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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All Librarians do is check out books, right?

The media and hollywood perpetuate the myth that "all librarians do is check out books". But throughout this subject we have had to critically analyse the role of the teacher librarian in the school and the description I love best is the one of Instructional Partner.

Purcell identifies the role of Instructional Partner (IP) as someone who works collaboratively with teachers to meet learning needs of the students. The Instructional Partner is well positioned to participate in curriculum design and assessment while bringing together the needs of both cross curricular (horizontal) and year level curriculum (vertical). The teacher can then work collaboratively with the Instructional Partner to ensure that the needs of the students are met.

Herring (2007) writes that there is no other role in the school that is more focused purely on curriculum needs than the Instructional Partner and who is in no better position to reinforce learning with cognitive and constructivist theories (Herring). In the HREEC (2011) report on School Libraries, Parliamentary recommendations reinforce the view that the Teacher Librarian as an Instructional Partner is uniquely positioned in the school to influence and drive change.

Both authors identify that relationship plays an important part in the role of an Instructional Partner. The Teacher Librarian needs to be highly skilled in working as an effective collaborator who can implement learning theories with the appropriate selection of technology to affect student learning.  But these skills are useless unless the Teacher Librarian has the ability to create trusting professional relationships with both colleagues and students.

Herring makes the excellent point (p34) that whist many Teacher Librarian’s are called upon to support the information literacy program in a school, it is their ability to arm the teacher with the resources needed to encourage critical thinking and metacognition that is more important. Both sources could have expanded on techniques that TL could use to be proactive in establishing these relationships.

If we view the role of the library as a service area within a school (Purcell) rather than a resource provider, then we can shift our focus as an Instructional Partner onto client needs, the managing relationships and adding value to teaching and learning. Both authors identify the need of reflective practice to ensure continuous improvement in the support of teaching and learning goals. However, Herring provides a more substantive strategy in using empirical research to support action rather than a simplistic “time study” that Purcell recommends.  It is still important to quickly identify tasks that do not directly contribute towards improved teaching and learning. Purcell’s views in thinking outside the box and engaging members of the school community, such as volunteer parents, to complete these tasks are supported in the HREEC (2011) report on School Libraries.  Boyd (2006) emphasis the need for the Instructional Partner to plan to evaluate from the start of the project, having evaluation sheets ready to go as part of a lesson preparation. The Japanese term for this is Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement where reflection is part of your every day practice (Weiser  2005)


Boyd, S. (2006). The connected library: A handbook for engaging users. Hawthorn, Vic.: Utopia Press.

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

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.

House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee (HREEC). (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia,

Wiser, J. (2005) Kaizen Meets Dewey: Applying the Principles of the Toyota Way in Your Library. Toronto Conference. Special Libraries Association. 

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