October 14 2014

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/



October 7 2014

A STEEP learning curve – the Library Landscape

I’ve found the varied discussions of others’ school library contexts interesting – it’s like peering through the Playschool windows into other worlds! It has also helped me focus my attention on the strengths of my own context at Evans High School, and allowed me to take stock of what our opportunities are for development in the future.

So, my STEEP analysis of the library@Evans!

Social: in previous years, the library was massively under-utilised, with students only coming in to use a power point if their phones needed charging, or escape from the rain or heat. There were many behaviour referrals as a result of negative incidents taking place in the library during break times, and seniors rarely used the space during free or study periods.
When I took over at the start of 2014, we implemented many changes to the space. As a result, the library is now used very differently. Students gather during break times to play games, read, sit quietly in one of the soft comfortable spaces around the building, or hang out with their friends. There is a lot of positive interaction going on, as students collaborate on building worlds in minecraft or clash of clans, play card games or chess, watch movies, or chat. There is a committed group of students who are running a “library warriors” group, organising library displays and activities, and contributing ideas about future directions of the library.
Our school library caters to the mainstream high school (coed 7-12), an intensive English centre with a fluctuating population of a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and an autism unit. One of the key strengths of the library socially is that it provides a nurturing safe space for this diverse community to interact with each other, and build some positive connections.
Staff are also more actively involved in the library, with CAPA staff working with classes to create works that can be featured in our gallery spaces. Other staff frequently visit to help students with study or research both in break times and senior study periods, and engage with students by playing cards or chatting about what’s happening. It’s a vibrant, lovely, wonderful space to spend my days!

Technological: our previous principal was focused on making our library a technology centre, and created three computer labs in the building which take up a huge amount of the floor space. We have three labs which each have 24 computers and a data projector, and DER wifi throughout the building.
We are about to add mobile devices to our technology arsenal, with 10 laptops and 20 iPads being available for student use, as well as a trial of a number of different ereader and tablet devices.
Our BYOD/BYOT policy is about to be implemented, which will mean that students will be able to bring their own devices in and connect to the school wifi. As we have just lost our DER TSO position, much of the management of this program will be done in the library, and by me as both TL and technology team member.
The recent departure of our DER TSO position has meant that there have been changes in the way that school-supplied technology is supported in our school. (All students from Yr10-12 have a DER laptop, with IEC students able to borrow one from the school pool of laptops during their enrolment). As this position was previously located in the library, there is a natural inclination amongst students to continue to see the library as their support hub for technology issues.

Economic: In recent years, the library budget has been minimal. As my position in the library is a trial, it was also supported with an increase in budget from both the high school and IEC, and support for additional technology purchases for the library from the Technology Team based on my support of ongoing ICT initiatives in the school. There has also been allowance made for additional funds across the school for beautification projects, which has led to a pool of money being made available for painting and new library supplies.

Environmental: Our school has a strong focus on recycling, and the library has a number of paper recycling bins around. Our SRC runs an aluminium can recycling program, and the library is a central focus of that, with dedicated can recycling bins at the front door. We are developing a “freecycling” policy, which encourages students to think about ways to be environmentally friendly in their disposal of unwanted items – is there some way it could be reused or repurposed, or rehomed to someone who may be able to make use of it? We are also holding an art competition in Term 4 where artworks and sculptures will be only able to be produced with books that have been weeded from our library collection, and will be included as part of a gallery wall which is going to feature a shelf unit constructed from old encyclopaedias. Much of the soft furnishing which has recently been added to the library (couches, cushions, etc) has been sourced from donations from our school community, both saving it from landfill and creating an awareness of the benefits of giving things new homes, rather than purchasing new.

Political: This for me is the really interesting one. There are a number of office spaces in the library which are being used by individuals, and the space is then not available for the wider community. Changes in the library are being resisted, because of personal politics, and personal agendas about maintaining space which is seen as “theirs”. There is some resistance to change from the supervising library Head Teacher as well, who was responsible for overseeing the previous librarian, and perhaps feels that the change in position reflects poorly on her management of the library in previous years. It’s a minefield, but there is also a lot of support from the senior exec, as well as from teachers who have seen the changes that have happened so far, and are excited for what might come in the future.

