the reader’s hat

the reader's hat

There is a perception that the role of the teacher librarian is to sit and read all day. After all, we are ‘the gatekeepers of the literature’, with the power and ability to “bring the beauty and the joy of the written word to students”.

So it comes as a surprise to many, including those who entering the profession that we are not English teachers or language arts teachers or literacy coaches on steroids. It also comes as a shock that to have any time to read anything during the day is a rare time indeed!

Nevertheless, the teacher librarian as a reader is a critical role if we are to guide students on their reading journeys, confirming their choices, consolidating their skills and helping them plan new adventures.

It is not the purpose of this post to examine the value of literature to children.  Others much more knowledgeable have written about this such as Maurice Saxby’s The gift of wings: The value of literature to children. Neither is it to provide a crash course in children’s literature – there are many university courses to do that including those from Charles Sturt University. And nor is it to examine the role of literature in education – there are hundreds of pedagogical texts which address that. It’s not even to offer an opinion on what sort of literature to add to your collection and promote – your collection policy should be your guide for that. Rather, it is to consider our role as the readers’ advisory service and how we might do this better given the limited time we have.

The high purpose of book selection is to provide the right book for the right reader at the right time.

Drury, F.K.W. (1930) Book Selection Chicago: American Library Association

Every reader his or her book…

Every book its reader.

Ranganathan, S. R. (1931) The five laws of library science. Madras, India:Madras Library Association

As can be seen by the date of these two quotes, the concept of the librarian and teacher librarian as being the readers’ adviser has been around for a long time, and while it may be impossible these days to put the right book in the right reader’s hands at the right time because there are so many book and so many readers and only one of us, we do have a responsibility to have

  • an understanding of the significant stages in reading development across the ages of our clientele
  • an understanding of the sorts of text formats and features which support reading development at different times
  • a working knowledge of those titles  in the library’s collection
  • a desire to continue reading the literature that is most appropriate for those in our care

Because we are teacher librarians. there is an expectation that we will have a knowledge of a child’s literacy development from the reading-like behaviour of the toddler mimicking the adult who reads to them to the independent reader who has mastered not only the mechanics but who has also taken responsibility for their “reading life” (Miller, Reading in the Wild p.xviii). Although it is not our role to be reading instructors, there is much that we can offer to support reading instruction by making selections to add to the collection that are age and stage appropriate. 

In my opinion, and that of many others – experts and practitioners alike –  it is not the library’s role to support instructional reading to the extent that we organise our collections according to an artificial measure such as the in-vogue assignment of a lexile which does not take into account the prior knowledge or maturity level required to enjoy the book to its fullest, or according to a points system imposed by a commercial scheme or any other arbitrary standard that is likely to limit or marginalise our students based on their choices. However, we do have a responsibility to provide titles which have the textual and graphical formats and features that support the students at different times in their reading lives.

We need to know that

  • role play readers display reading-like behaviour which imitates those who read to them as they reconstruct the story for themselves, often differently each time as they use the pictures to prompt their memories. They need durable books with bright pictures that have recognisable elements and have text which incorporates rhyme, rhythm and repetition so they can join in as it is read or repeat it as they retell it.
Role-play readers know that there is meaning and enjoyment in stories.

Role-play readers know that there is meaning and enjoyment in stories.

  • experimental readers rely on their memory of familiar stories to retell them and the retelling is close to the original story as they understand that text carries a constant meaning. They rely on pictures to prompt their recall and may recognise familiar words so they need books with limited text where key words are often enlarged or in a different font; have repetitive phrases either cumulative or alliterative which they can memorise and repeat; and pictures which are lifelike and may have fun elements such as lift-the-flap. They also like stories featuring familiar characters from their favourite television series as they bring their knowledge of the situation and the character to an unfamiliar situation.

Some of the elements which support experimental readers.

  • early readers read texts slowly and deliberately, concentrating on every word and using their knowledge of the context and pictorial clues to support their meaning-making and their retelling. They are ready for new characters in new situations although they like these to mirror their own experiences and issues.  Animals and toys in human-like dilemmas allow them to discuss and reflect on their own situations, setting up the foundation for the development of critical literacy skills. They prefer their stories to be completed in one sitting although many will listen to serialised stories where there is a complete adventure in each chapter such as The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton.
  • transitional readers are able to use a variety of strategies to make meaning from texts and adapt their reading to different types of text. They understand the basics of story construction such as setting, plot and characterisation and are beginning to think critically about texts. They are making the transition from basal readers and picture books to novels which have short chapters, larger fonts and monochrome illustrations which still support the storyline. They’re willing to move beyond settings and characters with which they are familiar and into the realms of the imaginary and the fantastic.  Series are popular and they are beginning to identify favourite authors and topics.


A willingness to explore the imagninary and the fantastic take these readers to new worlds.

Books for this stage are characterised by short chapters, larger font and monochrome illustration which support the story.

Books for this stage are characterised by short chapters, larger font and monochrome illustration which support the story.

  • independent readers are just that.  They can read, retell and reflect on texts choosing from a wide range of authors, series, subjects and genres.  They have favourites and can justify their choices, and select according to need, interest and mood. They have developed the emotional connections that lifelong readers possess and share an innate love of reading.

Adapted from Reading Developmental Continnuum. Education Department of Western Australia, 1994

Even if our clientele do not span the range of readers, we should know where they have come from and to where they are headed.

Miller tells us

The path to lifelong reading habits depends on internalising a reading lifestyle along with reading skills and strategies.

And she also says

We must push ourselves to read widely in order to best serve our students – as role models who read for diverse purposes and reading advisers who know a lot about books that appeal to all types of readers.  The more widely we read, the more expterise we offer to our students.

This is where we must put on the reader’s hat.  If we are to help our students along their road to independence then we must read and read and read so we can assist them with their choices, and assist their teachers in their choices. It may be that during term time your pile of to-be-read books comprises only children’s literature but it will pay off because not only will the staff and students view you as the go-to person when they’re wondering what to read next, but it puts the library at the hub of the school’s literacy program known for a collection that is built on professional knowledge and tested against a set of selection criteria that ensures it meets certain standards.

Just as we should not let personal bias interfere with the selection of resources for the collection, so we should not let personal preferences dictate our reading selections.  Of course, as we first start to learn about the collection from the inside out, we will start with our favourite authors, topics, series and genres but we need to read beyond those boundaries so we can build a broad base of knowledge and understanding.

Many of us will have childhood favourites or those we have used in our classroom practice and which we know children enjoy and it’s worth finding these and re-reading them as a starting point.  Then start to branch out. There are many sources…

  • Publishers have regular free newsletters that you can subscribe to so you can keep up-to-date with new releases. As well as Australian publishing houses, I also subscribe to some in the US and UK which is how I had copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on the shelves when students came in demanding it. 
  • Use subscription services which provide reviews and overviews from a wide range of publishers. I like Publisher’s Weekly which has a range of free e-newsletters including Children’s Bookshelf which has a plethora of articles related to children’s literature including reviews, meet-the-author, podcasts and news but others include Booklist, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Scan, and Magpies which includes The Source and The Literature Base.
  • Look at the publishers’ catalogues and websites, particularly those of the independents who often publish new authors or books with interesting topics. If you’re going to a conference or network meeting, browse the vendor displays – and perhaps pick up a bargain!
  • Learn which newspapers and periodicals promote books for your target clientele and follow their reviews and recommendations.
  • Know your students’ favourite authors as well as those who write for your students’ age group and keep tabs on their websites and blogs. There are often sneak previews, sample chapters, book trailers, information about public appearances and what they’re currently working on so you can look for them in the future.
  • Look for new authors whose work might appeal to your students by becoming familiar with the independent publishers as well as the mainstream ones.  Find the CBCA page on Facebook where new authors often let others know of their work, including that which has been self-published.
  • Browse the bookstore displays to see what’s new and recommended in a variety of genres.  Some bookstores promote staff recommendations so you can discuss possibilities with them.
  • check out second-hand stores for older titles that may no longer be in print but which are still popular
  • Look at what other TLs are posting on their library blogs and websites to discover what other students are reading
  • Seek out blogs which review the titles for your target age group.  There are many of these, particularly for YA,  and I’ve gathered some of them on Blogs About Books. Three that are great for younger readers are A Book and a Hug (have your readers take the What kind of reading superhero are you? quiz to find out what they might like); The Book Chook which has a strong Australian flavour and The Bottom Shelf where I review picture books, old and new, for the under-8s. Create your own blog where you share your reading with others.
  • Read reviews.  There are many sites and journals which are dedicated to reviewing children’s literature and I’ve collated some of these on the Read a Review page.
  • Get recommendations from other teachers and teacher librarians using your personal learning networks such as OZTL_NET. Everyone has a favourite they like to share. If schools have organised book clubs, find out what books they are focusing on.
  • Use crowd-sourcing sites such as Goodreads  and Shelfari where you can get recommendations as well as creating your own reading journal. Follow dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Talk to the students about what they are reading. Miss 9, an avid reader, told me that the favourite story among her peers this year was the classic Black Beauty and she was delighted when she found a copy of it among a collection of other classics on my home shelves.  She’s now reading her way through them, as well as War Horse by Michael Morpurgo which is of a similar nature to Black Beauty. One conversation and she had two pathways to follow – the classics, which may well open up new paths in themselves, and the other works of Morpurgo. 
  • Ask the students what they think you should be reading. Many will have favourites that they have sourced beyond the school library and which you need to know about and consider for the collection.  Peer recommendations are powerful, as even the most reluctant reader wants to be part of the in-crowd.
  • Keep abreast of new and upcoming releases through sites such as
  • Troll the best-of lists that come out at the end of the year from a range of sources. It’s surprising how many titles are common entries on these lists, indicating that they are worth considering.  If you want to discover the best of the best of times gone by, look for publications such as 1001 Children’s Books you must read before you grow up 


1001 Children's Books you must read before you grow up

1001 Children’s Books you must read before you grow up


  • Look at the award winners such as the Australian Children’s Book of the Year, the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, The Kate Greenaway Medal and The Carnegie Medal
  • Look for and explore if-you-like-x-then-try… lists.  They are a great source of new titles that match an identified preference.
  • Know which books have been turned into movies, or are about to be, and read the print versions of them so both you and your students are familiar with them, but be aware that the movie’s rating may be different to that of the book.  Useful sites are…
  • Trust your experience and expertise – if you see a book that you think will appeal, read it.
  • If you want to try before you buy, check out what your public library has.  Build a relationship with your local children’s services librarian and discover what are the most commonly borrowed titles there.
  • Maintain your professional reading with books like The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, Readicide, The Rights of the Reader, The Power of Reading, The Read-Aloud Handbook and Igniting a Passion for Reading. Each will help you understand how to wear your reader’s hat well.

Wear your reader’s hat in public. Let the children see you reading in those rare spare minutes that you get.  Let them see your pile of to-be-reads.  Let them see the reading goals you have set yourself and which you celebrate as you achieve them.  Let them flip through your reading journal where you keep an annotated record of what you’ve read, what you want to read and their recommendations.

If you put your reader’s hat on, they will too.

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the leader’s hat

The leader's hat

Many teacher librarians associate leadership with hierarchy and believe that it is the domain of the principal and the school’s executive.

But anyone with specialist knowledge and skills acan be a leader, even students, and particularly the TL because their position within the school is often unique.  In many cases, there is only one of us in a school, perhaps several schools, and staff and students look to us as being the leaders in literature and information access and management.

Teacher librarians are ideally suited to lead from the middle.


Much has been written in many forums about leadership types and there are almost as many types as there are articles about them. Examples are

  • Transactional Leadership
  • Situational Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Servant Leadership, and
  • Instructional Leadership

A good place to start for a basic understanding of the sorts of leadership that are applicable to schools would be Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: from research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria,Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (If you cannot access this title, a review of the key factors is available  here.)

As well as there being a multitude of articles about leadership theory there are any number of video clips including Leadership Theory and Critical Skills and Ten Leadership Theories in Five Minutes.

However, the most effective form of leadership in the school situation would seem to be transformational, in which change is effected through

  • having a clear vision that is articulated well,
  • a passion for the change and involvement in what needs to be done
  • a desire to ensure that all those involved succeed through encouragement and empowerment to explore new ways and new opportunities

Nelson Mandela is widely regarded as being an exceptional example of a transformational leader.

