Research is unequivocal in supporting the notion that: a well-resourced library that has a strong library program focused on teaching information literacy by a highly qualified teacher librarian increases student achievement (Hartzell, 2003; Everhart, 2006; Spence, 2006). Research is also unequivocal in demonstrating that teaching information literacy by the teacher librarian in collaboration with the classroom teacher, leads to improved student learning (Everhart, 2006; Haycock, 2007; Morris, 2007). One key element that can be pivotal in influencing the success or failure of the library and its program, is the support of the school principal.
Oberg (2006) suggests that there are four key ways in which the principal can support the school library. The first is through the principal’s role as supervisor of all teachers and the expectation that collaboration will occur between staff members. “Collaboration is a trusting, working relationship between two or more equal participants involved in shared thinking, shared planning and shared creation of integrated instruction” (Montiel-Overall, 2005). Collaboration between teacher and teacher librarians positively influences student learning in the area of information literacy and the integration of technology into other curriculum subjects (Farmer, 2007). It is essential therefore, that the principal shows leadership in encouraging and facilitating collaboration to support good communication and a professional working environment between teacher librarian and classroom teacher (Morris & Packard, 2007).
The second key role of the principal is “demonstrating personal commitment” (Oberg, 2006, p.14). The principal publicly acknowledges the valuable contribution that the library and the collaborative teaching of information literacy programs make to the learning outcomes of the students.
The third key element is principals ensuring that there is an adequate budget for resource materials, both in print and digital form. Within this budget is the provision for teachers to be released off class in order to plan collaborative lessons with other teachers. The school library program is seen as an integrated part of the overall teaching structure and practice in the school, not an isolated unit.
The last focus for the principal, is the specific support and mentoring of the teacher librarian. Supportive principals recognise the competency and knowledge of the teacher librarian. Teacher librarians are encouraged to continue professional development and time is made to meet with the principal to discuss expectations and focus for library resources and teaching programs.
Role of the Teacher Librarian
Concurrently, the teacher librarian also needs to be proactive in advocating support and developing a professional relationship with the principal (Gibbs, 2003). Purcell (2010) found that, “despite the positive impact of the media centre on the school’s success; many education professionals do not have a clear understanding of the media specialist role” (p. 31). The teacher librarian needs to ensure that there are clearly stated policies and documents within the school defining the role of the librarian and outlining the teaching program. Having a visible profile within the school through the creation of a library blog, running parent and teacher technology workshops, leading curriculum committees, etc. will help ensure continued principal support.
Hartzell (2002), suggests that it is easy for a principal to assess the effectiveness of a classroom teacher, but much harder with the teacher librarian, as often student work is integrated and it is difficult to specify the value of teaching conducted by the librarian. It is therefore important for teacher librarians to incorporate on-going evaluation procedures throughout the teaching program such as using diagnostic, formative or summative methods (Stripling, 2007) or by considering the components in Johnson’s 13-point checklist (2006).
In conclusion, “principals and teacher librarians need to have a shared view of the potential of the school library program, as one that reaches beyond the library and into the teaching and learning of the whole school” (Oberg, 2006, p.16). Collaboration between principal, teacher librarian and teacher is essential to increasing student learning potential.
Everhart, N. (2006). Principals’ evaluation of school librarians: A study of strategic and non-strategic evidence-based approaches. School Libraries Worldwide, 12(2), 38-51.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Gibbs, R. (2003). Reframing the role of the teacher-librarian: The case for collaboration and flexibility. Scan, 22(3), 4-7.
Hartzell, G. (2002). What’s it take? Knowledge Quest, 31(1), 27-43.
Hartzell, G. (2003). Why should principals support school libraries? Curriculum leadership: Education Services Australia. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/why_should_principals_support_school_libraries,4639.html?issueID=9691
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
Johnson, D. (2006). A 13-point library media program checklist for school principals. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 70-71.
Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Toward a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. American Association of School Librarians. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume82005/theory
Morris, B. J. (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.
Morris, B. J., & Packard, A. (2007). The principal’s 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.
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.
Spence, S. (2006). Invest in school libraries to create 21st century learning communities. Access, 20(3), 17-20.
Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing information fluency: Gathering evidence of student learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(8), 25-29.