Teacher Librarians An Underutilised Asset In Schools [UPD]
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Run imaginative and fun workshops for students outside of class time on the basics such as using the library website, where to find information, how to use databases, the dangers of plagiarism, and note-taking. Creating a presence for the library in the eyes of the student body will underline that teacher librarians are able to do lots more than fix the photocopier.
While some teacher librarians are able to have planning sessions with their teachers, and incorporate the curriculum into their library lessons, a large number of TLs are unable to do this because of lack of available time or support from the school community.
One, where the teacher librarian is being underutilised and underappreciated by the school. Frustrated library staff reported being viewed as nothing more than someone who loans and returns books or even seen as a babysitting role during lunchtime.
Regardless of their unique qualifications, the role of the teacher librarian (TL) is often perceived in schools by faculty, parents and the community as the person who simply reads picture books, lends out the library resources and may have the knowledge to repair a broken computer. I have found in my experiences working as a teacher librarian and working alongside several teacher librarians within NSW public schools, that the imperative and pivotal role and knowledge of the TL is often grossly understated, under utilised and frequently forgotten about.
From the perspective of a member of teaching staff within primary schools, it is often not known the specific skill sets, qualifications and professional knowledge that the teacher librarian essentially possesses. Given and Julien (2005) suggest that faculty attitudes, misperceptions and lack of professional relationships are the defining factors that result in the isolation that teacher librarians experience within their schools. The teacher librarian is often segregated from the rest of the school in their separate building, working independently and without a lot of the support and higher management that classroom teachers perhaps receive. The assistance or expertise of the teacher librarian is rarely sought after unless there is a specific text or resource required.
The misperceptions and misinterpretations of the teacher librarians role, capabilities and expert knowledge from faculty can become detrimental not only for the library professional, but can hinder productive faculty collaboration, which in turn can negatively impact student learning experiences and opportunities for the wider school community.
Throughout my experiences and observations within schools; parents, caregivers and the wider school community seem to possess a greater, yet quiet, respect for teacher librarians. Whether this is because there may be a successful means of open communication between librarian and parent/caregiver, less strain on the relationship between the two parties in comparison to classroom teacher/parent relationships, or simply because their child loves the library. If the library environment is a warm, friendly and inviting place to be, students are excited to visit, listen and learn and they want to share these joyful experiences with their families.
While the politics that manifest within schools, arguing over whose role and responsibility it is to do whatever the specific job is, the little shining light for the humble teacher librarian.. is the students. At the end of the day, our role is to facilitate a love of learning to all students. We are the constant support network, facilitators of learning, the information providers, the technology consultants, the book fixerupperers and the literacy lovers and experts. We grit our teeth through the political debates held over the specific role and job title of the librarian (teacher, information leader, school library media specialist, learning hub manager.. etc.) decided by politicians and faculty that have never worked a day in a library.
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