Role of the TL

I have been a Teacher Librarian for 25 years, both in Primary and Secondary. The role of TL has certainly changed over that time.
Reading articles like Herring’s and the concepts of information literacy, developing lifelong learners and promoting reading haven’t changed too much over the years. Our role has certainly become more documented, standards have been produced and now we’re attempting to ‘measure’ the impact that TLs and school libraries have on learning outcomes (Oberg, Lyn Hay’s research and the Eduscape articles) almost to ‘prove’ our existence/worth!
I remember a time when we were mainly caretakers of the library, making sure things ran smoothly, shelves were kept in order, TV programs were taped, overdues were chased and the stocktake was done annually. We still assisted students with information and reading choices, but this was mainly done in an ‘ad hoc’ way.I took Primary library lessons by myself as ‘release time’ for the class teacher (and still do). There was a time when I ‘fought’ to have the class teacher present and we ‘team-taught’, but this was taken away as timetable constraints became too difficult. Class sizes also increased.Even now, my days are overwhelmingly busy with running an efficient ‘Learning Centre’ for over 1300 students and over 100 teachers, whilst ‘dropping’ everything to give a library skills lesson as the teacher walks through the door, do some Web 2.0 with 2 periods notice (if I’m lucky), promote reading programs to the Yr 7-11 English classes that come on a regular basis, program and plan my lessons with Primary and promote what we have to offer at every opportunity to the staff and students and do the morning, recess, lunch and after school duties often without a break in a day!Yes, I could say ‘NO’, or insist on more pre-planning etc. etc. BUT in reality – everyone is busy, teachers are struggling to cover content, learn new technologies (often without inservicing), running extra-curricula activities and spending a lot more time with increasing administrative tasks expected by school executives.

There are TLs working in schools that do say ‘NO’ and cringe as teachers/students walk into the library and make demands on their time. I ‘hate’ hearing about these TLS (and they are mostly ‘old school’ I hope). This is one of the reasons why school executives are making the decision not to fill TL jobs with qualified people. A technician/clerical can do the ‘care-taking’ and come at a much cheaper price!

I am raving, and don’t usually, but the role of the TL is huge within a school and in society. The role is achievable, if supported, valued and committed to by passionate people in our profession now and in the future.


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