October 20 2014

One Semester In: What does a TL do again?

ETL401 Assignment 2 Part B Critical Reflection

One Semester In: What does a Teacher Librarian do?

So, I’ve finished my first semester of study in the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship). I’ve blogged, I’ve posted on forums, I’ve read (LOTS!!!), I’ve chatted with fellow sufferers … ahem, students … in our collaborative facebook group, and I’m ready to answer the big question now. What exactly does a TL do?

I hope I’m not letting the side down here when I say I still find this question challenging to respond to. But I’m certainly coming to grips a bit more with how to deal with those people who tell me, oftentimes well-meaningly, that it must be lovely to spend my days surrounded by books. It is, really. Totally lovely. But what I’d give for five minutes to actually open one and read it beyond the blurb on the back, or the SCIS record! So, being a TL is about far more than curating books, as I reflected in an earlier blog post (Rodgers, 2014a)

I don’t actually feel like my view of the role of the TL has changed much due to my studies in this subject. Not that my perceptions are the same as they were six months ago – far from it. But “changed” feels like the wrong way to describe it. It has been, for me, more of a process of clarification, of being able to put critical concepts to ideas that were floating around in my head. Applying theories to the practices that I was attempting to undertake within the wonderful walls of my library without consciously realising why I was doing it, apart from that it just kind of felt like the right thing to do.

So, now I have might on my side. The might of Karen Bonanno, who tells me that it’s vital that I advocate for the importance of my role in the school, and that I fight with all my mighty fingers to ensure that my colleagues recognise my worth, both intrinsically, and in what I can give to them and their teaching practice (Bonanno, 2011) The might of Annette Lamb, who believes that my strength as a TL lies in my ability to partner with teachers, and to ensure that my role description clearly identifies the profound impact that I as TL can have on the curricular goals of the school, and on student achievement (2011). The might of Carol Kuhlthau, who advocates for the importance of the teacher librarian as the primary agent for 21st century learners to call upon, and who recognises the key role that a TL plays in creating a school which prepares its students for the complexities of a 21st century information and learning landscape (Kuhlthau, 2010, p17). And who, just quietly, was so on the money about the feelings of frustration, doubt and confusion in the exploration phase of her ISP model – I felt like she was monologuing my life at points in my journey through this subject!

The many and varied discussions about the ways in which libraries can meet the ever-changing needs of a 21st century learning have been fascinating, and have informed my own thoughts about the future of resourcing in such a transforming information landscape. The contrasts between reading onscreen vs paper was a topic in both the forums and our collegial facebook group that generated much discussion, both in our roles as 21st century learners and our roles as Teacher Librarians in Training (Rodgers, 2014b).

Similarly fascinating has been the ongoing discussion about the importance of collaboration, and tied into this the need for principal support of the role of TL. Farmer’s discussion of the principal as the “chief catalyst for collaboration” (2007, p56) really resonated with my own experiences of working with a dynamic and engaging school leader who strongly supports the role of the library in the learning framework of the school. Comments in both the forums and to my recent blog post about support have indicated that this is not a common thing, however (Rodgers, 2014c), which makes me mourn for those TL’s who aren’t experiencing that essential support from their leadership. It also reflects on the critical importance in our profession of advocacy – the need for us all to ensure that our influence is not only felt, but visible, and that the wider teaching profession are aware of the vital role a connected and engaged TL can play in establishing and steering the learning culture of the school in profound ways (Oberg, 2007)

I’m equally as enamoured with my chosen profession now as I was when I started paddling this canoe upstream, and I’m glad for a rest in the rapids before next semester starts. I wonder what additional enlightenments might come about the wonderful world of Teacher Librarianship in my next subject? I can’t wait to see!!


Bonanno, K. (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

Kuhlthau, C. (2010) Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide January 2010, Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Accessed from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/docs/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf

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

Oberg, D. (2007). Taking the Library Out of the Library into the School. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii

Rodgers, T. (2014a)  Library Girls! And Boys. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/11/librarygirlsandboys/

Rodgers, T. (2014b) Online vs IRL reading. Blog post 1. 03-Aug-14

Rodgers, T. (2014c) The Teacher Librarian and the Principal: A Modern Fairytale. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/10/16/the-teacher-librarian-and-the-principal-a-modern-fairy-tale/


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Posted October 20, 2014 by Tamara Reads in category Uni Life: MEd (TL)

About the Author

She/her. On Whadjuk Noongar land. NSWPRC Officer, Teacher Librarian, English teacher and social media advocate. I've been teaching in Western Sydney for my entire teaching career, and love my job more than I love Neil Gaiman. (That's a lot, in case you're wondering!) I stalk authors (but always politely), fangirl over books, and drink coffee. And one of my guilty prides about my children is that they all have favourite authors. All opinions are my own.

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