The Teacher Librarian and the Principal – A Modern Fairy Tale
ETL401 OLJ Blog Task 3
In the castle of books there lived a teacher librarian. She battled dangers unknown, and hardships unnumbered. Surrounded by foes of information and enemies of enlightenment, she endeavoured to impact the village around her with her wonder of words and her love of learning, but she couldn’t battle the hordes alone. She needed a fairy godmother.
Sounds dramatic huh? But really, it’s a challenge that teacher librarians face every day. The TL role can be isolating, and often we operate in a vacuum, surrounded by colleagues with little understanding of the role that we perform (Oberg, 2006, 14). It is in this context, then, that support from above becomes vital if the TL is to be empowered to exert influence on the learning culture of school.
Many studies have shown how important principal support is in facilitating the effectiveness of the TL and, as such, the library. Farmer describes the principal as the “chief catalyst for collaboration”, responsible for establishing the vision of the school, and facilitating the curriculum that is offered (2007, p56). With the principal playing such a vital role in the learning culture of the school, then, it is imperative that the role of the library and the TL in this learning culture are both recognised as important by the principal, and thus afforded the support that will allow them to flourish.
Hartzell argues that the quality school library program relies on a librarian, and that no great library can be run without a passionate teacher librarian who brings their own stamp into the space (2009). Whilst this may be true, without a school leader who supports the TL, who collaborates with them on their vision for the space, who encourages them to dream big, and who supports both through their words and actions the professionalism and importance of the TL in the life of the school.
It is unfortunate, then, that literature shows that many principals don’t fully understand the role of the media specialist. Morris and Packard discuss the lack of recognition of principals for the importance of the TL in supporting the instructional process and contributing to student learning (2007, p36). By recognising the positive impacts that the TL and library can have on student achievement, and by modelling an atmosphere of recognition of the powerful role of the TL in the learning environment of the school, the engaged principal can facilitate an atmosphere of collaboration and communication between teaching staff and the TL which is vital to ensure that the full potential of the library as a centre for learning is realised (Morris, 2007, p23).
My experience in this fairy tale has been profoundly influenced by my own experiences with a supportive and empowering principal. With a bias towards yes, and a philosophy which encourages innovation and collaboration, my principal has inspired me to think big in my vision for what our library could look like, and how it, and indeed I, can influence the learning culture of the school. It’s a wonderful working relationship to be a part of, which contributes positively to the culture of our engaging library, and models for other staff the importance of the library in the narrative of our school.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Hartzell, G. (2009). Librarian-proof libraries? Guest rant by Gary Hartzell. http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/8/25/librarian-proof-libraries-guest-rant-by-gary-hartzell.html
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224879111?accountid=10344
Morris, B. J., & Packard, A. (2007). The Principal’s Support of Classroom Teacher-Media Specialist Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide,13(1), 36-55.
Morris, B. J. (2007). Principal Support for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.