Does Your School Have a Teacher Librarian? [CSLA, 2014]

For statistics on staffing of Australian school libraries as of 2010 see State by State: What We Know

More details on how to connect with your teacher librarian and why every school should have one can be found at our new site Connect to TLs.  Click here.

The Hub is campaigning to reinstate the Federal funding that was removed from Australian school libraries almost thirty years ago, in support of all Australian teachers and students.

We can hear the faculties now. “Why should libraries get federal funding? Why not Science? English needs it more!”

The reason is simple.

Funding for libraries IS funding for Science.

Funding for libraries IS funding for English.

Funding for libraries IS funding for History and Geography and the Arts and PE, even Maths. Federal funding for school libraries is funding for every subject area that benefits from more resources, higher literacy and better information literacy.

We ask all teachers to take a few moments to read about school libraries. Many of you may discover the modern school library is a long way from the stereotypical image so often portrayed.

One of the biggest problems facing today’s teacher librarians (TLs) is that many teachers don’t really understand what to expect from them. More and more, the job of a TL is becoming that of advocate, explaining themselves to staff, instead of just doing the work they are trained to do.


One reason is that TLs are rarely discussed in teacher’s colleges. If teachers are better informed about what to expect from their library, then the great TLs can stop explaining themselves and spend more time working for the school community. Even better, those TLs who don’t meet our standards of professional excellence can’t get away with second rate service anymore. Recently Jane Hunter, academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, has begun a series of articles for pre-service teachers in the newsletter, 21st Century Learning.  Here is one from 6 August 2010 on teacher and TL collaboration in using blogED.

So what makes a great TL? For a start, you can click here to view the standards set out by our professional associations.

For another thing, YOU do! To help teacher librarians fulfill their professional role, here are a few things we’d like you to know about the library, its program and the TL that can help both of you to form a great partnership.


1. The library staff don’t own the library. It belongs to the entire school community. You can recommend materials and have a voice in library policy making. Volunteer to become a member of your school’s library advisory committee, if there is one. This will also give you a greater understanding of existing library policy.

2. The library should be considered a research and learning centre. It’s not a study hall, detention centre or baby-sitting service. The students in the library, including the ones you send, should have a reason for being there. Whether for academic purposes or personal use, students should be in the library because they need the library’s resources, not just because they need to be somewhere.

3. The best resource in the library is the teacher librarian. TLs can help you plan a project, solve a technology problem, find professional research, give insight into an ethical problem, or answer a reference question. And if we can’t do it, we will help you find someone who can. We can help find or “inter-library loan” materials you need that are not in the school library itself. Helping others gives us a huge sense of satisfaction so please never hesitate to ask.

4. Planning is a good thing. Advanced planning with the TL will greatly increase you and your students’ chances for success with projects that require information resources. A well-planned research unit or technology project will greatly decrease frustrations for everyone involved. With our experience, we can let you know what strategies work and don’t work. See Information Skills in the School. NSW Department of Education.

5. Recognize that the library provides access to both print and electronic information. We can determine which one best suits your and your students’ needs. Students do not always realize that print resources are the best for many purposes. It breaks our heart to watch a student spend a frustrating hour trying to find the answer to a question on the Internet that could have been answered with a print resource in minutes.

6. The teacher librarian can be helpful in evaluating the information found on the Internet. One of the greatest challenges of using the Internet is determining whether the facts and opinions found there are credible. We have the training and tools to do just that. And it is our mission to teach students effective evaluation skills as well.

7. The teacher librarian can help create assessments for your students’ projects. The findings of research projects presented in electronic form, conclusions drawn from primary resources, and research that calls for higher-level thinking to be demonstrated, all call for good authentic assessment tools rather than a simple gut-reaction comments or an objective test. We can help you find examples of these sorts of tools as well as help you create and administer them yourself. Let’s work together to make your students’ learning experiences as meaningful as possible.

8. The teacher librarian can be your technology support centre. We are no technical gurus, but can help you and your students with technology applications. Need to use a scanner or digital camera? We can probably show you how. Need to create a multi-media presentation? Let us give you a quick lesson. Looking for effective ways to search the web? Ask us. We are not technicians, but we can sometimes help locate that kind of help for you as well.

9. The library can help your students’ performance on standardized reading tests. Research has proven that children become more adept at reading by extensively practicing reading at or just below grade level. The library contains a wide range of material in print format that students can use to improve reading skills. And we can help match just the right book or magazine with just the right reader. If you need a book talk for your class or help with a student struggling to find something of interest, just say so.

10. The teacher librarian will be your partner when trying new things. It’s been said that some teachers during their career teach one year, 30 times. Can you imagine how long those 30 years must have seemed? If you need somebody to share the glory or the shame of a new unit, activity, or methodology, we’re the one.

These tips are adapted with permission from Doug Johnson’s “Top Ten Things … Teachers Should Know About School Libraries” – April/May 2003

An Australian version is now available from the School Library Association of Victoria, What a Teacher Librarian Can Do For You.

Some thoughts about senior student independent projects and school libraries in SA.

Article for teachers published in ACER Teacher magazine (Jan/Feb 2011), “Who’s in your school library?

Article in the Australian Education News May 2009 on teacher librarians and school libraries.AEU May 09Library_Feature

A message from British Columbia teachers federation to their legislators:

Teacher librarians are needed more than ever.

Google cannot replace the teacher librarian.

Libraries are most important to students without resources at home.

Support school libraries and teacher librarians

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