Librarians are Gold!

Let the Learning Begin…..

ET401: Blog Task #1

The role of the Teacher Librarian with regard to Principal support.

Morris (2007, p. 23) suggests that the principal support is the key to successful collaboration between classroom teachers and Teacher Librarians (TLs) in schools.

Support from a school principal enables school librarians and hence school libraries to thrive (Everhart, 2006, p. 38). Similarly, a lack of principal support can have a devastatingly disastrous effect on the school library. TLs need to “make clear to principals their unique and collaborative contributions to students’ success” (Farmer, 2007, p. 56). TLs are experienced practitioners who hold both a recognised teaching qualification and qualifications in librarianship. Their role is crucial in advocating programs that implement the school vision and hence contribute to the development of lifelong learners.

All principals need to be interested in and show a genuine interest and care for library programs. TLs can serve as collaborative coaches and mentors for classroom teachers. Sharing their expertise with other staff members allows TLs an opportunity to plan, connect and collaborate with classroom teachers on units of work for the term and offer his / her expertise in creating information literacy lessons with rich learning tasks (Kappan, 2007, p. 301).

In my experience from working in schools both in Australia and the UK, a supportive relationship and collaboration between the TL and the principal has a positive effect on all aspects of student learning and therefore student achievement rises. At my current school, all TLs are treated professionally and with respect. The TLs meet with the principal each week demonstrating and modelling collaborative practice to other staff. Scheduled planning meetings for classroom teachers and TLs held regularly enable the TL to be incorporated into all areas of the school curriculum. These meetings create a collaborative supportive environment within the school and allows classroom teachers to gain a greater understanding of the way curriculum knowledge and pedagogy are combined with library and information management knowledge and skills (ASLA, 2004).

Teacher Librarians quite often feel undervalued and their experience, hard work and qualifications go unnoticed. TLs are professionally isolated, unrecognised and constantly asking to justify their existence as school administrators look for greater economies (“School libraries 21st century Australia”, 2011, p. 86).  A supportive Principal will ensure and insist that their school has an understanding and appreciation of what actually do. TLs need to be viewed by their colleagues as support resources rather than just a person who borrows books out. A clearer understanding of the TLs role within the school community will lead to the TLs feeling less isolated and more valued and respected.

Oberg (2007) states “gaining the respect and support of school administrators is the number one challenge facing school library professionals in the 21st century. Research has shown that although teacher-librarians generally view principal support as being critical to the success of the library program, they often have low expectations of principal support and rarely engage in the kind of activities that would increase their principals’ understanding and support”.  In a number of primary schools that I have worked in over the years, I have witnessed principals being 100 per cent supportive and a keen participant in all TL initiated library activities. For example the annual book character parade, author visits held out of school hours, whole staff meetings held to plan for the introduction of the K-12 transliteracy framework for the National Curriculum and book swaps held to raise money for charity.

According to the Softlink Australian School Library Survey results 2012, some of the ongoing challenges for school libraries are “finding a balance between the physical and digital collection, collaboration with teaching staff and the recognition of Teacher Librarian’s skills and their evolving role” (Softlink, 2012). Mobile technology is becoming more of the norm in schools as students use devices such as tablets, ipods and mobile phones schools to enhance their learning. Digital books and eBooks are being introduced into many schools. As a result, this technological change is impacting on and contributing greatly to the changing role of the school librarian. Principals need to be aware of this technological change and offer continual ongoing support to TLs by encouraging them to trial new approaches to teaching and learning.

Principal support and recognition of TLs qualifications and skills is the answer to creating a collaborative platform between TLs and classroom teachers in all schools. Principal’s supporting TLs and modelling this support will create in a more collegial workplace and hence result in higher student achievement.

References

Australian School Library Association (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Everhart, N. (2006). Principals’ evaluation of school librarians: A study of strategic and nonstrategic evidence-based approaches. School Libraries Worldwide, 12(2), 38-51.

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.

Morris, B.J. (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.

Oberg, D. (2007). Taking the library out of the library into the school. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii.

Softlink. (2012). Australian Schools Survey. Australian School Library Survey. Retrieved from http://www2.softlinkint.com/?au/softlink-australian-schools-survey

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