Critical reflection on leadership role of a teacher librarian

Reflecting on my learning regarding the leadership capacity of the teacher librarian (TL) I have come to realise that my earlier understanding of what leadership entailed was very naïve.  In my first blog post in this subject (Carr, 2013a) I wrote about the importance of having a vision to create purpose and to advocate for the library’s position within the school, but I never realised how difficult it is to create a realistic vision that can be measured and acted upon.  I am also amazed at the diverse set of skills that a TL needs to develop in order to be effective advocate for library programs.  This is my first year of working as a TL and I still struggle to explain to my friends all that my job entails.  Now I can add the role of strategic planner and change agent to the list of capabilities required.

What does sit comfortably with me is the idea of leading from the middle, being a transformative leader and not needing an authoritative title to make a real difference to the education of teachers and students.  In a forum post on leadership for learning (Carr, 2013b) I commented on how we use a protocol called LAST at my school for professional development whereby we examine students work and consider how this work is evidence of thinking in the classroom.  Essentially the teacher presenting the work is given valuable feedback about the activity through the evidence of the students’ work, but the protocol protects the presenting teacher from personal criticism.  It struck me that the protocol is a form of professional development which places all the teachers in a leadership position, not least the presenting teacher who has offered to share her work.  It seems that most forms of collaboration involve leadership as the parties are united by a common purpose and help each other obtain a goal.  If we couch collaboration in terms of leading each other then it becomes something worthier than merely working together for a common goal.  This consideration also lead me to thinking about the unique perspective that each person brings to the table and it is a reminder too that acknowledging everyone’s skills is important for effective collaboration (Carr, 2013c).

Watching and listening to Sinek’s TED talk has made me think about what really motivates me to be teacher librarian leader.  My motivation has certainly changed since I started this subject as I feel more empowered to be a leader now that I know that I can lead from the middle and make change happen.  What am I really motivated to change?  At the moment I am really motivated to alert teachers and students to the dangers and joys of our digital age.  I am concerned that students are not aware of the digital footprint they create or the damage they do to themselves and others through the inappropriate use of social media.  This is what is really firing me up in the morning and motivating me to make sure that our library plays a key role in educating students to become great digital citizens.  I as teacher librarian I feel empowered to make this happen.  I am also particularly motivated to alert many of my work colleagues to the joys and possibilities of social media, so many of them do not know enough because they are not digital natives and seem to lack the confidence to truly engage on Web 2.0 platforms.  And I am concerned that this lack of knowledge might create a divide between them and their students in the future.

I am happy to come to the realisation now, that making an impact in the education of digital literacy through creating innovative library programs and empowering others through collaborative action, are the actions of leadership from the middle.

Carr, M. (2013a)  Some thoughts on the practice of leadership in the library.  In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian. Retrieved from

Carr,M (2013b)  Module 3 Leadership for learning. [online forum comment] Retrieved from:

Carr, M. (2013c) Teacher librarian leadership and collaboration.  In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian. Retrieved from

Sinek, S. (2009). How great leaders inspire action. In TED Ideas Worth Spreading. Retrieved from


The distinguishing features of a successful leader – vision and the desire to create change for the greater good of others

I had an epiphany about leadership a couple of weeks ago when I listened to our lecturer, Roy Crotty in an online meeting.   I had been considering the fact that anyone can be a leader and that all teachers are leaders in a school especially when they instructional partners.  Roy Crotty made a distinction about leaders in stating that what really distinguishes a leader is having a vision (Crotty, 2013).  I know this was something that was emphasised early in our course on leadership but I had not considered how much it really distinguishes one leader from another because having a vision motivates a person to make change happen on a deeper level.

