (2010) and Valenza (2010) also agree that there is a need for a dramatic shift from the traditional approach to the library environment, resourcing, researching and teaching and learning. Each of these author’s agree that prioritising the many changes needed for learning in the 21st Century should reflect the most important needs of the learning community – key stakeholders such as students, teachers, the school Principal, parents and so on. Determining the priorities then, should reflect the needs of the learning community. In a school where there is access to devices for electronic resources, establishing procedures for the management and access of these devices, as well as the e-book strategy for the library, might become the first priority. However, in a school where there are no devices, building relationships with school leaders and local businesses or corporations to gain funding for these devices may be the priority. Whatever priorities the TL identifies, it is always essential that student needs are at the centre.
TL’s need to be far more social than ever before. Effective interpersonal skills are essential for the TL to engage a wide range of students as well as influence key stakeholders in the school community and wider audience. They must make connections, develop relationships and empower others to achieve best practice media resource centres. Lamb (2011) warns that while the TL leads in the use of technology, they must also “…focus and personalize interaction to optimize the impact. p. 30). Herring (2007) touches on this marketing and promotional role of the TL, however, Purcell (2010), Lamb (2011) and Valenza (2010) place a greater emphasis on the TL becoming a leader, not just in the school, but in the broader network of the profession.
In fact, Valenza’s (2010) manifesto asserts that the leadership capacity and social interaction aspect of the TL is not negotiable anymore. Similarly, Lamb’s (2011) six areas of the media specialist’s PALETTE (People, Administration, Learning, Citizenship, Electronic information, Technology, Teaching and Environments) reveal specific actions that TL’s need to embrace to move forward, to be able to prepare their students for life after school and as adults. Herring (2007), on the other hand, tend to focus more on the practical aspects of the TL role. They see certain changes, from physical to electronic, flexible learning spaces, but they lack the inspirational quality of Lamb (2011) and Valenza’s (2010) views. The latter promote a fiercely proactive TL role, aiming to inspire and motivate TL’s and through them, their colleagues and students.
This fierce proactivity comes at a cost, though. Thinking on my current time constraints, responsibilities within the library, responsibilities outside of the library, the level of support given and likely to be given in the future, the only areas that I could see foregoing to achieve the level of proactivity that Lamb (2011) and Valenza (2010) suggest would be the borrowing and returning and shelving of books. As Purcell (2010) suggests, this could be completed by the Library Assistant or trained Library Monitors/Parent Volunteers. The other area that could be reviewed would be the library blog. Rather than having a number of blogs to manage, it may be more economical to have one, with additional content pages for each class and linked to the School Website, to reduce the ease of management and duplication. Both of these changes would still only free up a small amount of time, so the other essential area to address would be meetings. Currently I attend Stage Three meetings as my Supervisor is the Stage Three Assistant Principal. These meetings are largely unproductive for me as they relate to less than one third of my stakeholders. This time each week could be better spent sharing ideas on virtual channels with colleagues, investigating new technology tools, mapping the new curriculum and creating LibGuides or Pathfinders for teacher and students to then free up additional time spent doing these activities one on one.
Purcell’s (2010) Time Study Observation would be useful to identify additional areas that I could review to develop a more strategic approach to the way my time is spent, whether as Leader, Instructional Partner, Teacher, Information Specialist or Program Administrator. Each of these roles is interdependent and, at times simultaneous, however, I believe that the role of Teacher is essential to all of them. When leading, cultivating professional partnerships and encouraging involvement by the Principal, teachers, parents and students, the TL is teaching others, facilitating their understanding of what’s available, what’s possible and how to use it. This Teacher role is required as Instructional Partner, Information Specialist and Program Administrator. As Henry Jenkins (2012) suggested in the 30 second thought videos, the TL is a coach and mentor, preparing the community, schools, teachers AND students for the 21st Century.
I believe that I am capable and I am certainly willing to fulfill each of the role aspects addressed by these authors. I aim to see any resistance or barriers as speed bumps rather than stop signs and am excited at the prospect of the changes ahead.
- 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.
- Jenkins, H. (2012). 30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community, Are school librarians an endangered species? Podcast. [ETL401 Module 2]. Retrieved August 4, 2013 from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201360_W_D/page/5cd1eb75-0348-452b-80ad-072e8a8e0d7a
- Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0509-3
- 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, 29(3-), 30-33.
- Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. Retrieved from School Library Journal at http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/