Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Role of a Teacher Librarian

Posted below is the role of the teacher librarian as defined by the Greater Victoria School District:


In the Greater Victoria School District, the teacher-librarian works in collaboration with the principal, classroom teachers, school and district staff to develop a school library program that supports, enriches and implements the instructional program of the school.

The responsibilities of the teacher-librarian encompass areas including program and instruction, learning resource management and leadership in resource-based learning:


- participating as a teaching partner in helping teachers to address identified learning outcomes through a knowledge of resource-based learning

- working cooperatively with classroom teachers in order to assist students in developing skills in information retrieval and critical thinking so that they may become informed decision-makers and life-long learners

- promoting reading and language development and literature appreciation

- supporting the integration of instructional technology and media literacy and becoming familiar with current technological developments in information retrieval


- establishing and maintaining effective systems for the selection, acquisition, processing and circulation of resources

- managing the library facilities, services and budget in order that these may contribute to the stated goals of the school, school district and Ministry of Education

- cooperatively developing school library policies and procedures

- participating in an information network with district schools, the District Resource Centre, the public library and information agencies

- organizing and directing clerical staff, parent and student volunteers in the school library


- providing leadership and promoting strategies for the effective use of a wide variety of learning resources which support and extend the curriculum

- applying skills in evaluating and selecting learning resources to reflect the curricular, informational and recreational needs of the school and its learners

- participating in and contributing to school and district activities which advocate support for school libraries and resource-based learning

- promoting school library programs in the school and in the community

- seeking opportunities for personal growth in school librarianship and participating in collegial networks

- developing the potential of parent and student volunteers

The success of a school library program is dependent on the teacher-librarian being able to balance all of the above given adequate staffing, budget and facilities in accordance with the entire school program.

Developed by the Steering the Course Committee and the Teacher-Librarians of the Greater Victoria School District

So the question is, how does this reflect my role as a teacher-librarian in my school?  Before answering that question I must say the above job description is both daunting and intimidating.  I always found the literature concerning the role and job descriptions of teacher-librarians to be overly ambitious and idealistic considering the real-life circumstances of school librarians in most jurisdictions.  The part time nature of teacher-librarian positions and limited school budgets make fulfillment of the job description difficult if not outright impossible. All that said I understand that the ideal is really what we need to know about and it pushes the debate and the struggle to improve school libraries forward.

All of the above roles can be fulfilled by a teacher-librarian even when there are on very limited (even non existent) budgets, with the exception of new acquisitions. However, the role cannot be fulfilled without adequate teacher-librarian time.  In my school district an elementary school with less than 300 children will only receive between .2 or 0.3 teacher librarian time.  An elementary school of 500 children qualifies for .5 teacher-librarian time.  With such limited time a teacher-librarian can only spend a small fraction of their time cooperatively teaching and planning, literature appreciation, evaluating and selecting resources and the like. In the case of my role I have been fortunate to be able to dabble in most of the role as outlined above but have devoted a lion's share to resource based learning, literature appreciation and limited library skills.  I do spend a fair bit of my remaining time seeking funding and hosting fund raising events and advocating for the library at open houses, PAC meetings and staff meetings.  I have had little time to network with other librarians and have not made any real contacts with the public library.  For not having devoted much time to such networking I know that I am poorer but time limits are time limits.


  1. Hi Ben, thanks for blogging on this subject. I am planning to run for trustee of the Greater Victoria School District in the November election. Here's my question: what are some realistic steps that trustees could take to improve school libraries? (Feel free to email me at if you don't want to post your answer here.) Thanks, Dave

  2. Did you reply to DB about profiling an exemplary local school library and how it makes a difference to student achievement and engagement with reading and literature?
    I could go on and on, but I think you know how hard it is to get the issue noticed...