The Library and Me – Leadership Reflections
ETL504 Assignment 2 Part B
This semester has been challenging for me. Whilst grappling with the demands of postgraduate study (why did I think this would be easy again???) I’ve been dealing with challenges at work, as we have been negotiating some of the competing and conflicting priorities around budgeting and resource allocation, and ever-present personal political agendas. My study has also given me many opportunities to reflect on the role I play in the learning culture of my school, and the way in which my leadership impacts on those around me. It’s an eye-opening experience!
It has been challenging for me to examine the way people have been discussing the library this year since I have taken it over, and the resistance I have found from some colleagues has been surprising (Rodgers, 2014a) I have always considered the library a special place (Rodgers, 2014b) so it has been somewhat surprising for me to recognise that other educational leaders in my school don’t see it that way. It’s also been interesting to see people’s changing perceptions of my role within the school. Over the past 8 years I have developed a reputation as a hard-working enthusiastic team member, and have led a number of key initiatives that have contributed positively to the learning culture of our school. Over the first semester of 2014, many staff members appeared to stop seeing me as an educational leader in our school, and instead viewed me as their photocopy assistant, air conditioning controller, and keeper of the computer lab keys, as these were their primary interactions with our previous TL.
Creating a new paradigm for leadership in the library, then, is my continuing challenge. To boldly go where no TL has gone before – in my school, at least. My readings around leadership this semester have really helped me consolidate my views on my own leadership style (Rodgers, 2014c) as servant leadership, which I believe fits nicely in the library landscape. As Bonanno (2011) discusses, it’s vitally important as teacher librarians that we create a sense of our own value and worth, and facilitate an environment where our colleagues recognise this, and see us as professionals with something to offer them, particularly with the advent of the new curriculum and it’s general capabilities which fit so nicely into the library framework (ACARA, 2013).
It has been encouraging throughout this course to recognise that what I do instinctively as past of my leadership style (although I’d never have called myself a leader before!) actually fits some of the recommendations for effective leadership in the literature. For example, Belisle’s (2005) discussion on effective school leadership as requiring “collegiality, cooperation, partnership, respect for all, and mutual support” resonates strongly with my collaborative and supportive approach to leadership. The importance of deep communication through collaboration is something that I strive to do in my everyday interactions, and I reflected on in an earlier blog post (Rodgers, 2014d). The ability of individuals to make a difference no matter what their title is a principle that I model daily, both to staff and to students, encouraging those around me to recognise the potential of their visions, and their ability to contribute positively to a situation, whether it be a lunchtime minecraft building session or a planning meeting to organise a schoolwide program. This is reflected as an important principal of teacher leadership by Collay (2011), who recognises the valuable role of teachers at all levels of the school hierarchy in leading change.
Whilst my role as self proclaimed library lover has meant that I have always been an advocate of the importance of a well resourced library in schools, I must confess that I previously viewed the primary role of librarian as the custodian of books, in the same way that many others might see it (Purcell, 2010). The complexities of the leadership role that faces the TL cover not only areas of adolescent literature, but also collegial responsibilities for curriculum and pedagogy, the changing face of information, and the challenges posed by a dynamic and ever-changing technological landscape (Herring, 2007). The teacher librarian is concerned far more with people than pages, and this realisation has been perhaps my biggest mind-shift since taking over this role, and over the course of my study this semester.
So, where to from here? I’m sure that there are many more realisations I will encounter during my studies. But what I’ve learned so far is that the library is a living organism, which feeds the learning soul of the school. One respondent to the recent 21st Library Futures report referred to the school as an ecosystem, and wondered what would happen when you removed the giant tree that lived in the centre of the field – how would this impact life that depends on it? (NSWDET, 2010, p4). I love this idea – the interconnectedness of teaching and learning, focused around the library as an ecological necessity. Without it, providing shelter and food to the wildlife, holding the soil together, creating the life-giving oxygen that the inhabitants need, the entire ecosystem would crumble. Such is the power of an effective school library, and the responsibility of the teacher librarian to ensure through their leadership that the library continues to live and breath its essential purpose. What an exciting responsibility to have!
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013, January). F-10 Overview. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from The Australian Curriculum:www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Curriculum/Overview
Belisle, C. (2005). The teacher as leader: Transformational leadership and the professional teacher or teacher-librarian. School Libraries in Canada Online, 24(3), 73 – 78. http://www.clatoolbox.ca/casl/slic/SLICVol24issue3.pdf
Bonanno, K (2011) A profession at the tipping point: time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940
Collay, M. (2011). Teaching is leading. Everyday teacher leadership: Taking action where you are (pp. 75-108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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.
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.
Rodgers, T (2014a) A STEEP learning curve – the Library landscape. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/10/07/steeplearningcurve/
Rodgers, T (2014b) Library Girls!! And Boys. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/11/librarygirlsandboys/
Rodgers, T (2014c) Forum post 1.
Rodgers, t (2014d) Leading from the library. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/20/leadingfromthelibrary/