Thoughts on evidence gathering, researching and being an advocate for school libraries

Since coming back into the area of teacher librarianship after several years of being only a teacher, I found that I lacked confidence in my researching skills and teaching them to students. To my surprise I found that I still had the ability but I needed a bit of polishing. I have found that the role of teacher librarian would benefit from having hard evidence that it is still a prized position in a school. In my role as a teacher, I have had to have evidence that I could teach in the VET area and jump through hoops to support the evidence. As a TL I have not had to do this, but I would find the evidence to be a confirmation that I mattered. Researching as a TL has given me a new angle to look at this position. Before I was just a teacher and just a librarian, but not combined. So, some thoughts and insights have developed from reading and research.

Kay and Alderman in Lonsdale (2003) state that many of the “teacher librarians have had to take on a subject teaching load that compromises their library responsibilities …and that there are also fewer strong advocates for school libraries:. Hartzell (1993) says that teachers tend to view librarians as support teachers rather that as fellow teachers and that librarians tend to be isolated and find it difficult to build relationships with other staff in the school.

All the above statements support the difficulties that Teacher librarians have in the school environment. But there is also a lot of evidence (mostly American) that supports having Teacher Librarians in a school that support and teach within the school curriculum. Oberg (2002)suggests that students whose librarians play an instructional role, either by finding materials or collaborating with teachers, tend to achieve higher average test scores.

Hay (2006) states in a study that was conducted in 2004/5, that student responses highlighted the appreciation of assistance by the teacher librarian in selecting appropriate resources and developing research skills both in the classroom and in the library.

Hay & Todd (2010) report that in their report of a moderated discussion blog, there was an overwhelming response that teacher librarians were definitely wanted in their school. It must also be noted that the majority of responders to this report were teacher librarians who had a vested interest in the report. In the report it was stated that there was “an assumption that the actions and processes undertaken by teacher librarians automatically imply positive learning outcomes”, but there was little or no documentation to support their case. Evidence collection was hampered by several constraints including lack of time by teachers to collaborate with TLs, lack of principal support and a culture not formally supporting evidence-based practice.

In Hay (2006) students appreciated the fact that TLs opened the libraries for extended hours, had access to good printers, could help with homework and assignments efficiently and it was safe place to learn and ask questions.

On reading  Abarbanel, et al., (2013), it is noted that that some school libraries are replacing TLs with technologists who can use digitals tools but cannot maintain library collections, and they are eliminating print collections, moving to a smaller areas and reducing  the budget. The impression is that the Internet has all the answers, but fortunately research disagrees with that statement. A school library can offer a space for research, collaboration, global connection as well as the place to do printing, borrow cameras and then manipulate the resulting photos and a multitude of other things, all under the watchful and helpful eye of the TL.

Abarbanel (2013) states that “school librarians provide the all-important human connection between students and information, as well as between teachers and information.”

And much more – an article well worth reading!!


Abarbanel, E., Davis, S., Hand, D., & Wittmer, M. (2013). The new school library. Independent School, 72(4), 68-74.

Hay, L. (2006). School libraries as flexible and dynamic learning laboratories? That’s what Aussie kids want. Scan, 25(2), 18.27.

Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: the conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30-42.

Lonsdale, M. (2003) Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: A Review of the Research, [Report for the Australian School Library Association] Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence : do school libraries improve student achievement?, School Libraries in Canada, 22(2), 10- 14.


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One response to “Thoughts on evidence gathering, researching and being an advocate for school libraries

  1. Pingback: An Interview with @UWOEducLibrary | doug --- off the record

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