Check out your natural leadership style by taking this quiz developed by my leadership hero, Stephen Covey and assess your leadership skills using this one. Even if you don’t view yourself as a leader, perhaps even shy away from the mantle, as the TL you ARE a leader so it’s worthwhile knowing and learning about the critical elements essential for success of your vision and the design and delivery of effective programs and services which will enrich and enhance the teaching and learning in your school.

Whatever the style, effective leadership has some critical skills, common to any situation – business, school, library, whatever.


Chapter 4 of School leadership that works: from research to results is entitled The 21 Responsibilities of the School Leader and the authors set out a set of characteristics which, according to their research, are essential for the successful school leader if there is to be a significant impact on student academic achievement. Substitute “teacher librarian’ for “principal” and it’s possible to understand what the TL needs to know, understand, appreciate, value and do to ensure the achievement of the vision and the successful implementation of the plan.

Let’s look at some of these characteristics and how they might be applied to your vision and strategic plan.

Change Agent

The change agent is not satisfied with the status quo just because it is the way things have always been done. They willingly and actively challenge it if there is a proven better way of doing things that is relevant to the situation.  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is an anathema to them because they are constantly striving for the best, operating at the leading edge of a school’s competence and are prepared to take risks, encourage and protect those who take them with them and live with uncertain outcomes.

The TL who is a change agent examines two key elements…

  1. What is happening at the leading edge of education generally and considers how the library’s services can be shaped to accommodate and reflect this. ( A great example is the early adoption of ICT and its embedding into the curriculum by TLs which is why they are often viewed as the ICT specialist.)
  2. What is happening in leading edge libraries, school , tertiary and public, and considers how these practices can be embedded into their situation.  (A great example of this is the way that the Arizona State University libraries have embraced social media to connect with students.)

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.

Ideals and Beliefs

Well articulated beliefs are at the core of effective leadership.  The leader knows and understands what is best policy and practice in teaching and learning and is driven to provide these within the school.  This knowledge and understanding is based on an intimacy with

  • the ethos of the school
  • the school community’s desires and expectations
  • who the students and staff are-
    • their needs, interests and abilties
    • their ethical, cultural and social make-up
    • their aspirations and challenges
    • their rights, responsibilities and roles
  • pedagogy
  • curriculum requirements, design, delivery and assessment

For the TL, this means identifying and articulating your beliefs about teaching and being a TL as demonstrated in The teacher’s hat and understanding the rights of the students as articulated in The Students’ Bill of Rights and marrying these to both current best practices in teaching and library services – hence our dual title- and the school’s vision and goals. From this comes the vision statement


Fostering a positive culture of community, communication and co-operation based on shared beliefs is essential if the library is to be seen as a place that belongs to all in the learning community. The TL should be seen as a custodian not the owner.

A community-based culture is the most effective way to achieve change and building your library committee is the first step in this.  Sharing the sense of ownership amongst all the stakeholders, including the students, is much more likely to achieve the vision.

Seek ways that staff and students can have input into the design and delivery of the library’s services and programs and into the decision-making process.  Acknowledge this through the policies you write and the procedures you develop.


The library is not an ivory tower.  It needs to be receptive and responsive to the needs of its users. Communication is essential! Establish strong lines of communication to and from the library using a range of traditional and social networking tools so that you can not only reach the visible users but also that invisible long tail who believe that the library has nothing to offer them.

Effective and frequent communication also keeps the library’s purpose and goals in focus and ensures accountability.  If you say you’re going to do something, then you need to deliver!  Publicise the goals of your strategic plan so they are clear and visible to all, adhere to the timeframe and performance indicators, and celebrate the milestones.

Affirmation, Acknowledgement and Rewards

Everyone wants to have what they have contributed or achieved recognised so be aware of what your team and your clients are doing and seek appropriate ways to acknowledge these.  It can be a simple thank you, a thumbs-up, a private note, a team-based reward or a full-blown celebration. 

Build relationships. The best leaders are aware of the individual and the effort they put in and take the time to let the person know that they know. Even if it is dissent or criticism, acknowledge the courage that the person had in raising the issue, thank them for their new insight and consider what has been offered.  If you take the suggestion on board, attribute it to its source; if you don’t then take the time to explain to the person why their idea is not a good fit at this time.


John Donne wrote “No man is an island.” No matter how skilled, no single TL can provide the best of the best from the library without collaboration and if progress, achievement and success are to be sustained it is essential.  It is very easy for a specialist such as a TL to believe they are the key-holder and gate-keeper to the knowledge but if that is not shared, what’s the point of having it?

Using a team approach to achieve the vision is the most likely road to success but there are bound to be road-blocks. View these videos for some insight into problem-solving and group decision-making to turn those obstacles into opportunities.

Professional Knowledge, Practice and Commitment

Effective leaders are seen to talk the talk and walk the walk.  Obvious and demonstrated sound professional knowledge, practice and commitment inspire confidence in the team, but you need to to empower your team so they have the wherewithal to accomplish what they have undertaken. Remember:

  • Your team (and the broader learning community) do not have the TL’s specialist knowledge so where it is appropriate explain why things are so, and back it by sharing relevant research and professional reading.
  • Your team members may need personal professional learning so they can accomplish what they need to do so look for the most appropriate way to share this whether it is 1:1 with you in an incidental situation such as learning to access a database; a mentor relationship in which the one who has empowers the one without; a school-wide initiative such as building inquiry-learning as the basic pedagogy in alignment with the Australian Curriculum; or seeking sources further afield for either yourself or your colleagues.  Teachers, as well as students, are learners!
  • You need to enable access to the resources – human, financial, physical and time – that are essential for the team members to achieve their commitments.

If the library’s services driven by a knowledgeable qualified teacher librarian are to be seen to be as essential, non-negotiable elements of the school’s core business then each of us has to step into the limelight, find our inner leader and let it shine.

It is impossible to address the whole issue of the TL as a leader in one blog post, so if you want to follow this path in greater detail you are urged to undertake Teacher Librarian as Leader through Charles Sturt University to whom I am indebted for much of my knowledge and the content of this blog post. 

