How should TLs prioritise the roles they play in the school? (Topic 2)

(Originally posted on Forum on 28 Nov, but I forgot to put in on my blog)

Some thoughts after reading Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza:

i) Regarding how TLs should prioritise the roles they play in school, Herring’s suggestion that they should ‘prioritise roles according to the current needs of students, staff and parents in the school community’ struck a chord with me, as each TL will be faced with completely different circumstances. I also liked Purcell’s discussion of reflective practice; using 15 minute increments to note down what you’re actually doing and achieving, then assessing whether it’s what you actually want to be doing in terms of role, and adapting your practices accordingly.

ii) The social roles played by TLs can’t be understated, from providing a welcoming, safe environment for all students, to building confidence to access a variety of information sources, to inspiring a life-long love of reading through fiction displays, wide reading lessons and book circles. The fact that the TL generally does not critically analyse a student’s work can take the pressure off the student/teacher relationship, and this, combined with their interactions with the student throughout their school career, can lead to very different relationship to that with a classroom teacher.

iii) I felt Lamb’s views were very focused on innovative approaches; motivating, but also somewhat overwhelming. Herring and Purcell came across as more solid/grounded to me at this early stage in my TL development. I felt their suggestions sounded more achievable as stepping stones to possible improvements to be made, rather than giant leaps to the ideal/Lamb’s views.

iv) In order to be as proactive as Lamb and Valenza want a TL to be, the existing tasks/roles that it would be ideal to be pass to others might be largely administrative. For example, checking books/AV in and out, collection maintenance (eg weeding, repairs, covering and cataloguing items) and the fiddly side to budgets (eg if someone else could keep track of expenses via a spreadsheet the TL could still access easily).

a) I do feel I could fit in with the roles proposed by the authors, but I can see there are a wide range of expectations of the TL’s role and it’s important to be realistic in terms of what I could achieve. I would hate to be in a position where I tried to do so much that I felt overloaded and burnt out and lost my enthusiasm. It’s clear to me that support from others would be invaluable and that professional development in the areas wherein I’m not confident would be highly necessary.

b) I had to think hard with regard to Purcell’s order of roles and whether ‘teacher’ should, in fact, come first. I do believe there’s a great deal of overlap between teacher and leader (to be good at either, you have to be both). However, if I have to choose, I think Purcell has it right when she puts leader first, because the leader has to make it clear that the role/profession is integral and worthy of support first and foremost. Once this is achieved, the teacher side of the TL has the requisite backing to do their job the way it needs to be done.


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). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33. Available via CSU Library’s Academic Search Complete database.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Joyce Valenza’s (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century School LibrariansĀ

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