Tag Archives: school libraries

Cut the teacher librarians last! A message from Kim Yeomans, Nick Earls and me

Yesterday I wrote a post in my school library blog about my visit to Kim Yeomans’ primary school library. I wrote it because I feel strongly about voicing the uncertain future of school libraries and teacher librarians. Kim’s current principal values her and her library but next year is uncertain with the appointment of a new principal. The same goes for me and my school library when our principal retires if I’m to be realistic. The fact is that while we do the best we can in our roles as (teacher) librarians, we can never be sure how much we are valued and what our future holds. My post about Kim’s library and how it is a shining example of the heart in her contribution to the learning and wellbeing of her school can be read here.

I believe that we need to stand up and let people hear our voice, fellow teacher librarians,  because we can  be and sometimes are overlooked or misunderstood by principals and the school community for whatever reason – whether they are too busy to notice what we do or perhaps their perception of teacher librarians is stuck in a stereotype that does us no favours, or whether it is because what we do is not intrinsic enough to what they do in their classrooms. Perhaps what we do remains for teachers and principals as ‘what they do in there’ instead of what they are doing with us for our students. Whatever it is, we cannot remain silent if want to ensure our continued survival.

Kim wrote this comment after my post:

Thank you for acknowledging the importance of primary school libraries. I am saddened and frustrated that primary school libraries are rapidly disappearing along with teacher librarians. I am currently one of only two full-time primary teacher librarians in our zone. I am fortunate to work in a school where both my teacher librarian role and the library are valued, but a change of Principal means extinction could be lurking around the corner. Earlier in the year I wrote this blog post, “A school library without a librarian is a room”

Recently author Nick Earls won the hearts of teacher librarians when he wrote a blog post advocating the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries.  

Nick Earls is very clear about the importance of school libraries staffed by teacher librarians – bravo to your post, Nick! –

Each time I’m told that a school no longer has a teacher-librarian, I’m told that the school still has a library, as though the building does the job all by itself.

Some advice to anyone running school budgets anywhere: CUT THE TEACHER-LIBRARIANS LAST. Cut other things and give the T/Ls more money. Cut other things and hire more of them. Sell as many lamingtons as you need to to keep them. Because I’ve seen what they do.

Kim: As a passionate teacher librarian I will continue to the best of my ability to ensure our library is a welcoming, vibrant and inspiring learning space that is an integral part of our school’s teaching and learning program and the hub of our school…for the 530 students I teach each week.

Thank you for writing such an affirming blog post. Your photos have provided a lovely and rare opportunity for me to see our library through someone else’s eyes…

Kim 🙂

Thank you, Kim, for being such a shining example of teacher librarians as essential to the learning in schools, and for alerting me to Nick Earls’ post. I’m pulling out some more of what he says:

Promoting reading promotes literacy and prepares students for life. Promoting reading promotes questioning, exploring and thinking. Reading broadens a student’s view of the world, knowledge of it and understanding of it. Reading can dramatically increase a student’s options for the future. Reading can help erase disadvantage and create advantage. Reading can increase understanding and empathy. Time Magazine recently headed an article Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer because there’s evidence it can and it does.

In her post after having read Nick Earls, Kim lists what will no longer exist in schools if the teacher librarian is not valued enough to be worth funding –

If there is no longer a teacher librarian who will…

  • Greet students with a smile and welcome them by name as they enter the library
  • Create a warm, vibrant and welcoming space that is open to all and a haven for many
  • Provide spaces where reading can be shared and social or done alone snuggled in a bean bag
  •  Purchase books that will inspire; fuel imaginations; enable walking in others’ shoes; foster an understanding of self; and move readers to laugh, cry and ponder
  • Expose students to a variety of illustrators and explore the power of visual images
  • Read and skilfully bring books to life with genuine love, appreciation and knowledge
  • Enthusiastically talk about and recommend books
  • Make reading fun and positive
  • Take time to match students to the ‘right book’ to meet their needs and interests
  • Organise books to make them appealing and easy to browse and access
  • Design activities where literature can be explored, discussed and brought to life in various ways
  • Encourage and celebrate reading with Book Fairs, Book Week, Author visits, Premiers Reading Challenge and other fun reading events
  • Teach students skills needed to access, use and present information ethically
  • Plan with teachers and provide resources for classroom reading and inquiry
  • Believe in and promote the power of reading for enjoyment and learning

I could add more from the secondary perspective but perhaps it will keep for another post.

Kim finishes with this quote:

“It is not enough to have a school library, however clean and airy and stuffed with books, e-readers, computers and tablets. A library without a librarian …is a room” Alan Gibbons

I hope with all my heart that principals and members of school communities will value their teacher librarians and libraries so that they are no longer an endangered species but an irreplaceable part of learning and teaching in schools.

Is marketing a dirty word for school libraries?

La lectura es el viaje de los q no pueden tomar el tren

I’m writing an article about marketing the school library for the publication FYI.

Marketing. I used to think that it had nothing to do with education. Marketing school libraries? Bad taste. Things of value should stand on their own merits.

But here we are living in libraries within schools – part of the school, not quite part of the school. I have to admit that much of what I do is a form of marketing – the benign kind, the sincere kind, but marketing nonetheless. No, we are not selling our souls but we do need to reach out and make connections with the teachers who have charge of the students. We need them all so that we can make a difference.

Still, I have many questions about this marketing thing. I would love to have a full-on discussion with other teacher librarians about this, and with teachers, to see what they think. To see what you think.