I have come to realise that there is a clear distinction between having a belief which drives behaviour and having a vision which drives behaviour that motivates for change.  As an English teacher for eight years I was motivated to make a difference to children’s lives through opening doors to ideas and helping students obtain the ability to communication effectively.  Education is imbued with moral purpose and the belief in how education drives social equity and teachers make a difference to children’s lives every day.  The creation of a vision, however, takes purpose and belief to a higher level to effect greater change and therefore becomes a distinguishing feature of a successful leader.  This idea can be connected to one of Michael Fullan’s secrets of success which is “connecting peers with purpose” (O’Connell, 2007) which is precisely the aim of visionary leadership.  And of course having a vision is the first step in creating a strategy for change which results in behaviour that goes beyond everyday duties.  I think this is what Roy Crotty was alluding to in the online meeting (Crotty, 2013), that is: teachers plan activities to realise their goals in teaching but leaders plan beyond this by creating visions for change beyond the goals of realising beliefs.

Another distinguishing feature of successful leaders that I have noticed recently is the preparedness to go beyond goals in an effort to make change happen.  In this case I mean particularly the unselfish feature that is a distinguishing feature of transformative leaders (Smith, 2011).  I have been following Jenny Luca on her blog, Lucacept, after having the privilege of hearing her speak at the AIS NSW Teacher Librarianship Conference in Sydney this year. Jenny Luca’s blog is a generous contribution to the education of teacher librarians as she shares not only her thoughts about our role but also the work she is undertaking in leading her own school in digital literacy.  In this way she inspires others, not only through her ideas which lead by example, but particularly through demonstrating what great transformative leaders do, that is: create performances that move beyond personal work goals, model examples of exceptional practice and exhibit the desire to effect change for the greater good (Smith, 2011).

Crotty, R. (2013). ETL504 Ass 2 Section 2_0.  [online forum meeting] Retrieved from:

O’Connell, J. (2007).  School leadership – the six secrets of success. In Heyjude learning in an online world.  Retrieved from:

Smith, D. (2011). Educating Preservice School Librarians to Lead: A Study of Self-Perceived Transformational Leadership Behaviors. School Library Media Research, 14, 5-5.

Leadership and the perceived role of the teacher librarian

As I mentioned in my last post the leadership role can be viewed as a function and not necessarily as a role.  It is a behaviour that, as part of a change process, is very much in keeping with the ideas associated with transformational leadership (Smith, 2011).  However, it is not really necessary for teacher librarians (TLs) to be accredited as leaders in order to create effective change within an organisation.  I am not sure why I thought this might be necessary in the first place but perhaps it stemmed from concern over the future role of the TL.   Anyone can be a leader if they are effecting change (Smith, 2011).  This brings into question whether TLs should define themselves openly as leaders within the school or carry out the behaviours of leaders without acknowledging themselves as such.  Certainly I know that in my own school TLs are regarded as leaders in some aspects of their work, particularly in terms of use of technology and resources, but the idea of TL’s as instructional leaders would be frowned upon by some teachers.

Recently I read an article by Professor Mardis of Florida State University, A Big Vision depends on a Long Memory: One Professor’s Take on 21st– Century School Libraries, in which she suggests that the reason TLs have found it challenging to establish themselves as instructional partners is because the strength of the TL really still lies in her ability to provide relevant resources and many teachers view the information specialist role as the most important (Mardis, 2011).  She states that many school librarians find it very difficult to establish true collaborative roles with teachers where TL’s are involved in the planning, executing and evaluating of student projects (Mardis, 2011).  This is certainly the case in my school where there is sometimes the opportunity to plan and team teach a unit of work with teachers but very seldom the opportunity to evaluate the work.  Most often as TLs we are required to assist with an assessment task, which usually involves some form of inquiry learning, after it has been given to students and we then have to work with task as it stands, usually within a limited period of time.  The problem here is that frequently the task does not lend itself to real inquiry learning and it is too late to change the task.  As Mardis points out in her article the TL’s role has been viewed historically as a support and reactive role and she argues that the school librarian should leverage the role of information specialist to create influence and change (Mardis, 2011).