You might also like to read 4 Ways to Lead from the School Library

In December 2016, School Library Connection posted the results of their one-question-survey about who were considered to be “school library rockstars” in a Wordle.


No surprises about the names in the biggest print but what is interesting and important is what it is that makes these leaders stand out and influence our professional thinking, learning and practice in the way they do.  As the article says, “Aspiring school librarian leaders can use the descriptor headings as action statements.”


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the planner’s hat



A vision statement is just the beginning.

If it is to come to fruition then it needs to be teased out in and supported with a formal strategic plan which becomes the road map to the destination of your vision. Such a plan shows the pathway forward, guides decisions, helps negotiate obstacles and avoid detours, has markers and milestones which prove your progress and ensures that your steps are leading in the right direction.


It includes identifying

  • purpose
  • priorities
  • goals
  • timeframes
  • performance indicators
  • stakeholders
  • roles and responsibilities
  • financial, human, time and physical resources
  • external support
  • documentation
  • review periods

It needs to answer these sorts of questions…

  • What have we already got?
  • Is this still valid, valued and valuable?
  • What more do we need to have?
  • What more would we like to have?
  • How can we make the tasks manageable?
  • What will be the roles and responsibilities of each person?
  • How should the map to our destination  be constructed?
  • What are the priorities along the way?
  • What resources are needed so we arrive at the destination safely?
  • How will we know we are making progress?     
  • How will we know that our destination  has been reached?
  • Is the destination as far as we can travel or is there somewhere beyond the rainbow’s end?


All that is done within the library, whether it is wearing your teacher’s hat or your librarian’s hat must contribute positively to the teaching and learning in the school. Whether overt or covert, it needs to support the staff and students in some way.  Therefore, any changes need to be underpinned by an articulation of how they do this. Making changes based on sound pedagogical practice which is supported by evidence of its efficacy and efficiency demonstrates why we are teacher librarians with dual qualifications.

For a list of the questions which need to be considered to demonstrate that your changes are based on best practice,  read The Information Specialist’s Hat

All that is done also needs to meet the needs of the library’s users, both staff and students, and these cannot be assumed. Undertaking an Information Needs Audit will provide you with insight into those services which staff and students believe to be the most useful for them. It can also serve as an advocacy tool to alert them to the range of services you provide. Clicking on information_needs_audit will take you to a pdf version.



Not everything needs to be done at once.  In fact, it cannot be as one thing is often the foundation for the next. Establishing priorities  not only identifies the sequence of the plan but also provides a defence if your professional practice is challenged.

Areas of priority to be considered include

  • the development of an information literate school community
  • curriculum development, design and delivery
  • collaborative planning and teaching
  • recreational reading programs
  • collection development, management and appraisal
  • simple circulation systems of resources for all users
  • an understanding of intellectual property and copyright issues
  • the introduction and integration of digital technologies
  • the development, design and delivery of online services
  • the establishment of an attractive and supportive library environment
  • management of archives and school memorabilia
  • the development of clear, identified, safe and fair workflow and work practices
  • an understanding of the services and support a qualified teacher librarian can offer
  • the professional learning for yourself and your colleagues
  • other areas of responsibility specific to your situation

While all areas are important, priorities should be established based on

  • your professional knowledge of the needs of the staff and students
  • identified in-school priorities so the library’s goals are aligned to those of  the school
  • external factors such as the implementation of new strands of the Australian Curriculum
  • practical concerns such as available or proposed infrastructure



Goals are  concise, specific statements of what will be achieved within a certain time period.  They should be SMART.


S specific significant stretching sustainable succinct
M measurable meaningful motivational manageable
A achievable agreed acceptable action-oriented authoritative
R relevant realistic responsible rewarding results-oriented
T timely tangible trackable

To ensure that the goals are achieved, it is necessary to

  • allow key stakeholders to have input and ownership
  • display them prominently
  • identify the starting point, strengths, and weaknesses of each
  • identify the obstacles and opportunities that exist
  • identify the cost, time and sacrifices or trade-offs that each demands
  • develop a plan for achieving each one so the task is manageable


The usual timeframe for a strategic plan is three years as that enables time to identify, implement, expand and review.  However, within the overall timeframe, specific smaller periods need to be identified so that the overall plan remains on track.  These are based on the identified priorities of what is, what should be and what could be.

Ensure that the timetable for action is published and readily available and establish a communication mechanism so team members are aware of dates and deadlines.

Also create an at-a-glance management plan so progress can be easily seen.

At-a-glance management plan

At-a-glance management plan

Performance Indicators

Performance indicators are the markers and milestones which demonstrate achievement and ensure that the goals are being met in a timely fashion over the course of the plan. They identify

  • how a goal will be measured, either in increments or overall
  • what has been achieved
  • what needs to be done
  • how what has been achieved can be built on

Where possible, identify the benchmark or starting point, and, like the goals, make the performance indicators SMART. While keeping priorities in mind, capitalise on initial enthusiasm and have a cluster at the start of the plan so initial success is achieved quickly, is clearly visible and the foundations for future development are laid.

Set up a public document that clearly shows the progress that is being made so that success can be seen and annotate it to identify the contribution to teaching and learning.


Because the library belongs to the whole school community and everyone has a part to play, this raises many questions …

  • Who should lead the expedition towards achieving the vision?
  • Who else should be on the journey?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are their vested interests?
  • What will they need to know to enable the destination to be reached?

Building your vision with a team offers many advantages including…

  1. It makes the whole task much more manageable
  2. It enables a broad range of stakeholders to be involved thus giving them ownership and a greater commitment to ensuring the success of the plan
  3. It brings a greater range of expertise, experience and viewpoints to the table so best practice is more likely to be achieved
  4. It enables a greater understanding of what is on offer through the library’s services and why things are done the way they are
  5. It puts the library at the educational centre of the school for staff, students and parents
  6. It is a great advocacy tool

Roles and responsibilities

In an address to a conference in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2003, leadership expert Tom Sergiovanni suggested that each team member makes five promises that will help the whole group work together to achieve the vision.

As the teacher librarian, what promises should you make?

