As stated by Purcell (2012) the key to any educational role is the ground-roots desire and ability to foster learning, to support students in finding pleasure and value in lifelong learning. This best describes the passion needed to be a valued teacher librarian that runs a great library.
A principal employs a teacher librarian who is enthusiastic about teaching, knowledgeable in the area of information literacy and technology, passionate about children’s literature and improving student outcomes. Hartzell states an ‘effective library programs led by active, involved teacher librarians can have a discernible positive impact on student achievement regardless of student, school and community demographics.’ (2003)
The role of a teacher librarian (TL) is a specialised teaching position that requires in-depth curriculum knowledge and strong involvement in curriculum design and development. It involves collaborative teamwork with classroom teachers and most importantly the TL requires support from the school principal in order to make the library an asset to the school, a place of learning that impacts positively on student learning outcomes. A principal’s primary concerns are the needs of the students and fostering collaborative teamwork amongst teachers, developing a team with one common goal – to improve learning outcomes for all students. A teacher librarian needs to be valued as a successful contributor to this team.
Principals determine the quality of the library program as much as the teacher librarians do because they influence and control factors which directly affect the library, such as adequate budget for resources and staffing, flexible timetabling and teacher collaboration. A library needs a strong budget allocation to ensure a large, varied, up-to-date collection although ‘the most extensive collection will not produce maximal achievement results unless qualified TLs are available to help students and teachers use it.’ (Hartzell, 2003)
The role of the teacher librarians is to guide teachers to resources and materials to enhance their teaching and learning activities, highlighting to teachers the best resources available to support the curriculum and meet the needs of their students.
School principals need to support teacher librarians by allowing for flexibility in the timetable giving TLs time to collaborate with teachers, time to teach and time to engage in professional development activities outside the school. The outcome of teacher collaboration time depends on how effectively a principal promotes teamwork amongst teachers and the teacher librarian. ‘The role of the principal is so critical to the development of school priorities, culture, and resources that it would be fair to say the principal is the key factor in developing an effective and integrated school library program.’ (Haycock, 1999)
Principals can provide direction to teacher librarians in developing policies and school scope and sequences of essential skills that relate to the context of the school. Poser (2013) shares this view in Jacobs-Israel article about one librarian’s success story: ‘With the ongoing support and encouragement of a principal a teacher librarian can attend professional development learning workshops to help align the Information Literacy Skills continuum to the needs of the students and needs of the school.’
As the information landscape continues to evolve, principals rank technology as one of the most important job functions of a teacher librarian. They want TLs to share their technology expertise and offer technology leadership to staff. As stated by Kuon (2012), ‘the librarian is the rudder guiding the school toward the new or unknown.’
Principals interested in developing their school libraries as ‘instruments of school improvement’ (Hartzell, 2003) should support their teacher librarian in their role as specialised educators.
‘Strong teacher librarians with positive principal support never waiver from their quest to educate students. (Hopkins, 2010)
Hartzell, G. ‘Why should principals support school librarians?’ Teacher Librarian Journal 31.2 (2003)
Haycock, K. 1999. ‘Fostering collaboration, leadership and information literacy: common behaviours of uncommon principles and faculties’, NASSP Bulletin, vol.83 (605), pp82-87.
Hopkins, G. (2010) ‘Good principals: What traits do they share?’ Educational World.
Jacobs-Israel,M. ‘One librarian’s success story: Christine Poser is helping her school move.’ School Library Journal. 2013
Kuon, T. &. (2012). How does your boss see you? Proof that principals value librarians. School Library Journal .
Purcell, K. (2012). Libraries 2020: Imagining the library of the (not too distant) future. Retrieved March 16 2013, from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D/page21cc3723-8c2a-4279-008f-96f00ee74642