Essentially Mardis’ argument is that school librarians have traditionally performed leadership roles through the resource collection and she suggests that this is a good way to leverage action, instead of school librarians advocating themselves as primarily instructional partners (Mardis, 2011).  Mardis sums up her argument: “For future school librarians, the collection, technology, and the learning environment of the library are the essential factors in every school library.  Instructional partnering follows these elements; it is not seen by future school librarians as preceding or occurring separately from them” (Mardis, 2011, p47).

This argument is taken up by Kimmel who advocates for TLs to use their role as supplier of resources as a means to also be involved as instructional partners (Kimmel, 2012).  Kimmel found in her study that TLs who brought resources with them to planning meetings and who had a strong knowledge of the curriculum naturally became instructional partners, offering ideas about how to best use resources (Kimmel, 2012).  Kimmel’s final suggestion is that the role of the teacher librarian is one that potentially suffers from too much definition!

I found the ideas of both Mardis and Kimmel refreshing as they both emphasised the strength of the TL as information specialist, a leading role that is openly acknowledged by teachers.  Perhaps I am naïve in my views of the role of the TL as I am still finding my way in my first year of practice and study, but I think that using resources as a primary means towards effecting change and being a transformational leader is a very palatable idea.

Kimmel, S. C. (2012). Seeing the Clouds: Teacher Librarian as Broker in Collaborative Planning with Teachers. [Article]. School Libraries Worldwide, 18(1), 87-96.

Mardis, M. A. (2011). A Big Vision Depends on a Long Memory: One Professor’s Take on 21st-Century School Libraries. [Opinion]. School Library Monthly, 27(6), 45-47.

Smith, D. (2011). Educating Preservice School Librarians to Lead: A Study of Self-Perceived Transformational Leadership Behaviors. [Article]. School Library Media Research, 14, 5-5.

Teacher librarian leadership and collaboration

A great challenge faced by teacher librarians is the promotion of collaboration with teachers in order to improve teaching and learning practice, particularly as far as enquiry learning and information literacy are concerned.   I have written about this in an earlier post and noted the importance of the support of a principal in promoting a culture of collaboration.   Recently in my reading on educational leadership I have come across more ideas in connection with the facilitation of collaboration between teachers and TLs.

One of the most useful and interesting perceptions of leadership in education that I have read about  is that leadership is a function that is performed and not necessarily a role that is undertaken (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2012).   This perception opens the doors for teachers to be viewed and accredited as leaders not only by their students but also by their colleagues and middle and senior leadership in schools.  Activities performed by teachers in collaboration with others, that are instructional by nature and that lead to the improvement of teaching and learning, can be deemed leadership activities.   This has important implications for TLs.  Whilst TLs may want to be recognised for the value they bring to collaboration, for example knowledge and skills in information literacy, TLs also want to work with teachers in parallel partnerships, as equals in recognition of the different roles they play.   One of the perceived barriers to collaboration between teachers and TLs is the cost to self-esteem, where a teacher’s reluctance to working with a TL has been attributed to the fact that the TL is often perceived to be the expert and the teacher is deemed lacking in skills (Oberg, 2009).  If TL’s are to initiate collaboration on projects they need to address this issue and one way to do this would be to recognise and openly acknowledge the unique leadership value and skills that teachers bring to a collaborative effort.  The chances of success for a collaborative project are greater if the value that is brought by each of the contributors is recognised (Sampson, n.d.).

Furthermore more attention needs to be paid to the collaborative process to make it a success.  Whilst teachers and TLs may not need to be given traditional leadership roles to be recognised as leaders they still need to learn leadership skills (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2012).  In particular teachers and TLs need to learn how to resolve conflict, to meet the differing needs of teachers within a collaborative group and to understand group dynamics (Oberg, 2009).  Another key strategy for the success of a collaborative project is a willingness to cooperate (Coatney, 2005).   The greater the success of collaborative projects the more likely teachers will be prepared to invest valuable time and effort in further projects with TLs in the future.  The servant leadership style, where there is a shared sense of moral vision and purpose and where follower and leader are valued and empowered, is suited to successful collaboration.

Thus whilst the support of the principal as leader is needed in order to promote collaboration between the teacher and the TL, more thought must be given to the roles of teachers and TLs as leaders and to the process of collaboration.

Coatney, S. (2005). Testing, testing, testing. Teacher Librarian 32(4) p59

Fairman, J. C. & Mackenzie, S. V. (2012). Spheres of teacher leadership action for learning. Professional development in action 38(2) 229-246

Oberg, D. (2009). Libraries in schools: essential contexts for studying organisational change and culture. Library Trends 58(1) 9-25

Sampson, M. (n.d.). The Practise of Collaboration – Resource Center – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Making Collaboration Work?Culture, Governance, Adoption – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from

Some thoughts on the practice of leadership in the school library

Having a clear vision for a school is an integral part of effecting transformation in schools (Kotter, 2013).  This idea is just as relevant for the leadership of teacher librarians (TLs).  Formulating a vision for the school library in the 21st century creates a strong sense of purpose and firmly places the school library as an integral part of the school community.  A clear vision also serves to communicate and advocate for the position of the library within the school.   However, the vision that the school library adopts will need to be strongly aligned with vision of the school.  Without a shared vision between the school library and the school community of what schooling will look like in the 21st century, and the place of the library within the school, the role of TL’s is placed in a compromised position and the TL is placed in a weak position as a leader within the school.

The very skills needed by students in the 21st century are skills that effective TL leaders should possess themselves, namely: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, self-direction and global competence (Kay, 2011).  Teacher librarians as instructional leaders are uniquely equipped to demonstrate their knowledge of how to equip students with the skills they will need in the future.  Qualified TL’s should be able to demonstrate the very skills they are imbuing students with to teachers within the school.  TL’s should be leaders by collaborating with teachers and team teaching, and in so doing TL’s are instructing teachers on pedagogy and skills.  Qualified TL’s are strong ICT leaders, skilful navigators of the world of information and designers of creative problem solving and enquiry learning.   It is important that TL’s position themselves at the forefront of emerging pedagogy by seeking professional development so that they can sustain the position as instructional leaders.

It has been noted that the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum provide a means for the teacher librarian to exercise leadership as schools move towards providing students with skills for the 21st century (Luca, 2012).  TL’s can lead the way by demonstrating how the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum can be addressed.   It is perhaps obvious for teachers that TL’s can provide a means for schools to address literacy and ICT, two core capabilities, within the library.  However, it perhaps not as obvious to teachers how TL’s can address the personal and social capability of students.  TL’s can address this skill through showing how students can learn to manage an enquiry project, or how students address issues presented through social media, such as the importance of privacy (Luca, 2012). 

One of the challenges that TL leaders can address is that of innovation.  Innovators are leaders as they seek to do things in new ways.  TL’s are familiar with problem based learning and enquiry based learning.  These two methods of learning pave the way for innovation as learners seek the answers to challenging questions.   TL as leaders can use these methods themselves to innovate and lead educators.


Kay, K. (2011). Becoming a 21st century school or district, Step 1: Adopt your Vision. In Edutopia. Retrieved from:

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-Step Process for Leading Change . Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved August 8, 2013, from

Luca, J. (2012).  Australian curriculum and the general capabilities – the role of the teacher librarian.  In Lucacept – intercepting the Web.  Retrieved from:

Insights gained about the role of the teacher librarian

Very early on in the study of this subject I maintained that the onus was on the teacher librarian (TL) to develop the role of teaching partner and to collaborate with departments on their programs (Carr, 2013a).  I also maintained that there is scope for TLs to do this (Carr, 2013a).  Having now worked in a teaching library for a term and a half I have come to the realisation that whilst this is true, the development of relationships and proposals for collaborative programs takes a considerable amount of time and teachers are very busy trying to fulfil their current programs.  Whilst I stated that our principal supports our library there is a still a lot more scope for TL and teacher collaboration.  I now consider that the onus rests very much on a mandate from the principal for academic departments to implement programs where TLs and teachers work together towards student achievement.  Without such a mandate the change towards collaboration will be too slow.  My earlier view was naïve and I now understand that the full and active support of the principal is critical if TLs are to properly fulfil their role as teaching partners (Oberg, 2006).   

With regard to advocating for more collaborative TL and teacher led programs my views regarding evidenced-based practice (EBP) have not changed (Carr, 2013b). In fact, in view of my opinion that principals should mandate collaborative teaching of TLs and teachers, I now view this practice as having even greater import.  Whilst EBP is important for advocating for the difference a TL can make to student outcomes it is important to consider that students’ parents also need to be made aware of the value TLs can add to student achievement.  Generally speaking the TL’s profile amongst parents is low, TLs are not present at parent teacher interviews and many parents probably have a view of the TLs role that is out-dated.  It is important that school libraries showcase their work through newsletters and events scheduled at the library to raise the profile of TLs.  TLs might even consider completing an action based research project that involves input from parents and which simultaneously demonstrates the effect TLs have on student learning and achievement.

After completion of the second essay for the TL Masters course, critically evaluating two information literacy models, I have come to a greater understanding of the scope and complexity of skills and attributes required by TLs to successfully implement inquiry based learning.  I touched on this role in my online journal for implementation of Guided Inquiry projects earlier in the course (Carr, 2012c).  Whilst many of these skills and attributes are part of a professional teacher’s role, I am struck by the extent to which TLs have to be flexible and adapt to student needs.  The nature of inquiry based projects necessitates that TLs have a number of strategies that they may need to call upon to help each individual learner on his or her unique learning journey.  Thus the need for TLs to be true professionals who update their professional development portfolios is vital if TLs are to use up-to-date researched strategies for personalised learning, life-long learning and use of technology.  Highly qualified TLs serve to raise the profile of the profession and help to raise the role of TLs as mentors and collaborators for staff.

I have also revised my earlier assertion on the Charles Sturt University (CSU) online forum (Carr, 2013d) that an information literacy (IL) policy should ‘perhaps’ be considered as a policy document of my school.  After careful consideration of what IL entails as outlined in my online journal (Carr, 2013e), I now consider that information literacy is core to the business of education and a policy document would serve to acknowledge its importance.

I acknowledge that TLs face many challenges, not least of which is the need to advocate for their position within a school.  I hope that in time, as the importance of inquiry based projects as integral for 21st century learning is realised, and as TL’s provide more evidence of their positive effect on student achievement, the profile of TL’s will be raised in the education community.  As mentioned on the CSU online forum, TL’s are challenged by the amount of time needed to properly implement guided inquiry approaches to learning (Carr, 2012f), but it is possible that principals may employ more TL’s to work on these projects once the worth of TL’s is realised.


Carr, M. (2013a). The role of the teacher librarian. In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian.  Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2013b). The role of the TL and evidence-based practice. In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian.  Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2013c).Implementing a Guided Inquiry approach-the role of the teacher librarian. In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian.  Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2013d). Has the school in which you worked developed an information literacy policy?  Should this be an essential policy for a 21st century school? [online forum comment].  Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2013e).Information Literacy – theory and practice for 21st Century learning. In Learning Landscape, Reflections of a Teacher Librarian.  Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2013f).  What advantages, challenges and/or disadvantages do you see for a TL wishing to implement a GI approach? [online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian Vol 33/3  (13-18).