Become familiar with the research about the impact of a well-funded, well-resourced school library program under the guidance of a qualified teacher librarian so you know there is well-founded evidence to support your beliefs about your role.  Summarise the research into a list of key findings to distribute to team members.

Use the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians  to examine your professional knowledge, practice and commitment to identify the areas for personal improvement in relation to achieving the goals of your plan.

Use the descriptions from  Learning for the Future, review those roles you have as

    • curriculum leader
    • information specialist
    • information services manager

Identify not only what you do when you wear each hat, but how much time you spend on each.

    • Is there a balance or a predominance of one over another?
    • What is your key role?
    • What are the unique areas of knowledge and expertise that you provide the staff and students as a result of your training that a librarian or administration officer can not?
    • What should your priorities be?
    • What can you delegate?

Compare the answers to the goals of your plan and identify the priorities that you need to focus on so it can be achieved.

Use what you have learned to develop a personal professional pathway which includes five promises which will enable the achievement of the vision. Use a format such as this…

Promise What do I intend to do?
Purpose Why am I doing this?How will it contribute to the achievement of the vision?
Strategies What are the steps that will help me achieve it?
Timeframe When do I plan to start and finish?
Support What do I need – time, people, resources, finance, learning – to achieve this promise?
Success  How will I measure and share my success?

 Have each member of the team

  • read the research summary
  • consider the vision statement and the contribution they can make towards its achievement
  • identify the five promises they will make on behalf of the group they represent and how these might be achieved.
  • complete a similar document based on their experience, expertise and commitment to the vision.

Publish and display these promises so that everyone in the team in whatever capacity is continually reminded that they are part of a connected community and have a responsibility to it.


It is essential to identify the resources that will be needed so these can be planned for.

Human – As well as the experience and expertise of the team members, there may be others whose expertise can be co-opted for a particular project.  Their availablitiy may influence the priorities of your plan. Human resources may also include obtaining or providing essential professional learning so a target can be achieved successfully.

Finance Many of the components may require financing either within or beyond the library’s normal budget so clear and complete costings are an essential part of the plan so these can be budgeted for by the prinicpal, the teacher librarian or external sources.

Time As the plan’s co-ordinator, the teacher librarian may well need extra time beyond their normal allocated administrative time so this needs to be negotiated with the timeclock holders within the school. Regular team meetings will also need to be held and appropriate times for these need to be negotiated.

Physical Achievement of the vision may require the provision of physical resources such as the reconfiguration of a space or the provision of ICT infrastructure, so these also need to be identified and costed, and their provision worked into the priorities.

External support

Identify the sort of external support that will be required, such as tradesmen to upgrade the ICT infrastructure; experts who can provide appropriate professional learning; collaboration with other staffmembers; or outside funding and integrate these into both the priorities and the budget. 


Often with a new vision,  there is a new focus and direction which brings with it changes or updates of policies and procedures. It is essential that these are done so that the plan can continue regardless of who is sitting in the teacher librarian’s chair. 

It is also important for the strategic plan to be formally constructed, published and displayed so that all stakeholders and those in the school community can see that there is purpose supported by identified prioriites and so forth.  It also enables progress to be mapped.

As parts of the plan are achieved, document these for future reference, including the pitfalls so there is a clear account of and accounting for all the time and effort that has been expended.  Share progress and success with the school community so they are kept informed of the changes and how these are impacting on the teaching and the learning within the school.


A vision and a strategic plan can only ever be guides, not set in concrete.  Circumstances change over three years and so there always has to be the flexibility of reviewing the priorities and programs, and changing direction as necessary.

As well, as things are put into place, new opportunities and possibilities open up.  But instead of following these detours, perhaps at the expense of your ultimate destination, write them down so they can be new pathways to be explored in your next vision statement. Ensure your steps continue to lead you towards that destination.

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the visionary’s hat


Libraries have been part of society’s culture since man first began to convey information by etching images on the walls of caves. School libraries have been part of the Australian education system since well-meaning people in London sent religious texts to recently-established Sydney so the children of the convicts would learn to read the scriptures, learn from them and become better people than their parents. But libraries, like society, change so they can meet the needs of their users and remain relevant in the context in which they sit. Digital technoliges have replaced markings on cave walls, and school libraries have evolved to be much more than a repository of religious readings.

These changes have not happened because Tinkerbell sprinkled fairy dust.  They’ve been inspired by visionaries in the profession – those who have the ability to see around corners and over hills; who see obstacles as opportunites; who aspire and inspire and lead change which others are compelled to emulate.

With the introduction and implementation of a national curriculum in Australian schools, and the rollout of the Common Core Standards in US schools, and other significant changes being made as the developments in technology roll inexorably on, this is a time for great change and great opportunities in school libraries – change that can be directly linked to mandated requirements and supported by evidence that makes its acceptance and resourcing more likely.

But for change to be successful and sustainable, it needs to be planned and supported. In my very first post on this blog I explained my adherence to Covey’s mantra of “Begin with the end in mind”, and this is essential to the change process. 

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction … how different our lives are when we really know what is important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.

Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Melbourne: Information Australia

To have a vision of the destination so your journey continually leads towards that is essential. Encapsulating the dream in a precise and succinct statement provides the focus and foundation on which to develop a strategic plan  incorporating goals, policies, strategies, performance indicators, and a timeframe that will lead to its achievement.

the vision statement

Creating a vision statement is a complex task. It is a narrow, future-oriented declaration of the library’s purpose and aspirations.

Firstly, you need to know what you want to achieve so you need to know

  • What does a best-practice library look like?
  • What does a best-practice teacher librarian do?

There are many models on which you can base your ideas – my favourite is the Springfield Township High School Library developed under the guidance of Joyce Valenza – and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians statement developed by ASLA is an essential guide to the sort of professional knowledge, practice and commitment a top-shelf TL has.

Regardless of the model (or combinations of models) you use, your vision must be in alignment with your own beliefs or it will never sit well or be a good fit.  Go back to The Teacher’s Hat  and revisit your beliefs about being both a teacher and a teacher librarian and create a new manifesto based on what you believe a top-shelf library should look like including the elements which drive your

  • literacy and literature programs and collections
  • research and information literacy programs and collections
  • services you offer your clients
  • environment in which you and they work

Articulating your beliefs in such a way takes them out of the world of the airy-fairy and into a tangible document that can be used to shape goals and defend decisions.

