The role of the teacher librarian (TL) covers a range of roles, such as teacher, librarian, and information literacy leader (Herring, 2007, p. 30). In order to successfully fulfill these and implement a valuable library program, TLs must have the support of the principal. Oberg (2006, pp. 15-16) argues that TLs can achieve this by establishing professional credibility, communicating effectively, and supporting the achievement of school goals.
The support of the principal is essential if the teacher librarian is to make a valuable contribution to teaching and learning. It is the principal who has the capacity to establish the structures and culture that enables a library program to be successful, such as flexible scheduling and developing a culture of collaboration (Oberg, 2006, p. 14). The principal’s support of the TL and library program is also instrumental in gaining the support of teachers and students (Oberg, 2006, p. 15). However, due to factors such as a lack of understanding about the role of the TL and a lack of library-related research in principals’ publications (Morris & Packard, 2007, p. 37), gaining support is challenging. Oberg (2006, pp. 15-16) suggests that TLs can overcome this “by building their professional credibility, by communicating effectively with principals, and by working to advance school goals”.
Teacher librarians must build their professional credibility, and can do so by demonstrating initiative, confidence, communication skills and leadership qualities (Haycock, 2007, p. 32). TLs must be prepared to take on leadership responsibilities in and out of the library (Hartzell, 2003b, para. 12), and are well positioned to be leaders in staff development, given their knowledge of the curriculum, library resources, and technology (Farmer, 2007, p. 62). Credibility is also gained by demonstrating a commitment to lifelong learning through participation in professional learning and networking. Exhibiting the willingness to share expertise will help to earn the principal’s support and accentuate the value of the TL to the school.
Because many principals are not exposed to evidence supporting the value of the library in their training and professional literature (Hartzell, 2002, pp. 2-3), the teacher librarian must effectively communicate what their role involves and what is happening in their library program (Farmer, 2007, p. 61). This is crucial if misconceptions about TLs and libraries are to change. TLs must also promote their role as instructional leaders (St. Lifer, 2004, p. 11) and ensure that principals know how they are contributing to students’ success (Farmer, 2007, p. 56), as this can be difficult to assess. Meeting regularly with the principal (Gallagher-Hayashi, 2001, p. 15) and communicating ideas in terms of the needs of the school (Hartzell, 2003a, p. 21) can help build a positive relationship with the principal and increase their support.
Teacher librarians must demonstrate how they are working to advance the goals of the school. This can be achieved by ensuring that the goals and mission of the library align with those of the school (Farmer, 2007, p. 56) and by working collaboratively with teachers (Haycock, 2007, p. 32). St. Lifer (2004, p. 11) also encourages TLs to be involved in the setting of school goals and in promoting the library as a valuable tool in achieving these. TLs also need to demonstrate their capacity to help principals achieve their goals and priorities, such as helping to manage school knowledge (Farmer, 2007, p. 62) and providing research that supports educational reforms (Gallagher-Hayashi, 2001, p. 15). Support can be mutual, and TLs need to ensure that principals realise this.
The success of any library program is dependent upon the support of the principal. Building professional credibility, communicating effectively, and working towards the achievement of school goals will increase principals’ support of TLs and library programs, and in turn, the support of teachers, students and the wider school community.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Gallagher-Hayashi, D. (2001). Moving the fence: Engaging your principal in your school library program. Teacher Librarian, 28(5), 13-17.
Hartzell, G. (2002, June). What’s it take? Paper presented at the Washington White House Conference on School Libraries, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
Hartzell, G. (2003a). The power of audience: Effective communication with your principal. Library Media Connection, 22(2), 20.
Hartzell, G. (2003b). Why should principals support school libraries? Teacher Librarian, 31(2), para. 12
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
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.
Morris, B. J., & Packard, A. (2007). The principals’ support of classroom teacher-media specialist collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 36-55.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
St. Lifer, E. (2004). Getting in the principal’s face: Give your boss compelling reasons to be the school’s top library advocate. School Library Journal, 50(10), 11.