Information Literacy – theory and practice for 21st Century learning

Information Literacy (IL) is more than a set of skills. The difficulty of this argument lies in the fact that there are so many definitions for the concept of IL (Langford, 1998). However, whilst IL is comprised of many skills, it has been acknowledged that it is not just a set of skills but also a learning process (Herring, 2006). In the process of becoming information literate a learner moves a long a spectrum of skills, each building on top of one another, from the ability to recognise a need for information to the transfer of skills and creation of new information in a different context. This is recognised by the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004). In addition the framework includes the concept of life-long learning as an integral part of IL (Bundy, 2004). Other aspects affecting the process of becoming information literate have been recognised, such as attitudes and feelings of learners, (Kuhlthau, 2004) and also their beliefs and values (Bundy, 2004). If one considers all the different skills and aspects that have an impact on the learner in attaining IL, it may be more useful to consider IL as a theory of learning which comprises many concepts and also skills.

One of the more interesting ideas about IL is that as a concept it is continually evolving to keep in line with the changes in our information and technological age (Langford, 1998). If we acknowledge that IL is not a static concept then it must be more than a set of skills and instead is a way of thinking. A framework called Dimensions of Learning (DOL) has been used successfully in Australia specifically to support the development of IL skills (Twomey & Salisbury, 2004). Dimension Five is Productive Habits of Mind (thinking skills) which in combination with Dimension One, Attitudes and Perceptions, have been acknowledged as essential in attaining IL skills acknowledged in Dimension Two, Three and Four (Twomey & Salisbury, 2004). DOL is a framework which acknowledges that IL skills need to be addressed on a more holistic level and the framework also includes the consideration of what is termed Virtues for Life which addresses values such as acceptance of others and justice (Twomey & Salibury, 2004). The DOL framework supports the question of whether IL should be regarded as an “umbrella phrase…that contributes to the holistic development of the individual” (Langford, 1998).

It has been argued that IL should be embedded within the curriculum (Bundy, 2004), that it should be the goal of all educators (Badke, 2005) and it is a key competency for individuals and by extension vital for a well-functioning society (Langford, 2004). Standard Six of the Australian and New Zealand Information and Literacy Framework advocates for the notions of social, ethical, legal, economic and cultural responsibility in the use of information (Bundy, 2004). This standard thus introduces another aspect to the concept of IL, placing it far beyond a set of skills and emphasising its importance in producing independent and responsible citizens. Langford’s argument then that teachers need to incorporate the belief of the power of IL to produce life long and independent learners is certainly one that this writer subscribes to (Langord, 2004). IL is more than a set of skills, as a concept and learning theory it provides the basis for education in our century.

Badke, W. B. (2005). Can’t get no respect: helping faculty to understand the educational power of information literacy. Reference Librarian, 43(89/90), 63-80. doi: 10.1300/J120v43n89•05
Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).
Herring, J. (2006). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9.
Kuhlthau, C.C. (2004). Learning as a process, in Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-27
Langford, L. (2004). Information literacy: a clarification. From Now On – the Educational Technology Journal. Retrieved from
Twomey, M. & Salisbury, M. (2004). Thinking through the thing you do: creating a thinking culture. Constructing Communities of Learning and Literacy. ASLA Online Conference Proceedings.

The role of the TL and evidence-based practice

Teacher librarians (TLs) need to demonstrate the impact they have on student learning through the use of quantitative and qualitative data within their own schools in order to prove their worth and advocate for their position within the school community (Kramer, 2010). Whilst evidence-based practice (EBP) can be used to demonstrate a TL’s ability to enhance student learning outcomes it can also be used to show the value of teacher and TL collaboration (Kramer, 2010). Todd considers evidence-based practice to be an integral element of the role of the TL, not only as a means to provide evidence of the worth of a TL but also as a way to improve and evaluate teaching practice (Todd, 2008).

Collecting evidence of student learning does not have to be driven by a test or assessment data – the evidence can be collected from the answers on a worksheet/questionnaire or could be part of a reflection on learning after completion of a task with the help of the TL (Kramer, 2010). Evidence can also be collected through interviews or learning journals. Another useful way of obtaining evidence of student learning can be data from standardised tests used in conjunction with data from the library, for example by comparing reading scores with a student’s use of the library and reading materials, (Oberg, 2002).