However, you need to keep in mind the practicalities of your particular situation. Consideration must be given to any requirements, restrictions or expectations put on your vision by your school and only you can decide if these are important enough to embrace as an enhancement of your beliefs, adapt so they fit with your beliefs or try to change through evidence of better practice   To set impossible goals based on someone else’s ideality rather than your reality only leads to despair and despondency as it looks like failure.  

The next step is to craft a mission statement so the purpose of the library and its place within the school’s philosophy, ethos and educational programs are explicit.  It is based on those beliefs, values and principles that are at your inner core, be they personal or corporate.  It needs to be clear and concise and should answer the questions

  • What is this library about?
  • What does it stand for?
  • How do we demonstrate these?

It is the basis for all decisions made regarding policy, procedures and practice and sets the guidelines and parameters for the services you offer

A sample mission statement can be found here

However, it is essential to understand the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement – the former defines your purpose, your reason for being; whereas a vision statement identifies your future direction.


The next step involves several key elements

  • reading and research identifying what is, what needs to be and what could be for the three key hats that the teacher librarian wears – curriculum specialist, information specialist and information services manager
  • identifying specific areas of focus to develop policies, programs, procedures, practices and priorities
  • drawing on the perceptions and needs of the stakeholders so that the vision is shared and they feel they have ownership of it and can make a contribution towards its success.

identifying what is

Establishing the current state of the library’s programs, services and environment is essential because it identifies its strengths and its needs, as well as establishing a benchmark against which future progress can be measured. It identifies whether what is currently on offer is valid, valued and valuable.

There are several ways that this can be done – the most common being a SWOT analysis. Rather than trying to assess everything in one analysis, it may be more practical to identify the key factors that make up what you offer and on both the educational and resourcing sides of the coin and analyse them individually, then combining them into a summary.

SWOT Analysis diagram

SWOT Analysis

A STEEP analysis is another option or you might consider purchasing Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook, 2nd Edition which has a whole section on assessing the current situation including

  • preparing a history and descriptive profile of operations
  • articulating previous and current strategies
  • gathering information from internal and external stakeholders
  • gathering information from documents and other sources
  • summarising the information into a situational assessment

identifying what needs to be

School library programs and services and the environment in which they sit are subject to outside influences such as mandated curriculum, identified school priorities and the needs, interests and abilities of their clientele so establishing and articulating what these are and how they shape what is delivered is essential.  As well as pinpointing what the essential elements are, they also provide evidence to support any proposed changes enhancing the likelihood of the vision being accepted and resourced.

identifying what could be

Start by examining the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identifying some personal professional goals that will guide your professional learning and practice and may lead to innovation and initiatives that have not been considered.

Identify leaders in the field such as Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Judy O’Connell, Doug Johnson and Lyn Hay and follow their blogs and other social media communications to see what’s happening at the leading edges and how you might be able to adapt it to your situation.  Look for Facebook groups such as iCentre and Evidence-based Practice for School Libraries and for Pinterest boards and so forth which share photos and links that can provide inspiration.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is a great way to become a giant yourself and instead of following the pack, you become a leader of it.

Create surveys for your clients that give them input into what they would like the library to provide and go out of your way to find out the needs of the long tail -those whose needs and interests are not met by the common, the popular or the overtly-on-offer and who do not use the library’s services becasue of this.


Writing the vision statement

The final step in this process is writing the vision statement. Visions statements need to be precise and concise stating what the library and its services (educational, resourcing and environmental) will be like at the end of the time period (usually three years or in line with the school’s development plan.) They are aspirational using superlative language that inspires others to want to be part of the process. 

The vision statement for my current school library is

An excellent 21st century library which supports the teaching and learning at xxxx Primary School.


Having identified where you are going and where you want to be it is time to put on your leader’s hat but that is another post for another day.

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the information service manager’s hat

hat_ismFitting as snugly as the first two, the third hat is that of the information services manager, perhaps the most complex of the three because it is the one that combines both the T and side of Teacher Librarian and is the one that most clearly demonstrates why we have those post-grad qualifications. Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001) describes this hat as the one which requires the TL to 

develop and implement strategies for evaluating the collection and for determining curriculum and student needs within the context of identified school priorities


The TL needs to put on a teacher’s hat and know

  • the learning needs, styles, interests and abilities of the students who will access the collection, including any special needs relating to cultural, ethnic, social, religious, and language issues as well as specific requirements relating to individual children
  • the teaching needs of the staff so they have access to the resources that will support the design and delivery of the curriculum
  • the philosophy and ethos of the school and the expectations of the parents who send their children there so that, on the whole, the collection is aligned to this
  • the philosophies, pedagogies and programs on which the curriculum is built and delivered so that challenges can be met and decisions defended
  • the breadth of the curriculum across all key learning areas and across-curriculum perspectives, as well as new initiatives including national requirements such as the Australian National Curriculum or the US Common Core Standards,  as well as those areas that the school has identified as areas for development

Then the librarian’s hat needs to be worn so the TL can

  • identify and negotiate priorities for collection development so that this is fair, equitable and meets needs, and decisions and expenditure are defensible
  • prepare, submit and disburse a budget that enables the collection to move forward 
  • locate potential resources
  • evaluate them according to the selection criteria identified in the Collection Policy, juggling general and specific criteria and making an informed judgement about their suitability and likely use
  • acquire them according to the school’s policies and procedures
  • put in motion the process that will get them from the delivery van or online source to the hands and eyes of the users now and in the future, a series of steps that can be complex and time-consuming
  • account for the disbursement of monies and resources through formal process such as stocktake and an annual report

Finally, both hats have to be worn at the same time as the newly-acquired resources are promoted and displayed so that their existence is widely known and they are used.

