Point 2…What’s a TL to Do?

February 06, 2012 (6 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC

By Lissa Davies

Ahhh, developing an effective library program in .2 time. Sounds like an administrator’s dream, doesn’t it? (Ooops, better do a disclaimer: “The views here are my views only and not related to my administrator, my district, my family, my friends or my dog.”)

Gentle Readers, Let’s start with my history (I’m sure you are all dying to know...). I began my library career three years ago. Before I turned into Super Librarian (really!), I was an elementary Learning Strategies teacher. Our .6 part-time teacher librarian was retiring (and she really was a Super TL!) and I was asked by my administrator if I would like the position. I leaped at the chance. After all, I loved inquiry learning, and reading, and reading, and books, and kids. What more was needed? There was a small, teensy-weensy catch. I would be .5 and in order to make it a full-time position, I would be teaching a new grade: Kindergarten. (You should all be hearing the duh-duh-duh- DUHN! sound of doom in your heads by now!)

Come September, Gentle Readers, I was supremely lost and bewildered. Fortunately I had my retired Super TL (aka Maureen) and our district’s Fearless Library Consultant (aka Betty-Lou) to support me in my hours of need. Soon I had a plan to work with all classes on inquiry projects, did booktalks and bookfairs, managed the technology in the school and our live broadcast morning news, was on the Best of the Best committee to review books, and was registered in the Teacher Librarian Distance Learning (aka TLDL) program at the University of Alberta, taking one course per term and one in the summer. I still felt lost, but I was too busy to think about it. Much.

The next year, our enrollment dropped, and so, perforce, did our budget. I was retained as TL at .23, with .5 Kindergarten and .17 grade 1/2 (another new assignment). That year, I worked with two classes on inquiry learning projects, did booktalks and bookfairs, managed our live broadcast morning news, took TLDL classes, and (now that the TLDL program has taught me so much about what at teacher-librarian COULD be) I dreamt about the things I ‘should’ be doing.

This year, anther drop in the budget, so I am now .2 TL and .8 grade 5/6. While my courses in the TLDL program were expanding my ideas of libraries and librarians, my TL time in reality was shrinking. However, this is the reality for many of our elementary schools...as a matter of fact, it is better than the reality of most. Few schools have a TL, and some schools don’t even have a library tech. While we all know the value that a great library program brings to student achievement (Keith Curry Lance, 2001), others require convincing. Ross Todd (yes, those of you who have taken courses with me know that Ross Todd is my library idol, and I don’t apologize for that. Much.) talks about the need for us to use evidence-based practices to track and show the value of our libraries, still many people feel that when push comes to shove, administrators will choose to have a teacher who has a class of students sitting in front of them rather than a teacher librarian.

So, let’s consider our options in .2 time. What does a strong library program contain? What should a strong TL be doing in her/his school? Harada and Zmuda (2008) have a few suggestions about what TLs should be (Gentle Readers, you may disagree with me, but you can’t disagree with Harada and Zmuda, can you?):

Leaders in providing PD to schools
Experts in curriculum development and resources
Experts in instruction and collaboration with teachers

Joyce Valenza (I call her ‘She Who Does Not Sleep. Ever.) goes even farther. She says we should be:

a leader in using technology for teaching and learning
a leader in inquiry teaching and learning
a leader in reading and developing readers
a leader in understanding and teaching information fluency
a leader in developing your collection

So what CAN we do in .2?

Given my time this year, the needs of the students in my school, and our district focus on literacy, I decided that I needed to have one focus. I chose developing readers and focusing on booktalks and the collection. Yet what about technology? What about inquiry learning? What about....? Was it the right decision? Am I now in danger of turning into....

 An old-fashioned GOL? (Grumpy Old Librarian)

I certainly hope not! Students are engaged and excited during booktalks, which I do for each grade group twice a month. (I should mention that I am on a flexible schedule, so I do not provide preps). When I am not in front of kids, I am organizing and weeding the collection, helping teachers with technology, or book suggestions, or pulling books for units, adding websites to our Diigo account, preparing booktalks and grants, and answering emails like crazy. Often I think I live in the Twilight Zone, as time seems to morph and shorten when I am in the library.

So, Gentle Readers, this is my story. This is what I have chosen to do in my .2. What are YOU doing in your library? Share your stories in the comments or email me at lissadavies@gmail.com, and let us know!  


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Great post, Lissa.  I don’t know what I would do in my .2 time…but I think I would start by trying to collaborate with 1 or 2 key teachers (not at once, but during the year) to bring them on side and really highlight my role as an ‘instructional partner’ (Empowering Learners).  I think that might help with the advocacy piece and give others in the school the chance to see the TL shine.  I would also make sure I was submitting regular reports to my administrator (maybe not monthly, but bi-monthly) highlighting what I was doing.  You could also share some key readings with your administrator (like Empowering Learners) to make sure he/she knows what you should/could be doing as a TL.

I look forward to seeing what others suggest!


By Joanne de Groot on Tue, February 07, 2012 - 12:07:00

I can’t imagine being point .2 but I agree.  I too would focus on reader’s advisory.  We know from reading Proust and the Squid how critical access to reading materials and reading role models is.  Using technology in readers advisory may also be a means of hitting that TL role as technology leader as well.  I am thinking of class book blogs, students advertising books with web 2.0 tools, interacting with authors in online venues like Twitter, forums,...

