In one of the first courses I took on this journey, I learned that an important role of a teacher-librarian is as a leader (Toor and Weisburg, 2007). Toor and Weisburg state that this can be difficult because a teacher-librarian will not be given any authority. However, taking on a position as leader within a school is important for the welfare of a library program (p. 93). I knew right away that this would be a challenge for me as I tend to let others take the lead. Though definitions of leadership can vary, what is universal is that a good leader “know(s) how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way” (Helmrich, 2015). I prefer to think of leadership, not as taking control or directing a group, but as creating good partnerships with my colleagues so we can collaborate and “inspire” each other. Now, in my last course, I am more comfortable acting as a leader in this capacity.
Something that I have been concerned with throughout my studies, is the lack of training for teachers about the benefits of a strong library program. Admittedly, I completed my PDP many years ago, but talking more recently with student teachers it seems that not much has changed. Therefore, one way in which I plan to take on the mantle of leadership when I have my own library, is by offering professional development to the staff at my school. A few ideas I have come up with include:
1. Offer a session for new/student teachers in the school to showcase the library program and encourage collaboration.
2. Provide professional development on local (school) inservice days to highlight new resources, technology, inquiry, book talks, creative commons, reliable websites or whatever other information literacy/technology topics teachers are interested in learning more about.
3. Attend department meetings to offer my help and support for inquiry projects as well as learn the needs of the teachers and what they see as important for the library program.
In addition to offering staff formal professional development, it is also important to educate staff on an informal basis throughout the year (Eby, 2013). For example, by having library blocks for students with the teacher present, learning along with them about information and digital literacy, classroom teachers will begin to understand the role and expertise of the teacher-librarian (Eby, 2013). As well, I would like to create a virtual space teachers can go to for ideas, resources, technology information, etc. This could be through the library website or social media platforms like blogging or Twitter. By taking advantage of teachable moments, Eby found that providing informal education could transform how classroom teachers view teacher-librarians, shifting from an old-school view as keepers of information to equal partners in 21st Century learning (p. 232).
Where I begin in terms of staff professional development will depend on the school environment where I work. With a school that is used to a dynamic library program I may be able to jump right in offering professional development on a more formal basis. However, at a school where the classroom teachers are not used to learning from or collaborating with the teacher-librarian, I may have to start more slowly, building relationships through informal education, creating a base from which to start professional development for the staff. In either case, my ability to take on a leadership role is needed to ensure success at sharing my knowledge and expertise with the rest of the school community.
Eby, H. (2013). Professional development with a qualified teacher-librarian. In Becoming and being: reflections on teacher-librarianship. Branch-Mueller, J., De Groot, J. & Salerno, K. (eds) Edmonton, AB: Teacher-Librarianship by Distance Learning. p. 231-241. eBook. Downloaded from https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/becoming-and-being/home
Helmrich, B. (23 Jan. 2015). 30 Ways to Define Leadership. Business News Daily. Retrieved from <http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3647-leadership-definition.html>.
Toor, R. and H. K. Weisburg. (2007). New on the job: A school library media specialist’s guide to success. Chicago: American Library Association.
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