In the past, this wasn’t such a complex task because the format focus of the collection was print, with some audio-visual resources to add variety.  But with technological developments, there are a multitude of other formats and factors to consider and what we provide access to is as important as what we acquire.  So the TL also has to know

  • the access to ICT devices and delivery that staff and students have both within and beyond the school so that if online resources are acquired, they can be easily used
  • the individual preferences for a particular format and whether this is the best for the teaching purpose
  • the research underpinning current pedagogy and how this impacts on format selection, such as that relating to onscreen reading and the need for a foundation of skills built on print
  • how to map and evaluate the collection so that it meets the needs of all its users and ensure that it remains relevant and current
  • how to create and maintain a library landscape that is inviting and appealing to users as well as showcasing their learning

On top of all that, the TL also has to be able to write the  policies and procedures that encapsulate the decisions and the thinking that underpins and justifies them so that collection development remains constant and consistent regardless of who is at the helm.


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the information specialist’s hat



The second hat that the teacher librarian wears is that of information specialist.

According to Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001), this means we provide

access to information resources through efficient and well-guided systems for organising, retrieving and circulating resources and training and assistance to students and staff in the effective use of these systems

In the past, that was a relatively simple assignment – fiction resources were split into two sections, either picture books or novels, and given a classification based on the author’s name; non fiction was classified and shelved according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system.  Students were taught now to use the catalog, how the Dewey system worked so they could make sense of the numbers and then expected to locate the required resources on the shelves.

But the rapid development of technology has changed the goalposts and now, instead of staff and students coming to the information, in many situations the TL takes the information to the students.  Thus, as well as having an efficient, up-to-date catalog we need to know how to create and use hotlists, databases, social media, content management systems, virtual learning environments and a host of other tools so we can provide efficient and equitable access to the resources 365/24/7.  No longer is the library confined by walls and clocks.

There is also a push to abandon the traditional arrangements of the library so they become more like bookstores – the titles arranged by genre rather than author or subject.  From time to time, this issue is discussed on the TL networks around the world, and Jan Radford has collated a range of articles hereOther changes include arrangement by reading level particularly those assigned by commercial programs, or making special collections such as those for the LGBTI students.

However, before any such change is considered, there is a range of questions that need to be asked and answered with acceptable, independent evidence.  

Given that the definition of being the information specialist is based on providing efficient and effective access to resources, then we must demonstrate that any changes will do this better than what is offered now.  So we need to consider…

    • Why is the change being considered?
    • Is this a sound reason for change?
    • Why is what is currently in place not working? What is the evidence that it is not? How can it be changed/ modified to work rather than introducing a non-standard ‘fix’?
    • Is the solution based on sound pedagogical reasons whose efficacy can be measured?
    • What reliable evidence (apart from circulation figures) exists to support the changes and demonstrates improvement to student learning outcomes?
    • How will the change support the Students’ Bill of Rights?
    • Have students had input into the proposal?
    • Will the proposed changes lead to students being more independent, effective and efficient users of the library’s resources?
    • Will the change marginalise or discriminate against any users such as identifying their below-average reading level or sexual preferences?
    • Will the change broaden or narrow the students access to choices and resources?
    • Is it based on school-library best practice? Are there successful models (measured through action research and benchmarks and published in reliable authoritative literature) that demonstrate that this is a sustainable, effective and efficient model to emulate?
    • Will the change make it easier to achieve your mission statement and your vision statement?
    • How do the changes fit within your library policy, which, presumably, has been ratified by the school’s executive and council? Will the change in procedure require a change in policy?
    • Who is responsible for developing the parameters of the change and documenting the new procedures to ensure consistency across time and personnel?
    • If a change is made, what S.M.A.R.T. goals will be set to measure its impact?
    • Who will do the measuring and ensure that the conclusion is independent and unbiased?
    • If those goals show no change or a decline, will the library be willing to reverse the process? Will this be a practical proposition?
    • How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of the teacher librarian?
    • How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of other library staff?
    • If the change changes the traditional library arrangement, how is consistency across time guaranteed if personnel change because decisions are  subjective?
    • Who is responsible for developing and maintaining the criteria for placement and the Procedures Manual to ensure consistency?
    • Is the change worth the time that is invested in re-classifying every title and the money invested in new labels, staff wages etc?
    • Could that time and money be better spent?
    • Would better signage, including more shelf dividers, address the problem?
    • What role can displays play in highlighting different and unfamiliar resources to broaden access and choices?

Library 2.0 means that Librarian 2.0 keeps changing and we need to continually monitor and modify the shape and the fit of this hat.  

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the curriculum leader’s hat


Every now and then there is a challenge to encapsulate the role of the TL into six or seven words, and I always respond with

curriculum leader

information specialist

 information services manager


I learned way these terms back when from Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001) and they still hold true today.

I believe that that sums up what we do so succinctly and is timeless. Regardless of any changes such as a name change of the space, the new horizons opened by technology, new curricula or in-vogue pedagogy, those three roles remain our core business. 

For me, the hat that fits most snugly is that of curriculum leader for that is the one that puts the teacher in teacher librarian. I’ve been working with a colleague developing a new Library Development Plan, in particular aligning it to the school’s development plan, and almost every proposal came back to putting on the curriculum leader’s hat.

The nature of the role means it is the TL who has the best overview of the entire curriculum being designed and delivered in the school, sees how it all interweaves and locks together and through collaborative planning and teaching, can embed the information literacy process into it so there is connected, meaningful learning for the students. 

The rollout of the strands of the Australian National Curriculum across the country is an exciting time for TLs because not only does it give them the perfect opportunity to shine but they are the ones with the birds-eye view who can pull together the old and the new so the transition is smooth; identify the connects and disconnects so learning is cohesive and coherent; and support staff and students through the provision of the most relevant resources.

In a school I once had the privilege to teach at, the curriculum only had two strands – investigation and communication.  Everything fell under one umbrella or the other – we were either learning about something or we were sharing what we had learned.  As the TL, I held the ends of both strands.

Investigation is based on research.  Regardless of the depth required to solve the information need, the skills of research are an essential and those skills are based on information literacy -the ability to identify an information need, locate appropriate resources to solve it, then reading, evaluating and interpreting what is found to create a satisfactory solution.

If, as Mike Eisenberg says, information literacy is “the most basics of basics”, then who better than the teacher who has information literacy as their specialist subject to lead its embedding as an across-curriculum perspective? To teach the teachers as well as the students? To lay the foundations of a scaffold that will support that platform  of lifelong learning that is the stated outcome of Australian education for K-12?

