Becoming a teacher librarian

A blog by Chani Hawksworth

Activity 1 – Comparing the views of Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza


It is incredibly difficult to define how TLs should prioritise their role in a school. After completing the set readings by Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza, it is clear the the role of the modern day TL is HUGE and expanding every day with the evolution of technology. As all encompassing as this role is, the most important thing for TLs is not to become overwhelmed, and to take on small and manageable new projects gradually, rather than trying to overhaul their existing systems in one go and risking being overwhelmed. Herring (2007) takes a realistic an inspiring view of the overall role of TLs, suggesting that “school libraries are integral to today’s schools and teacher librarians will continue to have a key role in the education of their school’s students if they are seen to be adaptable to developments in learning, such as e-learning…” (Herring, 2007, p40).

The ideas of Annette Lamb made me reflect on the true responsibility of a TL, particularly when she states that “…library media specialists must be leaders. They have the potential to affect student achievement, curriculum, and professional development activities, as well as change the perceptions of school library media programs (Lamb, 2011, p30). I found Lamb’s article thought provoking in a myriad of ways, and her approach quite realistic. She seems to be challenging TLs to be the best they can be, and understand the full breadth and responsibility of their role in a school, but still an encouraging manner.

Melissa Purcell’s article highlights the essential nature of collaboration between TLs and teachers, emphasising the importance of this relationship, stating that “As an instructional partner, the media specialist participates in curriculum design and assessment, helps teachers develop instructional activities, provides expertise in materials and technology, and translates curricular needs into library media program goals and objectives” (Purcell, 2010, p32). I am quite taken with the idea of working as an “instructional partner” with other teachers in my school, and am in the process of setting up two activities in my school using this model. TLs working with teachers and their classes, and being involved in curriculum design are currently done at my school to some degree, but the program could be further expanded to the benefit of students, a prospect which I find quite exciting.

Of the four readings, the one I really didn’t enjoy was ‘A revised manifesto’ by Joyce Valenza. While Valenza made a valid point about the enormous jobs that TLs do, and the diversity of roles that they need to cover. However, in reality, many schools only have one TL, and to expect that person to fulfill all of the roles  listed is not realistic. I wholeheartedly agree that TLs need to move with the times, embrace the digital age, and undertake the professional development required to improve their skills in the e-learning area. However, I don’t agree that all of the things on Vlenzas list are “nonnegotiable” (Valenza, 2013, p2).

In my school, in order to be as proactive as Lamb and Valenza suggest would require shifting more of the admin and mundane tasks onto our ES staff, and having the TLs undertake more work in the areas of curriculum development, and developing our e-learning collection and skills. This would be a big culture shift in my school library, but one that I would very much like to be involved in.

Reference List

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Librariesin the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42).  Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

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

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

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


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