TOPIC 2: The role of the Teacher Librarian – some authors’ views

Compare and contrast the views of Herring, Purcell, Lamb, and Valenza.

How should TLs prioritise the roles they play in the school?

Herring (2007) prefers the USA’s Informational power’s view of the role of the teacher librarian to the Australian Learning for the future document (p.31). The US document sees the roles as being mainly

–       teacher, instructional partner, information specialist, and program administrator (p.31).

But Herring emphasizes the one key feature of a teacher librarian’s role is their ability to adapt (p.32) and recognize that the role of the teacher librarian will continue to change.


Purcell (2010) defines the roles of a teacher librarian, or library media specialist, as

–       leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator (p. 30).

All 5 roles must be balanced and all have a vital position (p. 31).


Lamb (2011) suggests 6 roles of the teacher librarian, or media specialist:

–       Information technologist, administrator, teacher, curriculum consultant, community collaborator, and digital detective (p. 27).

She also suggests media specialists recognize how the environment of libraries are changing and states the need to “revisit, reframe, and re-imagine” (p. 28) the areas of PALETTE: People, Administration, Learning, Electronic information, Technology, Teaching, and Environments (p. 28).


Valenza (2010) suggests 9 aspects of the practice of teacher librarianship:

– Reading; Information Landscape; Collection Development; Access, Equity, Advocacy; Audience and collaboration; Copyright, Copyleft and Information Ethics; New Technology Tools; Professional Development and Professionalism; and Teaching and Learning and Reference.

She emphasizes the ubiquity libraries need to have and how this can change attitudes toward the library (Teaching and Learning and Reference section, para. 1).


The following is a table to show how each author perceived the roles of the teacher librarian. To help with comparison, I adjusted their order to show where the authors overlapped, but have shown their original order by the numbers in the brackets and colours. I am not sure if the authors intended their roles to be prioritized with numbers, but for the sake of comparison I have assumed the order of writing in their articles has something to do with priority. Note Valenza uses quite different terminology (as she uses aspects of the practice rather than roles), but I have tried to compare them as best as possible.

Herring Purcell Lamb Valenza
Teacher (1) Teacher (4) Teacher (3) Teaching Learning and Reference (9)
Instructional Partner (2) Instructional Partner (2) Curriculum Consultant (4); Community Collaborator (5) Audience and Collaboration (5)
Information Specialist (3) Information Specialist (3) Information Technologist (1) Information Landscape (2); New Technology Tools (7)
Program Administrator (4) Program Administrator (5) Administrator (2) Collection Development (3)
Leader (1) Professional Development and Professionalism (8)
Digital Detective (6) Copyright, Copyleft and Information Ethics (6)
Access, Equity and Advocacy (4)
Reading (1)

I feel I connect with Purcell’s list of roles the most; however, I have a difficult time trying to prioritise the roles. I agree with the author’s idea that “the school library media specialist functions like the hub of a wheel balancing all the roles to fill vital position in the school” (p. 31). Throughout a day, as one role subsides in precedence, another succeeds it depending on the activity or task at hand.

Are there any other roles played by TLs?

I think a role not mention in the texts is that of mentor or counselor. While the classroom teacher is the source of knowledge for a particular subject, a librarian can be a mentor or counselor for students, especially struggling students, as they are not connected with students’ grades or regular classroom results (aside from units done in collaboration with their classroom teacher and TL). The mentor aspect could be seen to be closely related with the “Leader” role, but wherever the leader role is mention it is usually followed by a description of a TL as a leader in the school, profession or community at large (Purcell, 2010, p. 32) and not in regards to a leader for individual students to look up to. In regards to the counselor role, the TL often finds they spend a lot or one on one time with particular students and therefore, I believe, can become a source of counseling for a student, especially because the TL is often accessed outside class time hours.

How do Lamb’s views in the TL’s role compare and contrast with those of Herring and Purcell?

Lamb’s views seem much more extensive and ambitious than what is described in Herring and Purcell. Her figure on a Media Specialist’s PALETTE (Lamb, 2011. P. 28) is focused on shifting thinking from an old ideal toward a new ideal. For example, “Innovative media specialists must shift thinking from broad, face-to-face communications toward focused, virtual interactions” (p. 28). This is where Lamb diverges from Herring’s and Purcell’s approaches to looking at the roles of a TL. I feel Herring and Purcell add new ideals to the old ideals of the roles of TL, while Lamb wants to eliminate the old ideals altogether and replace them with these new ideals which appear to be solely focused on technology and new forms of communication. I feel that it is better to add and expand on the roles of the TL, rather than replace, one reason being that the models may not suit some learning styles which Herring refers to in his article (p. 33, para. 3).

What existing tasks/roles do you think you as a TL could give up in order to be as proactive as Lamb and Valenza want you to be?

Let me get back to you on that one once I’ve had some experience in a library to know which tasks/roles a TL could give up. I don’t have enough experience to know first hand what tasks can be set aside or delegated and I feel it might also have a lot to do with the amount of support the TL gets from outside personnel.

As an easy guess at my answer to this question I would say cataloguing could be delegated to non-library staff.

Let me get back to you on this one…

After reading these articles and viewing some of the 30 second thought podcasts, think about

  1. a.    whether you see yourself fitting with the roles proposed by these authors

I think it would take experience to seamlessly move between the roles described by all the authors discussed here, but I feel once accustomed to them I could certainly see myself fitting the roles. If I am honest, I feel I still need to make progress with my amount of working ICT knowledge to fit the role of the school’s “go-to” IT expert but I hope to remedy that with my studies and future experience.


b. would you change the order of the roles Purcell identifies, eg. should teacher come first?

I believe I touched on this in the first section, unsure of the emphasis Purcell meant to place on the ordering of her roles. In a nutshell, yes I do think the teacher role should come earlier on her list to be beside instruction partner as it takes a teacher to become an instruction partner. However, I feel all teachers should be leaders, not just teacher librarians, so I am not opposed to leader being identified first in her list. The library is a learning environment and without leadership, an environment cannot be expected to flourish, but that can also be said of the other 4 roles she identifies. I believe in conclusion, all in balance is the perfect way to view the roles of the TL and I shall endeavour to juggle the roles responsible.



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.

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.

Valenza, J. (2010). Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Retrieved from


3 thoughts on “TOPIC 2: The role of the Teacher Librarian – some authors’ views

  1. Pingback: ETL401 Assignment 2 Part B: Critical Reflection | A TL's Learning Journal

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