So I’m going to offer a few of my thoughts in the hope that you will leave a comment. What do you think about this as a teacher librarian, as a teacher? The following is selected from my article:

Library promotion and the forging of relationships with staff is what we do every day.I don’t claim to be an expert and there is no ‘one size fits all’, but what I’d like to do is share my personal experience and my story.

Marketing your school library is not optional, as far as I’m concerned.


Marketing the library is a most important job, not only to make the library visible but also to make it shine, to show its vibrancy, so that teachers and students will take a break from their relentless busyness and take notice; so that they will want to come in to see what’s going on.

Sadly, libraries are sometimes invisible – despite bright and shiny new furniture, despite the brilliant displays, despite the extensive collections, despite the well meaning efforts of librarians. What I mean by that is that the library and library staff are not an intrinsic part of the essential teaching and learning activity of our schools – they don’t show up on teachers’ or students’ radar –  unless we make them so. And we have to keep making them so on a daily basis.

The library used to be THE PLACE people came for information but it’s simply not the case any more. Surely you’ve noticed how often student assignments are set and completed without anyone stepping into the library. We all know how indispensable we can be and should be when research assignments are created so we need to educate students and teachers that we have the experience to support them in navigating the flood of information they now have at their fingertips. We all know our area of expertise: we can show them how to find what they need when it seems like finding a needle in a haystack – how to locate, evaluate, sort through and select, organise, interact with and synthesize information so they can create what is required. But often teachers and students will have no idea that they are playing in a sinkhole when they trust Google to find what they need. There is no doubt that we need to seriously promote ourselves as playing an essential part in everyday teaching and learning.


Granted, that is easier said than done. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. I would say, trust your instincts. create connections, nurture authentic and meaningful relationships with teachers, faculty heads, leading teachers, assistant principals and principals.

Be yourself, be real. Don’t put on your teacher librarian persona and go out door knocking like a missionary. There is no script. You will know what to say.

Be patient. It won’t happen overnight. It might not happen the way you envisage but something will happen. Connect with other teacher librarians, blog and tweet about it, and share your experiences, reflections, evaluations. Be honest, be deep. It’s not all about what can be seen from the outside, it’s also about creating cultural shifts, shifts in understanding. All of this takes time. Look for and celebrate small successes.

Be awesome, surprising, and indispensable. Find and share what teachers want and need, but also make it amazing and wrap it up in gorgeous colours with metres of ribbon and exotic feathers.

Think about the library as a space; it’s prime real estate. The library can be a Wunderkammer, and when people come in, they should feel happy and intrigued, and wish they could stay a while. It should be a refuge for teachers from their relentless running from class to class. And you should become indispensable because you have offered to create something they have little time to do.


Everywhere – in library spaces, in classrooms, during chats in the corridor or quick catch-ups after a staff meeting, during sports days, music days, and PD days.

Don’t forget the power of promotion online – to your staff, students and school community but also to those outside the school walls. Let’s promote ourselves and what we do in our schools to the outside world, creating a reputation for being awesome, inspiring others, and being inspired by them.

It’s essential that we are seen in places other than the library. Let’s unleash ourselves from that ancient library institution – the desk. If we are stamping books and dealing with delinquent photocopiers for too much of our time, let’s think about what we can do to change that.

How to develop good relationships with teachers

My personal approach is working from the ground up with individual teachers I feel are responsive to collaboration and to my crazy ideas. I recommend you spend a lot of time in that relationship, trying to make solid, deep things happen, and that you blog the whole process with photos and repost everywhere. This way one documented collaborative project can be used as an example for many more such projects. The blog post will capture examples, reflection and evaluation, for teachers who want to see how the project worked, as well as evidence of good things happening.

Integrate, integrate, integrate

Become integrated with classes and the curriculum. Avoid feeling happy enough with isolated ‘library program’ -type lessons. As long as teachers view what we do as library programs, they will view what we do as separate, and not take it seriously. This goes for  students too. We need to be there throughout the whole project, either in the classroom or through our interaction with teachers. 

Should we speak up about what we’re doing and how we can help teachers in staff meetings? I’m in two minds about this. Staff meetings are usually after school and staff are tired and want to go home. On the occasion that I did stand up and promote what teacher librarians could do to support staff and students, I tried to be as entertaining as possible, and hoped that laughter would keep them focused. I would be reluctant to do that too often so that staff do not start to switch off. In my opinion, working on deeper relationships with individual teachers is more effective.

So these selections are a small part of the article which will soon be published in FYI. The article includes a lot more practical examples which I hope will be useful to other teacher librarians.

It would be so good to hear from you all. I open to changing my mind about approaches. Leave me a comment, okay?

But seriously, can we afford not to be marketing our libraries?






As the world changes, how do we keep up with it?


Photo from Enokson on Flickr

Books have been a source of information for some time now. But in libraries, the people have been important too. Librarians have been the personal link to information for some time too.

As the world of information has changed from being bound in books to becoming available to all on the net, people have become even more important because of their expertise. In schools, just as we are seeing a movement towards reducing funding to libraries, teacher librarians are skilling up in step with a fast-changing, online world, and are not only supporting the management an overwhelming outpouring of information, but are also able to support new digital skills in a globalised society.

Libraries are no longer prized for their hard-copy content as much as for their intellectual property. Resource centres, stage for events that bring people to ideas, gathering places – libraries have evolved and continue to do so.

If our libraries are recognised in these ways, we will never be redundant – on the contrary, we will be essential.

How do you see the emerging role of libraries and school libraries?

See other retro library posters here.