Are We There Yet?

Have I got myself any closer to pinpointing the role of the TL?

There are a dozen documents I could cite that could give an official guide to the role of the TL, perhaps the key one being the ALIA/ASLA Statement on Teacher Librarians in Australia (2002)

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, defined as eligibility for Associate (i.e. professional) membership for the Australian Library and Information Association [ALIA]. Within the broad fields of education and librarianship, teacher librarians are uniquely qualified. This is valuable because curriculum knowledge and pedagogy are combined with library and information management knowledge and skills.

This is supported by ASLA’s Standards of Professional Excellence which identifies the three domains of Professional Knowledge, Professional Skills and Professional Commitment (each with four elements described  by relevant performance indicators) which, while closely aligned to the AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers spell out just what it is that the TL knows and does that makes having those post-grad qualifications mandatory.  As Judy O’Connell says,”A good teacher and ICT leader can do a lot – but they are not versed in the discipline of library and information studies and there is just so much that they can’t know. No fault of their own – they just haven’t ‘learned the trade’”.

There is also the School Library Bill of Rights which states, “School libraries are concerned with generating understanding of freedom and with the preservation of this freedom through the development of informed and responsible citizens” and outlines the responsibilities of the school library to do this.

Then add to the mix the concept of Library 2.0. No longer is the library confined to a physical building or its collection to print resources lined up on shelves. Rather than the transfer of information it presumed users wanted, the emphasis is now on the creation of information that users have indicated they need.

In the past, “Web 1.0 took people to the information; [whereas] Web 2.0 will take the information to the people.”  (Davis, cited in Miller, 2005)

The “new” library has to be focused on its users, delivering information, resources and services that meet their actual, rather than their assumed, needs, guided by client requests, response, participation and feedback. And from Library 2.0, emerges Librarian 2.0. 

Librarian 2.0 is a mashup of the old and the new focusing on the users, services, technology, content and context in a collaborative, interactive environment. (Barbara, 2011, private blog)

While the traditional knowledge, skills and attributes remain an essential core, they are enriched by new Library 2.0-based capabilities enabling a more diverse, richer experience for both librarian and client. Policies, programs and practices reflect the new paradigm and the users’ needs become their driver. Rather than being the sage-on-the-stage dispensing information, Librarian 2.0 becomes the guide-on-the-side facilitating the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Essential Knowledge

The teacher librarian must know

  • the demographics of the clientele so that information, resources and services are
    • well situated in the particular landscape
    • valid, valuable and valued within the particular context
    • in a framework or format that is accessible by the clients
    • appropriate and effective for helping the clients meet their information needs
  • the principles of educational and sociocultural information literacy.
  • the range of resources available beyond the physical collection housed within the library’s walls and how to provide access to these
  • how social networking enriches and enhances the library’s presence in the community
  • the purpose, features and functionality of appropriate Web 2.0 tools to support conversation, collaboration, interactivity and user-centred content
  • the issues involved in intellectual property, copyright and ethical use
  • the mechanics of online privacy, safety and security
  • the principles underpinning Library 2.0
  • the role and responsibilities of the 21st century librarian within their organisation


Essential Skills

The teacher librarian must be able to

  • demonstrate lifelong learning in practices and programs
  • identify and implement policies, programs and practices based on consultation and collaboration
  • understand the purposes of Web 2.0 applications and use their functionality to deliver user-centred services, information and resources
  • know how to locate, access, and evaluate information., services and resources and assist clients in developing their own information literacy skills, including using digital technologies
  • develop policies based on best practice to support programs, practices and priorities
  • develop and implement a social media presence and other marketing strategies

Essential Attributes

The teacher librarian must have

  • the ability to work in and contribute to a collaborative environment which acknowledges and values the strengths of its individuals and the synergy of the team
  • a belief that collaboration and communication produce better outcomes for all
  • the willingness and flexibility to seek new, more efficient and more effective ways to deliver resources and services and embrace change
  • a desire to develop professional knowledge and improve professional practice, demonstrating personal lifelong learning
  • a belief that colleagues and clients are all threads in the same tapestry and all have an equal value in and responsibility to its creation, maintenance and development.
  • perseverance, patience and a willingness to “go the extra mile” to satisfy a client’s requests
  • customer service skills which treat all clients with respect and dignity
  • a desire to look beyond the immediate and seek out the opinions and needs of the “long tail’ – those who currently don’t use the library because they believe it has nothing to offer them
  • a commitment to develop and learn from Personal Learning Network
  • a commitment to principles underpinning Library 2.0
Librarian 2.0
On top of all that are the three descriptors in Learning for the Future , 2nd edition (ASLA/ALIA 2001, pp 61=62))… curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager which I believe encapsulate the role perfectly.  They would be the words I would use if asked to put things in a nutshell.
There has been much discussion and debate about the need for libraries let alone librarians and teacher librarians in this ‘digital age’  where “everything is available on the Internet.  To help crystallise your responses when challenged this way have a look at this range of infographics that show that while our direction may have changed, our destination has not.  Use those that encapsulate your circumstances best to create your own to reflect  your role, purpose, goals and influence and display it prominently.

This series of reflections  has identified a number of things…

  • that the role of the TL will differ according to the purpose, philosophy and ethos of the school in which the TL works
  • whatever that purpose, philosophy and ethos the role must be client-centred based on designing and delivering services, technology, content and context based on the clients’ known needs in a collaborative, interactive environment
  • creating a personal duty statement based on official documentation and the reality of the situation will not only help clarify the role for the TL but can also serve to educate others about it
  • that 500 Hats was the perfect name for this blog.
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