Posted by: eheino | March 18, 2013

The Role of the Teacher Librarian into the 21st Century

Much has been written about the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools as we move into the 21st Century. Four key authors in this area are Herring (2007), Lamb (2011), Purcell (2010) and Valenza (2010). All four authors agree that the role of the teacher librarian is multi-faceted, but they prioritise different roles amongst these.  Herring (2007) recognises that teacher librarians should fulfil a multitude of roles within a school, but believes that “teacher librarians who manage their time effectively prioritise roles according to the current needs of students, staff, parents and the school community” (Herring, 2007, p41). On the other hand, Lamb (2011) suggests that Teacher Librarians develop a ‘palette’ of tools to assist them in dealing with the challenges of this changing role.  Purcell (2010) emphasises the teacher librarian’s role as a leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator in order to keep the role relevant within the school, while Valenza (2010) provides a comprehensive manifesto for teacher librarians, encouraging them to continue to learn and evolve, leading by example in doing so, and looking to the future by anticipating new challenges.


Both Herring and Lamb agree that it is impossible to maintain all roles equally, and that decisions need to be made based on the requirements of the school. These needs change as technology evolves. But how do we decide which of these needs to prioritise? Purcell suggests completing a time study to see how much time is spent fulfilling the different roles, then reflecting on how time could be better spent (Purcell, 2010, pp30-31). All authors agree that emphasis should be placed on enquiry learning rather than clerical duties, which can be time consuming.

A Social Role?

Only Lamb (2011) mentions the social aspect of what a teacher librarian does, although in my experience it is one of the most important roles for students. Students appreciate being in a “welcoming, safe and comfortable environment” (Lamb, 2011, p34) for learning. Teacher Librarians should also be approachable, helpful and supportive; this should help foster a love of reading and learning amongst students.  This is an under-appreciated role of the Teacher-Librarian, but it is certainly important for future generations of learners.

Something has to give

Taking into account all the different roles for teacher librarians suggested by the four readings and the realities of time and resource constraints, it is clear that something has to give. Purcell and Lamb want teacher librarians to be proactive. Both authors emphasise the need for them to be ahead of the field in regards to technology, in order to encourage students to embrace all the different opportunities that new technologies offer them. These things, however, take time; other tasks need to be sacrificed or passed onto others in order for the teacher librarian to take on this role as information specialist. But what can be sacrificed? Personally I would like to shift some of my administrative duties, such as book collation and covering, to an assistant. I could recruit some willing students to help with shelving books, something that many children in primary schools particularly would enjoy. By doing this I would have more time for working on school websites, etc.

Do I fit in?

I certainly believe I have the potential to meet the requirements set by these authors. I am quite enthusiastic about new technologies and enjoy exploring what is out there. By the time I finish this degree, I hope I will be equipped with the skills to successfully co-ordinate collaboration between myself and fellow staff members, and guide students to becoming information literate. Upon reading these articles it is clear that communication with staff members and principals is vital to the success of a teacher librarian, and for this reason I will need to work on my confidence and assertiveness if I am to be successful, but I am sure this will come with time.


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, 55(4), 27-36.

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, 30-33.

Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. In School Library Journal. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: