The Role of the Teacher Librarian – reflection on Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza

In terms of the role of the TL, and reading through the views of Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza, it is obvious the role is indeed ‘multi-faceted’. A Teacher Librarian is a wearer of many hats!

I took note of the quote from Osler within the Purcell (2010) reading. Osler stated, over 100 years ago “The librarian of today, and it will be more of the librarian of tomorrow, are not fiery dragons interposed between the people and the books. They are useful public servants, who manage libraries in the interest of the public”(pg31). This quote appeals to me due to the mention of people and within the readings, whether referred to as patrons, students, teachers or the public, it is the people that dictate what our role should be.

Indeed the role of the librarian has changed, just as the library has changed from only a place filled with “people and books” as referred to by Osler. It is important for TL’s to teach people how to find information, assess it and use it appropriately in a safe environment. Information literacy is a term which continually comes up and a definite role for the TL is to provide tuition on how to understand the changing information environment. It is also obvious that the role of the TL is to keep up to date regarding information technology and ongoing professional development is paramount. Jenkins (2012), within his 30 second Are School Librarians an endangered Species clip, mentioned that young people require a mentor to help them navigate the online landscape. I think this is such an important role for TL’s in terms of the changing information environment.

Within the Youtube clip from the Michegan Media Centre, it was mentioned numerous times about the correlation between a strong library program and strong academic achievement. I believe in Herring’s statement about Teacher Librarians collaborating with teachers and principals an important one in terms of increasing student achievement. So the TL role should definitely include this type of collaboration for the benefit of the students, teachers and the school overall.

It is obvious from the readings that the views regarding the role of the TL is diverse. Purcell’s suggestion of creating time study observation sheets is a notable one. Just like teaching staff keep teaching plans regarding their day to day lessons, this idea allows the TL not only to reflect on what they are doing throughout the day, but would also be good evidence for any discrepancies with principals, regarding your role.

Valenza’s Manifesto (2010) provides a good, practical list for librarians to work towards and I think it highlights the extent of a TL’s role as one that is broad and that an excellent librarian will not just appear overnight, but is a role that requires and individual to consistently work at, in order to achieve a myriad of goals. Purcell (2010) states that all the roles she mentions are interconnected and that one role cannot be performed without the support of the others.   Also, the environment in which one has been employed will greatly affect the role you have as a Teacher Librarian, for instance, how many staff you have to help you carry out the managerial and administration tasks will affect how many man hours you can dedicate to actual ‘teaching’.

Overall, however, the patrons of the library and their needs, need to be at the core of the role of the TL and the TL should work in any way they can to provide the best service possible in this regard.


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

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0509-3

Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do Is Check Out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33. Available from

Valenza, J. (2010, December 3). A revised manifesto [Blog post]. In School Library Journal. Retrieved from:

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) (2012, Jan/Feb) 30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community “Are school librarians an endangered species?”  Retrieved from:


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