Why school libraries are unique


Different Roles of School and Public Libraries
School libraries are not the same as public libraries. Public libraries serve the whole community – from pre-schoolers to the elderly. It is not their role to educate, but to provide access to a range of information resources and services and access to recreational reading material. The public library does not have to provide resources to meet the curriculum needs of its local schools.

The school library has a specialist, educative role. It has a teacher librarian familiar with the curriculum and with how students learn. It ensures teachers are well resourced for their teaching, and that the information needs of students are met for all their studies.  Teacher librarians maintain an indepth knowledge of literature and are dedicated to finding the right reading for each student, not only to improve student literacy, but to foster positive and enjoyable reading experiences that contribute to lifelong learning.

Both school and public libraries strive to meet the information and reading needs of their own clientele. The resources they hold are much more than simply books – online information, posters, newspapers, magazines, DVD’s, software, music. Both libraries are dedicated to supporting lifelong learning, but it is the teacher librarian’s role to teach students HOW to navigate their way through the mass of information sources they will encounter throughout their lives. It is the teacher librarian (along with parents and classroom teachers) who will lay the foundations of a love of literature and reading. The public librarian fosters and supports that interest and will help to encourage library use into adulthood.

Both libraries are about showing that there are books for everyone and that Harry Potter is only one of a thousand great reads.

Different Qualifications
Not all library qualifications are the same.

Public librarians hold qualifications in librarianship, providing them with the knowledge and expertise to design, develop, manage and evaluate the delivery of its library service and to assist its clientele to become lifelong learners.

A Library Technician is a para-professional who holds Diploma level qualifications. They require sound, practical knowledge and skills to enable them to support the delivery of library services.

To have a great school library, you need a TEACHER LIBRARIAN (TL), who holds a recognised professional teaching qualification AND professional qualifications in librarianship. A teacher librarian is a uniquely qualified staff member in a school.

So what does a TL do to make them so valuable? Click on the tabs at the top of this page to read why schools need a great library and qualified teacher librarian.

10 responses

18 01 2008

You also need a QUALIFIED library techician, not just anyone from the front office

18 01 2008
Cathy Hainstock

Well explained! Our school library was left virtually unattended for several years due to budget cuts. Parents shelved and teachers ran circulation when their classes came to the library. Purchases were made and not catalogued (eek!) I’ve recently been hired for a few hours a week and am working to raise the profile of the library in the schoo community. I’d like to reprint part of this (with correct acknowledgement and permission of course) in our school newsletter. Who should I contact?

Keep up the great work!

9 02 2008

I agree Anne. To be paid as a year 10 school-leaver ‘assistant’ after qualifying through University as a dedicated technician is appalling.
The collaboration and teamwork could be a force to be reckoned with.
It’s not only the TL in the school library who knows about literature and student needs. But some of the office recruits are passionate library supporters too. Do the education departments offer to pay their uni fees?
My state government funded employer did.
Please, forget ‘para-professional’ and the division between school librarians and public librarians and any other sort of librarian. We’re all there as passionate guides and enablers, albeit with different roles to play.
I don’t mean that the Hub is being elitist, but I know some who certainly are.
We all love libraries and what they all can do.

12 02 2008

Thanks for your input Alison,
The Hub welcomes all supporters of quality school libraries, not just teacher librarians. Our aim, however, is to focus on the role of the teacher librarian as an integral part of schools. Technicians are just as important in a well functioning library, it’s just a different role. As a TL, I would make a terrible technician, and an even worse public librarian, because I wouldn’t be doing the one thing I love about being a TL – the T bit.

17 08 2008

I agree that libraries need to be run by qualified staff. I have all the quals – Librarian and Teacher and Library Technician. But I tried to get a full time job and found it hard because schools are cutting back on Library staff – yes, its an easy target.
But looking at the library in the school were I now work – I am horrified at the standard of the collection. I’m not sure how the students use the collection, I think they use the Internet instead! And we know what that’s like.
I really miss working in a library, I used to find it really satisfying to see clients walk out with information and resources that they want.

