The Role of the TL in Schools
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
Greenberg, S. (2009). 21st century learning skills [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/20115313@N00/4181862313/
The role of the teacher librarian (TL) in schools is wide and varied. It is a specialist position that is ever-evolving in response to changes in pedagogy, information and technology. Unfortunately, I have seen the role of teacher librarian often misrepresented and misunderstood by many other teaching professionals. My understanding of the role of the teacher librarian in schools is one that works as a central node and a conduit which connects information and technology with staff and students.
Prior to undertaking my studies in Master of Education (Teacher-Librarianship), I had a range of experiences working with practising teacher librarians. Many times, I witnessed libraries operating with only one TL. In these situations, the limited resourcing of staff made it difficult for TLs to fulfil their role and undertake development to keep abreast of the latest pedagogy or technology and it limited their ability to embed new practices and programs into the scope of the library. Other times, I have experienced a great reluctance from TLs to evolve, as is the nature of the role. This led to further devaluing of the library and staff. The visibility of the TL in the wider school community appears to be a crucial factor in developing positive perceptions of the library. Findings from the 2012 Softlink Australian School Library Survey support my experiences of witnessing limited resourcing of libraries in recent years, despite crucial findings which highlight the “positive relationships between well-resourced libraries and higher student literacy outcomes” (ASLA, 2013). Perhaps this might be connected to outdated perceptions of TLs within school communities. Dr Barbara Combes suggests that it is a “greying profession” (2013), which may contribute to a lack of motivation to engage with information and technological advancements and the necessity to upskill. The ability to evolve with the demands of the profession can enhance student outcomes; thus, building positive relationships and subsequently improving perceptions of the role of the teacher librarian.
Despite some negative perceptions, I have also witnessed a range of positive practices within school libraries and a resurgence of the role. This has broadened my understanding of the role of the TL in schools. I can see the position is multifaceted and one that is at the forefront of innovation in education, literacy, information and technology. It is a platform that is dynamic and varied. The Australian School Libraries Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) support this perception when describing the three key roles of TL as; curriculum leader, information services manager and information specialist (ASLA & ALIA, 2001). Of the many hats that a TL must wear, one of the most significant is to support staff and students in their development of information and digital literacy. In the mini documentary entitled Future Learning, Professor Sugata Mitra highlights reading comprehension and information search and retrieval skills as two of the most important aspects of curriculum for the future (2012). The role of TL encompasses these very skills. Therefore, to enhance education and outcomes for 21st century learners, we must promote the role of TL as an integral piece of the learning puzzle.
My understanding is that the role of the teacher librarian in schools is to collaborate, innovate and support. The role requires the development of professional relationships, engagement with emerging technologies and their application for student learning, and support of staff and students in their literacy and learning endeavours. The role of TL will surely continue to develop with the changing needs of learners and the ways in which we access, retrieve and use information.
Australian School Library Association (2013). Future learning and school libraries. Canberra, ACT: ASLA.
Curriculum Corporation (Australia), Australian School Library Association, & Australian Library and Information Association. (2001). Learning for the future: Developing information services in schools. Carlton South, Vic: Curriculum Corp.
GOOD Magazine. (2012). Future Learning | Mini Documentary | GOOD [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg