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The Position of Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Society and Schools

March 19, 2011

Thoughts sparked by the Introduction to Winzenried’s Visionary Leaders for Information.

The ‘moral purpose’ or altruism that drives information-providing institutions (universities, schools, libraries) means that they are quite unlike most organisations.  Their products are knowledge and the nurture of minds – intangible commodities, not easily measured.

However, much of this argument assumes that these institutions are not-for-profit organisations.  Can those schools that stray into the business arena truly claim that their ‘moral purpose’ has not been compromised?

On the flip side, it can be argued that those schools with a strong moral imperative could benefit immensely from the unsentimental application of sound business practices, including quality assurance.

I couldn’t let a particular passage of the text pass by without comment (pp. 11-12).  There are apparently a growing number of teachers retraining as TLs to “escape the stresses of the classroom” (p. 11).  I should be so lucky!  For me, a TL position would mean an escape from the stresses and financial uncertainty of casual teaching.  Like many women with a family, I hold many tertiary qualifications, yet (except for a brief period in a dreary bank job in the 1980’s) have never held a permanent job.  All my employment has been casual. 

However, that is obviously not my sole motivation.  There would be little point in attempting this course if I were merely ‘going through the motions’.  I believe the TL’s job is the purest form of teaching.  I have a personal vision of the role that excites and motivates me and which I am determined to make a reality.  A job that is intellectually stimulating, challenging and has full professional status is the dream of many. 

Escaping the stresses of the classroom doesn’t necessarily equate to escaping the children.  Perhaps it means getting away from everything that prevents teachers from actually teaching.  And after some harrowing experiences with rude and unreasonable parents – I can see that many aspiring TLs might actually be attempting to escape from the parents and not their offspring!

In many school communities, TLs also need to battle the perception that those who are not natural teachers or do not relate well to children are those who are sidelined into the school library.  So, they are often fighting many negative images, perpetuated by both those within and external to their schools.

It is a very long way from here to a Teacher Librarian carving out a true leadership position for themselves within a school community. 

 

Reference

Winzenried, A. (2010). Visionary Leaders for Information.  Wagga Wagga, NSW:  Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

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