I am interested to hear what others would focus on…

By Kelly on Sun, February 12, 2012 - 8:37:39

Yes…sooner or later, each TL seems to meet with one’s diminishing role.  My first job as a TL happened because I was appalled at the state of a school library I was using to teach a pull-out literacy program.  No tech, no TL, only the bravest of kids dared to cross the threshold of the library’s locked doors.  To begin with, I started with my principal..(for I’d come from a school with a TL) and argued for the kids’ need to access to the library. (Few even came for a weekly book exchange.  I simply asked to change the space around a bit, on my own time…initiative is noticed and noted by administrators)  I won’t repeat his words, except that he recognized that we were a -9 on a scale of 1 to 10.  I would ask your administrator, teachers and students, parents what they think first about their library. That question brought about changes…to begin with..
I only had 1/2 hr. relief time for each grade weekly.  Everything else I did was on ‘my time’, including setting up computers, weeding the library collection with help of district consultant and parents, and beginning to electronically cataloging the library system. (One mom had a key to the library to come in the evenings during scout cubs to enter books for me.)  I recruited parents to shelve books, process books and help keep the space sane. I presented at a school council my vision for a revitalized library.  They not only gave us the money to set up a library cataloguing system, but joined in to help weed, catalogue, promote, raise funds to support the library. Being at each school council meeting is a must for any TL.  Don’t doubt the impact you can have at motivating parents to find funds for things that would otherwise be taken from the school budget. Also, students were trained to act as library assistants and tech support.  At another site, we had no library at all.  I set about organizing resources according to the Dewey Decimal System and cataloging the system with the help of an aide, on a summer STEP grant program.  Only now after 18 years as a TL do I actually have a full time job as a TL..sort of.. (with other duties assigned - English Language Lead Teacher/Technology Lead Teacher)...and as always, a part time ‘prep fairy.’  These relief times with kids, though not flexible, as the most helpful ensuring application of skills I want to teach students and teachers…

Students are driven to push their teachers to have access to resources and tech tools that I have taught them…they are my best allies. Don’t underestimate the role you play as a classroom teacher with TL experience. Modeling with your own classroom carries a lot of weight with your colleagues who can see you using the tools and practices you advocate for as a TL.  It shows them ‘it can be done!’

I remember bemoaning the same issue with Diane Oberg when taking my masters.  I knew what I could do if I was full time, but what ‘can’ I do with FTE 0.2…

Pick what is the most bang for your buck.  For each school, it might be different depending on your community interests/needs. It is finding the pulse beat of your school..and ensuring it can not only survive but thrive.

What does my school need most of all? 
How can I go about meeting some of those needs within my role?
Is it support for teachers? Kids? Parents? 
Is it a book club?
Is it providing support for language programs?
Technology expertise to parents, students and teachers?
Building a literacy program for at-risk students?

Mostly, it is creating a vision and sharing a vision..with whomever will listen to you….

By Fern Reirson on Mon, February 13, 2012 - 1:00:24

Fern, I love your ending quote: “Mostly, it is creating a vision and sharing a vision..with whomever will listen to you….”
Your schools have been lucky to have you and your vision as a TL. It is true, that those who want to be a TL must take on an advocacy role from day one! They also need to go ‘above and beyond’ and be prepared to log in extra hours on their own time. I worry that with many young teachers finding it difficult to manage the extra time commitment to teaching in their classrooms, how will we find the young teacher-librarians who are willing to take on even more?
I quite agree that as a TL, you need to source out the priorities of your school. You have clearly laid out some great steps to start on the journey!

By Lissa on Sun, February 19, 2012 - 5:01:09

Sounds like you’re doing a pretty awesome job already, Lissa! Don’t worry about trying to do everything—it’s just not possible—especially on .2 FTE.  I know from first hand experience as I have been as low as .164 FTE in the past 20 years as a TL in 5 different schools. Each school’s needs, cullture, and clientele will dictate what areas you should concentrate on.  You’ll find that as you get more FTE added on, there’s always more you can do!  Funny how that goes. Kudos to you for all you do already at your school and for our profession!

By Hilda on Sun, February 26, 2012 - 9:39:57

It’s been some time since your post and I am finally taking a break from the IPP and Progeess report duties to respond. Thank you for opening up discussion Lissa.

Each of you have been an influence on me as a newbie teacher in the library.  (Diane I follow you on Twitter)

Actually, I think I am ready to call myself a teacher libraian.  It seems a long time ago that I was pouring over some of these authors you refer to in our Inquiry Course a few summers ago.  What a fabulous opportunity this online course was, as it has been foundational to my practice.

I am .3 and teach grade 4 for the remaining .7 I love being a T-L after 30 years in the classroom. My focus has been on building a relationships with teachers, students and now a little with parents.  The best choice I made was to start blogging.  Now our school community sees that there are things happening through the library program.  I thank my admin team for encouraging me toward this blogging move.

As for deeper meanigful work inside classrooms? Well, that is beginning and it’s exciting to see how I have kids dropping by during recess at the library desk now. (The two Libary clubs running once a week has drawn attention I think)

Last week two gals dropped by inquiring whether I had purchased the magazine subscription they reqested in my little “Wish Book” I have set out.

Their visit sprang into a whole conversation about critical thinking when we read…soon they had offered to stay in at recess to categorize the magazines aquired by mistake last year (Marvel).  I pulled them out during our critical thinking discussion. We had a great chat about philosophical topics.

While I don’t necessarily practice censorship , I consider the developmenal stages of elementary readers…could anyone use 12 Marvel Mags?? They were ordered by a well meaning helper last year. 

The small inroads are what motivates me.  Each of us are making a difference, with a few kids anyway.

I’m beginning to keep closer track of the data with students and classrooms. I ask myself, just how do I make a difference to student achievement? Good to collect some evidence.

Thank you, each of you are inspiring me and so willing to answer my many questions.

Let’s stick together and continue the PLN collaboration.

By kathie crosby on Sun, March 11, 2012 - 2:29:12

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