This is the first unit I am completing on the path towards the Master of Education (Teacher-Librarianship) and I am under no illusions that obtaining all the knowledge I need to hopefully one day become a successful teacher-librarian will take a lot of hard work and dedication.
No doubt obtaining this qualification will be essential for this career, as noted by Oberg (2006) who states that “Teacher-librarians should have the same level of education as other leaders in their schools; in most school districts, school leaders are expected to have master’s degrees.” I think it is important that teacher-librarians do see themselves as leaders. This qualification will no doubt go a long way in developing the leadership, knowledge base and communication skills needed to communicate effectively with other leaders within a school, most notably the school principal.
It is critical that teacher-librarians effectively communicate with their principals and educate them on what their role involves as well as their vision and goals for the school library program in general (Oberg 2006). This point is also noted by Hay and Foley (2009) who state that “Clearly articulated philosophies, goals and roles are the hallmark of a collaborative relationship between principal and teacher-librarian.”
This is crucial as it is the principal who sets the tone for the reception the teacher-librarian and the library program will receive from other staff members, as well as the resources that are allocated to it (Oberg 1997). Based on this it is clear that a teacher-librarian cannot develop the best library program possible in their schools without the firm support of their principal. However, there is no doubt a range of different approaches that could be used in attempting to develop increased levels of principal support. Both for the teacher-librarian and the library program.
It would be easy to blame to principal for an underfunded, under-supported library program. Regardless of whether blaming the principal is fair or not is, in my view, beside the point. What is important is how to approach the situation to ensure that change occurs.
It is important for the teacher-librarian to develop a positive and functional working relationship with the principal. The principal needs to see the teacher-librarian as someone who is able to see their worldview, and as an ally, not as someone there to make their life difficult with never ending demands and complaints (Oberg, 2006).
Developing and maintaining high levels of support from the principal can also be very advantageous beyond the school gate. The best principals actively participate in district networks and develop powerful mutual alliances that help to strengthen the distinct culture and beyond (Fullan, 2010). I believe this represents a wonderful opportunity for an informed principal to promote the role and importance of a strong library program in a far reaching capacity. With trust and confidence, the principal may also allow their teacher-librarian to tap into some of these useful networks directly themselves. This can only be a good thing for the teacher-librarian and further emphasizes the importance and value of principal support.
Oberg, D. (2006), Developing the respect and support of school administrators, Teacher Librarian; Feb 2006.
Oberg, D. (1997) The principal’s role in empowering collaboration between teacher- librarians and teachers: research findings. [online]. Scan; v.16 n.3 p.6-8; August 1997.
Hay, L. and Foley, C. (2009), School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C. [online]. Scan; v.28 n.2 p.17-26; May 2009.
Fullan, M. (2010). The Awesome Power of the Principal. Principal, 89(4), 10-12, Mar-April 2010.