20 08 2008

I was a Librarian with 20 years public library experience employed to work in private school library where the Head was an English teacher with no library qualifications/experience on a point four library loading and the other Librarian was newly qualified with limited (tertiary) library experience. That Librarian soon left after I started and, at my recommendation, was replaced by a Library Technician. I knew that the Head would eventually move on to a full teaching load so I attained a Grad Dip Ed in Teacher Librarianship through distance education. The teacher left, I became Head — but I was never transferred to the academic staff. So I’ve remained in Administration and a laminated copy of my Grad Dip hangs on my office wall as a sarcastic comment on the whole process. When the Careers Adviser left early this year I got handed that job too. So, no I don’t do any teaching. I do provide a quality information service and have built the collection to support the curriculum as well as educating the students in using resources (databases, interlibrary loans, internet searching) but this isn’t done in any formal setting but as I assist teachers, individual students and classes.

25 08 2009

A well considered reply on OZTLNET re the difference between TLs and Librarians, from Hubber Barbara Braxton:

I believe the essential difference between a librarian and a teacher librarian is that the focus of the teacher librarian should be teaching with the library management being a support role. Even if that teaching is not directly face-to-face with a class there is certainly an expectation of a knowledge of pedagogy and curriculum.

In Australia, you cannot be a teacher librarian without a teaching degree because, without it, you are not legally allowed to supervise students without being supervised yourself. [See] …the role statements of both the teacher librarian and the library assistant as described by ASLA in Learning for the Future (2001) as well as their Standards of Professional Excellence http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm.

You can compare these to the Australian Library and Information Association statements about librarians’ roles at http://www.alia.org.au/employment/salary.scales/roles.and.pay.html

Some schools, particularly private, are seeking to employ librarians rather than teacher librarians because up until about their 5th year, a Grade 1 librarian is cheaper than a teacher librarian.
They carefully skirt the issue of supervision in their advertisements but I don’t know if a librarian faced with supervision of students on their own has ever tested the legality of this in court.

26 08 2009

This has been an interesting discussion since I am one of those caught in the middle. I am currently designated the Library Administrator, and obtained this position on a temporary basis because repeated advertisements failed to produce suitable applicants. I will complete my librarianship degree this year.

I have a problem with the unwillingness of the teaching profession to recognise experience. I have only worked in school libraries, in this part of my working life (20yrs). I have worked at pre-school, primary and secondary level, raised 4 children , 2 of whom had difficult learning issues and have always been a part of each school community I was involved with (across 2 states).

Working in school libraries provided opportunities where I have observe countless hours of teaching practice, assist with various classes, taken emergency supervision when needed, supervised exams, supported teaching staff as first aider on excursions, taught swimming for NT government and the list goes on. At what point do I not understand teaching and learning?

Technology is changing this role forever. Web 2.0 teaching tools are creating new opportunities (and new headaches). As for the supervision, I have always supervised students in the absence of the TL and sometimes even in their presence when they have been called away. There is a difference between the needs of secondary and primary schools and the ways in which their library staff are used. Surely that is where the issues really are.

26 08 2009

Working in a Public Library, we were asked recently by a Primary school to show children our PL resources (incl. online) and how to use the catalogue. This, because the school library was dismantled and books were divided over the different classrooms: “Library in the Classroom”. We were told that this is the new ‘move’ in Victoria. Children were now encouraged to make more use of the public library. Is this really happening in Victoria? It’s the first time I’ve heard about it.

17 12 2013
ETL 401 Comment on the role of the Teacher Librarian in practice with regard to Principal Support. | The teaching and learning Librarian!

[…] Ultimately this climate of collaboration is most successfully born when there is a reciprocal understanding between the principal and teacher librarian.  When teacher librarians advocate for their roles, share their knowledge and understanding and support and promote the principals visions for the school and when principals fully understand, elevate and embrace the role of the teacher librarian in the teaching and learning experience and the impact they have on supporting student outcomes, a recipe for success is formulated!. ‘It is the job of teacher librarians to share how they can impact student learning…and…actively share in and support the vision of the school as determined by the principal. (Morris, 2007) ‘The school library has a specialist, educative role.  It has a teacher librarian familiar with the curriculum and with how students learn.  It ensures teachers are well resourced for their teaching, and that the information needs of students are met for all their studies.’  https://hubinfo.wordpress.com/background/why-school-libraries-are-unique/ […]

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