The success of the teacher librarian’s role within a school and the library program for which they develop and deliver relies heavily on the support of the Principal. Teacher librarians need to garner this support through communicating their role and how this role directly results in increased student achievement. Teacher librarians also need to be visible within the school and be a leader in the collaborative process.
The Australian School Library Association identifies the teacher librarian’s role as the following,
“Teacher librarians support and implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services and programs that contribute to the development of lifelong learners. A teacher librarian holds recognised teaching qualifications and qualifications in librarianship”. (ASLA, 2004)
Much literature and surveys provide strong evidence of the critical impact a Principal’s support has on the success or failure of a library program. (Oberg, 2006 and Hartzell).
A supportive Principal will base their support through teacher librarian respect, by promoting the teacher librarian and the specialised skills they possess to teachers within the school, by highlighting the benefits and importance of the library program in relation to improving student learning outcomes, by being an advocate of teacher – teacher librarian collaboration and by providing adequate resources, policy and modified schedules so that this collaboration can be achieved. (Oberg, 2006).
There is a multitude of literature that highlights the benefits of teacher – teacher librarian collaboration in developing, delivering and evaluating student lessons/programs/outcomes and the positive impact this collaboration has on student learning.
Haycock (2007, pg 25) identifies,
“collaboration or partnering between classroom teachers and teacher librarians as an effective method of improving student learning, by more than 20% on measures of achievement in some studies”.
Therefore collaboration with teaching staff and fostering this collaboration should be one of the major roles of the teacher librarian and requires the support of the Principal. Haycock (2007) found that where the Principal expected teachers and the teacher librarian to plan and collaborate, provided leadership, allocated sufficient funding and developed flexible scheduling collaboration was more likely to take place. Morris (2007) holds similar views in relation to the success of collaboration highlighting visibility and communication by the Principal as critical to the success of collaboration.
So if the Principal’s support is so critical to the success of the teacher librarian being an integral part of the learning process for students how do they gain their support.
Oberg (2006, p 15 – 16) suggests that teacher librarians gain the support of their principal in 3 ways,
“by building their professional credibility, by communicating effectively with principals, and by working to advance school goals”.
Building professional credibility does not stop at obtaining librarianship qualifications but putting this knowledge into practice within the school setting. Providing professional development to staff and contributing as school leaders increases the librarian’s visibility and credibility.
Kaplan (2007) and Hartzell (2009) both express the concern that administrators and teaching staff have little to no formal training or ideas on what a teacher librarian’s role in the school should be, what it looks like or how the teacher librarian can contribute to school effectiveness. Therefore the teacher librarian needs to communicate this with the Principal.
Although Principal support is a critical factor in relation to the success of any library program, teacher librarian’s must remember that resources provided such as time and money are just that. They do not ‘make’ a librarian program but aid it. The teacher librarian needs to bring to the table enthusiasm, expertise, leadership and innovative skills so that staff members can clearly see the benefits of the collaborative and information seeking skills they contribute to student learning. This in turn will have the largest effect on staff perceptions of the teacher librarian and their willingness to be involved in collaboration.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) & Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, http://www.alia.org.au/policies/TLstandards.pdf
‘What’s It Take?’ (presented at the Washington White House Conference on School Libraries in 2002) Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
‘Librarian-proof libraries? Guest rant by Gary Hartzell’ (posted on Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog in 2009) Retrieved from http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/8/25/librarian-proof-libraries-guest-rant-by-gary-hartzell.html
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2e9abdf3-962f-4925-944d-3c7ff4d34063%40sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=25
Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/detail?sid=6e55efd8-be72-41d9-86ad-b2c391f416cc%40sessionmgr14&vid=1&hid=10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=27757339
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/224879111/fulltextPDF
Valenza’s, J. (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/