Action research provides a means of collecting and analysing data about student learning with specific research questions or problems in mind. (Harada, n.d.). The TL (and classroom teacher) can measure the effect on student learning outcomes by gathering and evaluating data from learning experiences in the library. For example action research can be used to address a problem such as plagiarism. The TL would devise tasks to teach students about plagiarism and then measure the success of the actions/tasks through evidence gained from completion of the tasks (Oberg, 2002). Very careful and detailed planning, reflection and evaluation of the actions taken are needed for the success of action research projects.

Using the tool known as the Student Learning Through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) developed by the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries is a most valuable way for TL’s to implement EPB as it provides quantitative and qualitative data for analysis and comparison (Todd, 2011) . This tool is used in conjunction with the Guided Inquiry (GI) approach to learning and Kuhlthau’s model of the Information Search Process (Todd, 2011). The SLIM toolkit is sophisticated, it consists of three reflection instruments used at different stages of the GI and it enables students, and the TL and teacher team, to consider the progress of the learning journey and the emotions involved. Students use higher order and meta-cognitive thinking skills to evaluate their own learning and at the same time the SLIM toolkit provides evidence for TL’s to analyse and data to use to improve student learning outcomes and teaching practice (Fitzgerald, 2011).

Everyone within the education community, not least the TL, is accountable for student achievement – EBP is essential for demonstrating and improving the ability of TL’s to make a difference to student learning outcomes.

Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The Twin Purposes of Guided Inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidenced based practice. Scan 30(1), 26-41.
Oberg, D (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement? School Libraries in Canada 22(2) 10-13
Kramer, P. K., & Diekman, L. (2010). Evidence = assessment = advocacy. Teacher Librarian, 37(3), 27-30.
Todd, R. (2008). The Evidence-Based Manifesto. School Library Journal, 54(4) 38-43 Retrieved from
Todd, R.J. (2011) Charting student learning through inquiry. [Article] School Library Monthly, 28(3), 5- 8.
Verada, H. (n.d.). Building evidenced-based practice through action research. Retrieved from

Implementing a Guided Inquiry Approach – The Role of the Teacher Librarian

The teacher librarian’s role is integral for implementation of the guided inquiry (GI) approach to learning, from initial planning, monitoring, to reflection at the end. Inquiry based learning is a constructivist, 21st Century approach to education. It enables students ‘to construct meaning, think creatively and solve problems’ (Australian Library and Information Association, 2011). Essentially the guided inquiry (GI) approach is one where students are guided by a team of teachers to research information in answer to a question(s) which demands deep understanding. In practice, the teacher librarian’s role in implementing a GI approach encompasses skills of leadership and collaboration with teachers, careful management of the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 18), and provision of resources and information literacy skills.

In order to effectively implement the GI approach to learning the teacher librarian (TL) needs to be involved throughout the process as is demonstrated by Fitzgerald’s case study of a Year 11 Modern History historical investigation in which TLs were also involved in assessing the process of the GI at its completion (Fitzgerald, 2010, p. 26). Collaboration between the teachers and TL is pivotal in designing a research task that is ‘worthy of deep exploration’ (Stripling, 2008, p. 52). Research has indicated that collaboration between teachers and the TL results in students gaining deep understanding as opposed to merely finding out facts (Chu, Chow, Tse, Kuhlthau, 2008, p. 1682). The TL also needs to collaborate with teachers to meet the needs of the curriculum and to consider the possibilities of working across key learning areas.

