The role of the Teacher Librarian: My understanding

The session is coming to an end, and it is time to reflect on how my understanding of the role of the teacher librarian has been changed. When I first began this subject (fittingly titled ETL:401 – Teacher Librarianship), I had little to no real idea what the teacher-librarian actually did. I knew I wanted to be one, but had very little real understanding of their role and responsibilities.

This is emphasised by statements made in my very first blog post in which I ranted about how much I loved books and looked forward to being able to work in a library, encouraging a love of learning through reading in my students (Birchall, July 22, 2011). I understand now that what I thought of as the role of the teacher-librarian back in July is in fact a very, very small aspect of what teacher librarians really do. I stated that

I see the encouragement of not just reading but a love of reading as one of the fundamental roles of the teacher-librarian
(Birchall, July 22, 2011).

But perhaps my inital understanding of the role of the teacher-librarian is best shown in the following rant:

Before beginning this degree, I had little real understanding of just what teacher-librarian’s did. To me, they were the library staff, circulating books in and out of the library, restocking shelves and ordering new books for student enjoyment. I never stopped to think about what they did when the students weren’t there.
(Birchall, September 28, 2011)

These two views perfectly demonstrate my initial beliefs about the role of the teacher-librarian: dealing with the circulation and provision of books within the library, with the intention of encouraging students to develop a love of learning through reading. I still view such encouragement as an aspect of what it means to be a teacher-librarian, but in no way is it a fundamental role. The key roles and responsbilities of the teacher-librarian are much more technologically focused then I could have expected or anticipated when I began this course. Purcell (2010) outlined the fundamental roles of the teacher-librarian:

– teacher;
– instructional partner;
– program administrator;
– leader; and
– information specialist.

Exploring this article expanded my limited understanding of what it meant to be a teacher-librarian. Some of these roles resonanted more closely with me from the very beginning, and others are growing on me as I do more readings on the role of the teacher-librarian. I recently published a blog post entitled Teachers and Teacher-Librarian Collaboration, a direct result of my annoyance at the lack of collaboration between these educators. Which is strange, as the role of ‘instructional partner’ was one that I was unsure of when I first read about it in Purcell’s article – just goes to show you how views can change over such a short time.

By the end August, my understanding of the role of the teacher-librarian was already beginning to change. This is demonstrated in the following statements:

In response to the developments in information provision, the role of the teacher-librarian is increasingly concerned with technology. The teacher-librarian’s roles include searching for new resources (print, online, and other), establishing an online presence for themselves and the library on professional and social networking sites … and working closely with teachers to promote information literacy skills throughout the school. Among others.
(Birchall, August 25, 2011)

For me, the main role of the teacher-librarian is that of information provision, of ensuring that students have access to resources that meet their information needs, as well as supplying resources appropriate for both their learning and enjoyment.
(Birchall, August 25, 2011)

Following the completion of my first assignment for this subject (on the role of the teacher-librarian), I had begun to realise that the roles and responsibilities of the teacher-librarian were much more diverse than I had ever imagined. This is clearly demonstrated in my discussion of the technologies the teacher-librarian engages with and in my belief that the main role of the teacher-librarian was that of information provision.

And my view has changed. Indeed, I have come to accept that my understanding of what exactly it means to be a teacher-librarian will continue to grow and change as I complete my studies and begin working within the profession.

My outlook now is vastly different to my outlook on July 22. While I still believe in the importance of books and encouraging a love of learning through reading, my understanding of just what it means to be a teacher-librarian is so much larger. The teacher-librarian of the twenty-first century is a teacher; a collaborator; a promoter of concepts like information literacy and of new technologies throughout the school; a librarian and an information specialist. Yet they are also so much more. Now I just have to find the time to fit it all in.


Birchall, A. (2011, July 22). Why I want to be a librarian… [blog post]. Retrieved from

Birchall, A. (2011, August 25). I wish (it was 50 years ago) [blog post]. Retrieved from

Birchall, A. (2011, September 28). Teacher and Teacher-Librarian Collaboration [blog post]. Retrieved from

Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do Is Check out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3-), 30-33. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.


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Filed under Librarianship, Teaching

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