The role of the Teacher Librarian in enlisting Principal support is essential and many-faceted. As the head administrator and the person responsible for approving budgets, the Principal must be informed and engaged regarding the role of the Library and the Teacher Librarian in the school. As the person ultimately responsible for the successful education of the students, the Principal must have confidence in the credentials and effectiveness of the Teacher Librarian. Through a variety of practices including collaboration, communication, high visibility and professional approach to education – particularly information literacy – the Teacher Librarian must do all s/he can do to ensure the Principal is supportive.
Collaboration with the school community is essential at all levels. The School Library Media Specialist Table (Harvey, 2009) notes that collaboration with teachers is necessary to plan, instruct and evaluate student learning. This can take place in staff meetings, the library, the classroom or computer lab. Collaboration with administrators should occur to implement school-wide initiatives and the school improvement plan, or vision.The Teacher Librarian needs to contribute knowledge about inquiry-based learning, methods of locating resources and ways of integrating technology. Flexibility, mutual respect, purpose and a commitment to shared values are also needed for effective collaboration. Farmer says it is useful to share evidence of successful collaboration between Teacher Librarians and Teachers in order to build and perpetuate the support of the Principal. This can be achieved by providing data analysis demonstrating the effect of the Teacher Librarian collaboration in supporting student achievement. (Farmer, 2007, p.62)
Frequent and effective communication is important if the Principal is to perceive the Teacher Librarian as an integral part of the school. (Haycock, 2007, p.28) This can be achieved both formally and informally. Active participation in meetings, emails relating to everything from new resources to suggestions for lesson plans, articles for the school newsletter, informal conversations in the staffroom and announcements at school assembly can all form part of this communication. Network meetings provide a broader perspective and can be a source of encouragement and new ideas. Farmer notes that as well as gaining the Principal’s commitment to the value of the library with regard to funding and management decisions, it is also important to communicate thanks by publicly recognising the this support. (Farmer, 2007, p.62)
Closely aligned with effective communication is high visibility of the teacher Librarian within the school community. (Morris, 2007, p.23) Involvement in whole school programs and activities is another way demonstrating understanding of school goals and a shared vision. (Oberg, 2006, p.16) Participation in Committees, attendance at Parents and Friends Meetings and support of events such as school dances and fundraisers demonstrates a broader view on the part of the Teacher Librarian and increases his/her profile within the school and broader community. Positive relationships built through shared involvement make collaboration in the learning environment easier. Respect gained in a broader context often carries over into more specific areas of education and funding.
If a Teacher Librarian is to have credibility as an educator, leader and innovator he/she needs to have the necessary credentials. A deep understanding of teaching pedagogy and a high level of skill in integrating technology would be fundamental in gaining the respect and support of the Principal. An interest in attending professional development courses and a willingness to be engaged with new developments demonstrate commitment. A professional ability to deal with issues such as censorship, cultural diversity and internet filtering (Oberg, 2007, p.16) avoids problems. An awareness of freedom of information and respect for reader privacy indicate a knowledge of core librarian values. (Oberg, 2006, p.16) The relationship between a Principal and Teacher Librarian is always evolving but needs to be based on a foundation of respect for one’s professional ability.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals : Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13 (1),
Harvey, C. (2009). What Should an Administrator Expect a School Library Specialist to be?,
Library Media Connection, (Oct), 45.
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration : Critical factors for student learning. School Libraries
Worldwide 13 (1), 25-35.
Morris, B.J. (2007). Principal Support for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13 (1), 23-24.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian,
33 (3), 13-18.