An understanding of the Information Search Process (ISP) experienced by students will enable the TL to provide assistance and intervene in the process at critical points (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 18). TL’s need to make students aware of the range of emotions and cognitive processes they will experience as part of a GI, and students also need to be aware that the ISP is complex and iterative, and not necessarily linear (Rutherford, 2006, p. 432). TL’s can use feedback sheets and reflections to gather information about difficulties students are experiencing so that they can provide timely guidance (Fitzgerald, 2010, p. 28). Creating scaffolds for the ISP is a practical way that librarians can help students to learn (Chu, Chow, Tse, Kuhlthau, 2008, p. 1673).

The TL’s more traditional expertise in collecting and providing access to resources is also fundamental for the success of the GI approach to learning. TL’s can guide students as to the different types of information that can be used at different stages of the process, for example when to use an encyclopaedia and when to use an educational database (Fitzgerald, 2011 p. 40). Information literacy skills, such as finding reliable information and assessing its validity, form part of the traditional but important role of the TL in implementing the GI approach. Teaching students how to use Web 2.0 tools for collaboration and presentation also forms part of the practical and valuable role of the TL (Stripling, 2008, p. 2).

The role of the TL in implementing the GI approach to learning moves beyond the important role of providing resources and the teaching of information literacy to one where the TL is a teaching partner. The TL can also become a leader and an advocate for the GI approach by providing professional development opportunities for teachers (Stripling, 2008, p. 20).

Australian Library and Information Association. (2011). ALIA/ASLA policy on guided inquiry and the curriculum, from
Chu, S., Chow, K., Tse, S., & Kuhlthau, C.(2008). Grade 4 Students’ Development of Research Skills Through Inquiry-Based Learning Projects. School Libraries Worldwide.
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The Twin Purposes of Guided Inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidenced based practice. Scan.
Kuhlthau, C. C. M. L. K. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.
Rutherford, S., Alix Hayden, K., & Pival, P. R. (2006). WISPR (Workshop on the Information Search Process for Research) in the Library. Journal of Library Administration, 45(3/4), 427-443. doi: 10.1300/J111v45n03̱08
Stripling, B. (2008). Inquiry: Inquiring Minds Want to Know. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(1), 50-52.
Stripling, B. (2008). Inquiry-based Teaching and Learning–The Role of the Library Media Specialist. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(1), 2-2.

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

The role of the Teacher librarian is certainly diverse and the development of an effective role within a school is dependent on a number of factors, over which the teacher librarian has a variant amount of control.  If implemented, Herring’s view (2007, p27) that teacher librarians should consider themselves being at a ‘centre of learning first and a centre of resources second’, would change the perception of many who only see teacher librarians as information specialists as opposed to the integral and greater role a teacher librarian might play within a school to promote life-long learning. 

The onus is very much on the teacher librarian to develop the role of being a teaching partner and collaborator in learning programs.  As noted by Lamb (2011, p 28) knowledge is not enough, ‘professionals must also acquire the skills, attitudes and dispositions’ to develop their practice.  Indeed, teacher librarians are leaders who need to be highly skilled and motivated to achieve their goals.  Whilst I am impressed with Valenza’s manifesto (Valenza, 2010), it does seem to require the energy of super-librarian!  Teacher librarians need to consider what is most important and aim for realistic outcomes, making time for professional development in order to be at the forefront of educational research.

I am fortunate to be a school where teacher librarians are expected to place team-teaching as priority and many clerical roles are fulfilled by library technicians.  However there is scope for teacher librarians to develop their relationships with teachers and provide more opportunity for collaborative learning.  The principal at our school is strong advocate for the library and its role within the school. Two very effective ways that teacher librarians can change the perception of principals is through involvement and contribution to school initiatives and through effective communication practice (Oberg, 2006, p16).

Constructivist theories of education are paving the way for teacher librarians to advocate for their role as learning partners.  However, it is up to teacher librarians to promote their role within schools.


Herring, J. (2007).Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp.27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Oberg, D (2006) Developing the respect and support of school administrators In Teacher Librarian (pp 13-18).

Valenza, J (2010) A revised manifesto. In School Library Journal. Retrieved from