August 20 2014

Leading from the Library

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Action figure librarian, by Jan Eliot (http://librarycartoons.wordpress.com)

Leading From The Library (ETL504 Assignment 1, Part 2)

The teacher librarian is uniquely positioned within the complex school context to be able to demonstrate leadership in many areas. What I love about the teacher librarian as leader is the interconnectedness inherent in their role. Not stuck at the top of the tree developing vertigo, or stuck at ground level drowning in dirt and fertiliser, the teacher librarian is afforded the opportunity to branch out into multiple and diverse facets of the school, influencing and impacting teaching and learning, welfare, and school culture in many ways.

One leadership concept which resonated with me from our study of management and leadership in schools was the idea of leader as editor (Fishburne). The notion of the teacher librarian as one who synthesises the ideas and input from individuals into a cohesive story, which shapes the direction of the organisation as a whole sits well with the way that the library I am working in now is beginning to function. It’s a challenging one to achieve though, and whilst there are enormous possibilities in working with such a diverse range of groups and individuals, there are also great challenges. Overcoming preconceived ideas about the role of the TL has certainly been a hurdle I have faced this year. Many staff have considered my key role is the provision of photocopier assistance, and their personal heat adjustment specialist (ie controlling the aircon). However, there have been some cultural shifts in the library which have led to exciting opportunities for collaboration.

The success of this change will be the success with which new traditions are formed in the library space, both for the students and the teachers who form an integral part of the library community. Kotter refers to this change as being a shift in traditions which requires strong positive support from the majority of the organisation. The challenge for the teacher librarian, then, in leading this change, is to examine the ways in which the majority (if not all) of the staff in the school can be encouraged to embrace change, and to participate in the growth of the library as a centre for learning.

Leadership in the library, then, is primarily an endeavour which is reliant on connection – a central element in developing and sustaining effective teams (Aguilar). Developing positive and productive lines of communication with staff from different faculties and teams is often a challenging one, especially when faced with competing agendas and priorities. Leadership which is servant focused is something that I believe is important in this context then (Marzano, p17). By creating a culture in which staff see me as someone who is supportive of their personal goals and needs, and fostering positive relationships, I believe that I as teacher librarian leader have great agency in developing positive growth for the school in general, and the library in particular. Like Tapscott’s starling murmuration, working together we are able to achieve a school culture in which success is intrinsically link to everyone’s achievement, not simply the goals of an individual. The possibilities for leadership as part of the whole for the teacher librarian are exciting, don’t you think?


Aguilar, E. (n.d.). Effective teams: The key to transforming schools? K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work | Edutopia. Retrieved May 29, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-teams-transform-schools-elena-aguilar

Fishburne, T. (n.d.) 8 types of leader. http://tomfishburne.com/2011/10/8-types-of-leader.html

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-step process for leading change. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved May 29, 2013, from http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/changesteps/changesteps

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: From research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from www.csuau.eblib.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/patron/Read.aspx.

Tapscott, D. (n.d.) Four principles for the open world. http://embed.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_four_principles_for_the_open_world_1.html


August 11 2014

Library Girls!! And Boys. :-)

Otherwise known as, “The Role of the Teacher Librarian”. OLJ Blog Post 1

Just Call Me Library Girl! image created by Jennifer LaGarde (2011)

As I reflect on my understanding of the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools, I’m struck by how formative my own experiences with Teacher Librarians have been in my understanding of what they SHOULD be like. I had a librarian in primary school who made me hate the place, as the one time this shy little girl ventured to tell him about why I loved the book I’d just returned (the newly released George’s Marvellous Medicine, if you’re interested) he pointed to the “Silence in the Library” sign and turned away. I’m sure, looking back, he’d probably had a bad day with the Year 6 class he’d taken before lunch, and hadn’t had time to use the bathroom or finish the coffee he’d made himself upon arriving at school that morning. The sign probably didn’t say “Silence in the Library” either, that’s most likely an effect of my Doctor Who obsession. But the episode still stands as one that impacted me deeply, and led to my close relationship with my municipal librarian. It also meant that one of the most prolific readers at Wallerawang Public School rarely ventured into her school library again.

