Many people have a stereotypical view of a teacher librarian. This perspective stems from the past when libraries were places warehousing many printed books and instilled hushed tones and a quiet atmosphere. To some extent, I too, had a stereotypical image of a teacher librarian in mind when I thought about the role. My image involved assisting students locate and access library resources, ensuring relevant and interesting resources are available and an atmosphere that ‘buzzed’ but was not as loud as the outdoors. Walking around the library, I noticed teachers trying to quiet students by reminding them that they are in a library and that it is a place of hushed voices and quiet serenity. It was then, that I realised that most staff members also have a stereotypical view concerning the teacher librarian and it is a necessity to first break through these viewpoints in order to reduce barriers created. This stereotype image of the library and teacher librarian, however, is no longer the case in today’s reality. The library is a learning resource centre that is a buzzing hub of the school community.
Technology is changing the physical and information landscape of the library. As the Teacher Librarian, it is essential to keep up with these changes and constantly adapt to the fluid environment created. It is now necessary to be able to create an ‘environment that combines the best of the physical and virtual worlds of learning’ (Lamb, 2011, p27). The technological push within my school environment and the fact that students embrace technology is driving my interest in extending my knowledge and skills in technology. It is not enough to understand the basics when we, as teacher librarians, must assist in equipping students with the skills to become lifelong learners (Herring, 2007 and Lamb, 2011). In order to do so, it is also necessary to equip classroom teachers with the necessary skills of integrating technology into their instructional practice whilst meeting the curriculum requirements.
Oberg (2006) suggests that Teacher Librarians suffer from occupational invisibility and this is caused by many contributing factors. The idea of occupational invisibility did not really enter my mind, until I came across this concept. I realised there is a truth to this viewpoint because of the physical isolation of the library and timetable scheduling (Oberg, D. 2006). The school library is housed in a separate building and it is very hard to interact with other staff members due to time tabling. Added to this, Hartzell (2002) suggests that the nature of the role of empowering others, affects the Teacher Librarian’s visibility in contributing to learner outcomes. This work is often absorbed by the classroom teacher’s success.
As Teacher Librarian, it is important to gain a presence within the school community and ensure a professional and positive image is projected. To do this, it is essential to closely collaborate with the school Principal and classroom teachers. The school Principal, as a leader and role model, needs to positively promote the library and the role of the teacher librarian. This is achieved by actively encouraging and allowing time friendly schedules which enable staff members to collaborate with each other. This has highlighted the necessity to ensure open communication and a good working relationship between the teacher librarian, the Principal and classroom teachers. To ensure the library and the role of teacher librarian is positively viewed, I realise that I need to advertise and self-promote in order to establish a presence in the school community (Valenza, J. 2010).
Collaboration is an essential element and it is necessary to be involved from the early stages of curriculum planning. As a Teacher Librarian, the role has a focus on two elements, one of being a qualified teacher with pedagogical knowledge as well as a qualified librarian with information management knowledge and skills. (ASLA, 2012). The ETL 401 course has broadened my perception of my role as I have found that it is easy to become narrow sighted and only focus on the librarian aspect. To fulfil the position adequately, it is necessary to remind oneself and others that a teacher librarian is also a qualified teacher. By collaborating in curriculum planning, it will be possible to develop appropriate problem based assessments which will encourage students to develop and utilise 21st century information literacy skills. Incorporating an information literacy model, such as the Big6 model (Eisenberg, M. 2008) within the curriculum will benefit students in developing these skills across the curriculum. Teacher Librarians, along with classroom teachers can collaboratively prepare students to become lifelong learners of the future.
A teacher librarian has a critical role within the school community. It is not sufficient to think that a teacher librarian is only responsible for running the library and ensuring adequate resources are available. The role entails being a teacher and a librarian and this in itself involves many tasks and responsibilities which need to be properly reflected in today’s society.
Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2012). Teacher Librarian Role Statement Qualification. Retrieved 20 March 2013 from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/teacher-librarian-qualifications.aspx
Eisenberg, M.B. (2008). Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age. Journal of Library and Information Technology, 28 (2), (pp. 39-47). Washington, DESIDOC.
Hartzell, G. (2002). What’s it Take. Washington White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved 08 April 2013 from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
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).
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. Tech Trends: Linking Research to Improve Learning, 55 (4) (pp. 27-36).
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the Respect and Support of School Administrators. Teacher Librarian; Feb 2006; 33, 3, pp 13-18. Retrieved 09 April 2013 from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/224879111/fulltextPDF
Valenza, J. (2010). Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Retrieved 20 March 2013 from: http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/