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​Past, Present, and into the Future

What is a teacher-librarian?

How is it different from the traditional librarian role?

Where is this professional discipline heading?

This page looks at historical libraries and librarianship, the current role of a teacher-librarian as specific to the school context, and the directions that this profession is heading in different countries and school contexts.

New Research Spotlight:

"As best practice, school librarians should consider new teachers, at least initially, as a special population in need of a different standard of practice that differs from working with their more experienced peers. ... The school librarian is well versed in listening to patron needs, assessing, and providing resources to support learning. These same soft skills can be used to provide support for entering faculty. School librarians, as significant colleagues who provide mentoring for new teachers, create an opportunity for further collaboration in a relationship of professional parity. By reaching out to new teachers, the school librarian bridges the gap between the library and the classroom, drawing new teachers to a supportive space." (p. 20-21, emphasis added).

Soulen, R. R. (2020). School Librarian Interventions for New-Teacher Resilience: A CLASS II field study. School Library Research, 23. Retrieved from

new teacher resilience.jpg

From the Great School Libraries organisation in the UK, a video about the importance of school libraries and qualified school librarians (see ) - 

Softlink Education. (2019). All students need great school libraries [video]. Retrieved from

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and thanks for your patience!

Gorman, M. (2015). Our enduring values: Revisited. Chicago: American Library Association. (Chapter 3)

Gorman presents his ideas about libraries (not school libraries in particular) and the future of libraries

Valentine, P. M. (2012). A social history of books and libraries from cuneiform to bytes. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. (Chapter 2)

For those interested in library history.  There are a couple of other books on this topic as well if you are interested.  In the library school we use The History of Libraries by Fred Lerner (second edition) but it is a bit boring to read the whole thing - though it is interesting if you are a history buff.  There are also a couple of nice coffee table books with libraries from history.


Clyde, L. A. (1999). The schole lybrarie: Images from our past. School Libraries Worldwide, 5(1), 1-16.

Who knew there was such a long history of school libraries - please read this article to get a

general sense of the history of school libraries.  Anne Clyde was a dear friend and colleague

and she passed away unexpectedly in September 2005.  I still think of her all the

time.  Reading her work helps me honour her contributions to school libraries and to the

International Association of School Librarianship.

e Clyde.

Note to self: Pay special attention to school libraries and the piece about school libraries written by Anne Clyde.


Hazy Memories and Sketchy Drawings


My school years hold vaguely positive memories of the school library as a "centre for recreational reading” as Laurel Clyde (1999, p. 5) describes, even though I must have also used it for research purposes. While my recollection is only vague, I thankfully have no negative library experiences like Ryan, the Starbucks barista, as the Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde (2018), learned and then wrote about in A Back To School Challenge. My use of university libraries are much closer to Clyde's description of libraries "as a resource to support teaching and learning” and even "a scholar's library--supporting the intellectual elite” (1999, p. 5). In my teaching positions at various small schools, I appreciated the library for the sake of the students, but made use of the internet much more for my math and science classes. It was not until I started learning about the role of the teacher-librarian and started looking more closely at the possibilities within the school library that I began to consider its use and importance much more. After becoming an aunt and then a parent, I have also gained a stronger appreciation for the programmes offered through public libraries - enjoying hearing what Grandma takes my niece and nephew to, and wishing there were public libraries in Phnom Penh!


As I was thinking about these readings, I started jotting some notes looking for themes, and it turned into the broad written response/cartoon that I have attached below. I was influenced by Patrick Valentine's (2012) discussion of how valuable books themselves were (p. 28) and how "the displaying of books was a sign of wealth” (p. 34) and privileged. Clyde also points out how libraries, especially in America, could be useful to a "young man who wanted to educate himself and 'rise in the world'” (1999, p. 12). Similarly, the English grammar schools during the time of Elizabeth I taught Latin and some Greek "so that sons of the local gentry and townspeople could gain entry to the inns of court and the universities and thereby to the professions” (Clyde, 1999, pp. 7-8).


I was also responding to Michael Gorman's (2015) urging to promote and defend the need for and importance of libraries. While Gorman makes some beautiful points about the value of libraries (2015, p. 40) and the purpose of the "traditional” library (2015, p. 44), an undercurrent of fear or panic seems to drive him to an over-assertion of his point that libraries need to be politically advocated for (pp. 53-54). While I agree that we need to be strong self-advocates for our positions and our libraries, I think we need only to show others what the Library IS and is for - what we can 

offer to enrich individual lives and society itself. I think Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell (2018) make a more interesting and compelling argument for the importance of libraries in their essay in pictures. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.


EDEL 540 - cartoon response.jpeg



Clyde, L. A. (1999). The schole lybrarie: Images from our past. School Libraries Worldwide, 5(1), 1-16.


Gaiman, N., & Riddell, C. (2018, September 6). Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries - an essay in pictures. The Guardian. Retrieved from 


Gorman, M. (2015). Our enduring values: Revisited. Chicago: American Library Association. 


LaGarde, J. [Library Girl]. (2018, August 8). A back to school challenge. The Adventures of Library Girl [Blog post]. Retrieved from


Valentine, P. M. (2012). A social history of books and libraries from cuneiform to bytes. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.



Some great points and some over-reaching fears - the loss of human history by dictators deleting libraries - no different to great libraries being burned. Just as books have been smuggled and hoarded, files would be downloaded and backed-up. I believe this fear specifically reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of cloud hosting and storage and their redundancies. 


P. 52 - loss of sustained reading if digitized - not true - different types of online reading employed - different skills - look at kindle users and only online academic journals


As long as there has been humanity, there has been the trite and the trivial; gossip alone could fuel the parlour fires of Jane Austen’s England, and continued to be satirized by William Make-peace Thackeray, Jonathan Swift, and on to T.S. Eliot’s the Love song of J alfred profrock. ...


Some beautiful points: 

P. 40 - list (e.g. Savana) and beginning discussion

p. 44 - purpose of “traditional” library


While his tone is aggressively or defensively political, and there is almost an undercurrent of urgency and fear, I agree with his points on p. 53-54 that many people do not realise what modern, physical libraries contain and what all goes on in them, and that we need to be self-advocates, promoting our space. We need only to make others more aware of what the Library IS - what is already happening (no spin necessary) and what we can offer to enrich individual lives and society itself.


“A library is more than a place; it is a social organisation, a response to the growth of recorded writings, and a place for people to search for knowledge.” (Valentine, p. 23)


Valentine, p. 25 “preserving, transmitting, celebrating and encouraging the use of the written record”


Clyde’s aim, p. 5, end of para. 2


The importance of a well-stocked library to a student’s education - p. 9 end of para. 2


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