Communication is based on talking, listening, reading, writing, viewing and performing so who better than the teacher who has the whole curriculum as their specialty to support the development of the essential skills? To provide leadership in curriculum planning so these are to the fore? To collaboratively plan and teach with teachers so opportunities are explored and exploited.? To provide a range of resources to make the design, delivery and assessment of the curriculum seamless?  

ICT stands for information communication technologies so who better than the information and communication specialist to be the leader in the introduction and implementation of new ways to do old things? To encourage teachers to pose problems that cannot be answered through copy-and-paste and a few mouse clicks?  To ensure that ideas, information and images are used ethically? To understand the potholes and pitfalls that exist in the online world and help staff and students navigate them safely, managing their digital footprints responsibly? 

The TL is also the person who sees every student in the school, often at least once a week, so who better to tap into that long tail of students who don’t see the library as meeting their needs and addressing their concerns? Who, with a reasonable budget, a knowledge of the collection, and the ability to search effectively and efficiently, can better respond to students needs at the point of need?

If we are to ‘future-proof’ our positions, then it is essential that we promote the teacher part of teacher librarian.

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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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the student advocate’s hat



Drilling down to what I believe my role as a TL should be is becoming more complex than I first thought – it’s like peeling the layers of an onion.

Firstly, I thought I would find the answer by identifying my beliefs and philosophies about education, which I did in An Unexpected Party but I found that wasn’t sufficient. It certainly helped me clarify my thinking but it didn’t go far enough.

Then, in The Shape of the Head I thought that the role of the TL could be determined by the role of the school library which had to be determined by the school community, yet that still wasn’t enough.

And so I found myself delving even deeper, down to the core of the purpose of the school – the education of the students. I asked

    • What is it that students have a right to within the school that is sacred regardless of who is at the helm?
    • What should they expect to experience as the absolute intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural, ethical, pedagogical and environmental basics of their school experience?
    • Should there be a Bill of Rights for Students?

If we believe education should be truly student-centred, then surely a formal statement that sets out students’ rights is appropriate.

Because each school is unique because its clientele is unique such a statement would have to be developed within each learning community, but there are some seminal documents which would need to be considered…

Even though I am no longer in a school, I can’t challenge you to do something that I’m not prepared to try so I’ve developed a draft statement which might serve as an inspiration for you to start the conversation with your learning community. I have to stress that it has been created without input from anyone but me, which is its first fault, but I’m a great believer in not being able to edit a blank page so offer it in that spirit. You can find it as a separate page of this blog.

Perhaps now I’m in a position to consider just what it is the TL can contribute to the teaching and learning of the students in our care…

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the shape of the head

I called this blog 500 Hats because as TLs, that’s at least the number of hats we wear – sometimes all in one day! And this post was going to be about identifying some of those hats. But for a hat to be a good fit, it must match the shape of the head so perhaps it would be better to examine the head first. In other words, examine the purpose and role of the school library, and the one we work in, in particular.

Imagine you were asked to encapsulate your role as a TL in just six or seven words. What would you put? Here are some responses from a recent challenge posed on LM_NET…

  • Inspiring students to read and learn
  • Service Information  Reliability Convenience  Vision Strength
  • Share literature and information seeking skills
  • Reading builds success.  We build readers.
  • 21st century transliteracy impacts academic achievement

The late Dr Laurel Anne Clyde wrote her thesis on the history of school libraries and there is a broad summary of the Australian situation available from The Hub. Even the most cursory glance at either of these will show that the purpose and role of the school library is continually changing to meet the needs and interests of its users. For most, the days of it being the vehicle for getting religious and didactic stories into the hands of the ‘unwashed masses’ so they could learn to live more wholesome lives have gone and if we still wore that sort of hat, if would be an uncomfortable fit for many.

If we don’t define what the purpose of our school library is and how it fits within the overall ethos and philosophy of our school then the hats we wear won’t fit well or be very flattering. Similarly, if we don’t have a vision for how the library will grow and change under out stewardship, it won’t be long before the current hat is tight and uncomfortable.

In 2009, some US librarians put together The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians which identified the purpose and role of the library and the role of the librarian. Their beliefs were…

the purpose of the library

  • The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.
  • The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.
  • The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.
  • Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.
  • Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.
  • A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.

the role of the library

The Library:

  • Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.
  • Encourages the love of learning.
  • Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.
  • Facilitates human connections.
  • Preserves and provides materials.
  • Expands capacity for creative expression.
  • Inspires and perpetuates hope.

the role of librarians


  • Are stewards of the Library.
  • Connect people with accurate information.
  • Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.
  • Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.
  • Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.
  • Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

These statements have also been encapsulated in a graphic by Stacey Taylor.

The Darien Statements


the core values of librarianship

The American Library Association has identified the core values that define, inform and guide the prfessional knowledge, practice and commitment of librarianship as being

  • access
  • confidentiality and privacy
  • democracy
  • diversity
  • education and lifelong learning
  • intellectual freedom
  • preservation
  • the public good
  • professionalism
  • service
  • social responsibility
The Core Values of Librarianship (Image from Ashley Chasse)

The Core Values of Librarianship (Image from Ashley Chasse)

How do these compare with your beliefs about the purpose and role of your library in your school? Why not prepare your own Statement of Beliefs for presentation at a staff meeting? I believe that if the school library is to have its rightful place at the hub of the school, then its purpose and role has to be determined by the school community. There needs to be consensus about what we want our students to know do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of their school experience and the library’s role in supporting that.

Similarly, we need to share a vision for the future of the library. While in the past, deep educational and pedagogical change has taken years, perhaps a generation, the speed of technological developments has initiated significant societal changes and schools and must respond to those much faster than before.The library, with its technological-savvy TL is often the leader of that.

The concept of Library 2.0 is rapidly becoming reality as the prevalence and use of social media tools become the norm rather than the rare. 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. Similarly, as well as catering for the needs, interests and abilities of those who use the services and resources, we must also consider the “long tail” – those whose needs and interests are not met by the common, the popular or the overtly-on-offer.

The role of the TL is shaped by the role of the library. Perhaps, as we in Australia head into a new school year, it is a great time to start forming and articulating the shape of the head on which we will hang our hat.

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