I had two librarians in high school, however, who redeemed the profession for me. The first, Mrs Compton, was an angel who created a safe space in her walls, and introduced me to Atticus Finch. She never paid attention to how many books were currently listed on my borrowing card as being loaned, and studiously ignored the “TWO BOOKS AT A TIME” rule above her counter. The second, whose name for the life of me I don’t recall, created an academically challenging environment for his senior students. He paid attention to what we were doing in our classes, and provided us with brain teasers around the concepts we were looking at in 3UMaths, or provided us with journal articles about the legal cases we were analysing. And he’d wander through the study area quoting my favourite TS Eliot poem, varying expression and tone, and challenging us to think about exactly what Prufrock was trying to say.

It’s in that vein that I think about my own role in this wonderful profession. There’s a lot to negotiate. Competing priorities to colleagues, executive, students, and community in so many different areas. When I was asked towards the end of last year if I’d like to take on our school library for a year, I jumped at the chance, but in my head, I had a particular idea about what that meant. I thought I was aware of all the requirements of the job, but mentally I was focused (quite delightfully, I must admit) on the fact that I’d be getting paid to spend my days in a building full of books. The enormity of what faced me took a little time to hit, like an avalanche of, well, books from an overstacked to-be-read pile. (I’m not alone in having one of them, right?)

So, what do we Library Girls and Boys face? It’s way more than just buying pretty new books (although that is fun!) The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001) see the Teacher Librarian’s role as covering three key areas: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager. Purcell (2010) breaks these roles down further, and refers to teacher librarians as leaders, program administrators, information specialists and instructional partners. Given the complexities of the tasks that a Teacher Librarian might find themselves faced with in a school, I tend to agree with Herring’s (2007) inclination to provide a wide range of possible role descriptors for the Teacher Librarian, which allow for diversity and differentiation depending on their individual context, rather than tying the TL down to a specific job criteria. Lamb (2011) emphasises the importance of negotiating a balance between the often competing demands of the career, and not placing emphasis on one element (eg teaching and learning) over another (eg collegial collaboration). It’s far more complex than just making sure there are books on the shelves!

In many respects, the role of the TL is hugely dependent on their school context, and the needs and expectations of the community that they are serving. This is a departure from the standards that a traditional classroom teacher is used to dealing with, as outlined in the AITSL National Teaching Standards, because of the many and varied requirements of the Teacher Librarian. ASLA’s recent work on tying the professional standards to the role of the Teacher Librarian will hopefully lead towards a stronger recognition of the professional skills of the TL, in the areas of professional knowledge, professional commitment and professional practice.

I think about the librarians in my past, and wonder how they’d negotiate the changes in their career if they were facing a 21st century library. If, as well as negotiating paper book literacy, they were dealing with ICT literacy, the widening responsibilities of social and cultural awareness that faces teachers today, the conflicts of BYOD, global education, ever-increasing complexity in curriculum requirements, and the myriad other expectations that are heaped on their cape-wearing-shoulders. Maybe they did deal with some of that, and little girl curled up with Scout Finch and Margaret Simon after the lunch bell rang didn’t notice. That’s probably an indication that they were doing their job well. But I’m very grateful to them for their services. And I hope I can be the kind of teacher librarian who will do them, and that little girl, proud.



Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001).  Learning for the future:  Developing information services in schools (2nd ed.).  Carlton South, Vic:  Curriculum Corporation.

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 Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette, TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning. Jul2011, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p27-36. 10p

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), pp30-33