A school library without a librarian…is a room

As a teacher librarian, this quote resonated strongly with me when I saw it on Twitter. It comes from the article “Why We Need School Libraries” by Alan Gibbons an English author of children’s books and an educational consultant.  Alan is a passionate advocate for reading and the vital role of libraries and teacher librarians. 

I am incredibly fortunate to work in a brand new school library that was built with the BER funding. We moved from a 28 year old, tired, double portable classroom into a large, bright, open and modern space. Even though the two library spaces are in total contrast physically, their essence is the same. Both libraries have been much more than a room; they have both maintained a strong relationship with students, staff and parents and each library has encouraged, nurtured and valued a culture of reading at our school. The vital link between the two libraries is that there has always been a teacher librarian.

My principal values reading highly and as a result our primary school has a library and even rarer, a full-time teacher librarian. However, in the current climate I often find myself wondering what would become of our library if in the near future we have a principal who decides the school doesn’t need a teacher librarian. Instead, the classroom teacher takes the class to the library for borrowing once a week. Will our library still be a vibrant and welcoming space that is a celebration of books and reading and a place of creativity, inquiry and learning or simply a room full of books? Will the culture of reading we have developed be maintained? What impact would this have on learning at our school?

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

“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


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6 thoughts on “A school library without a librarian…is a room

  1. Great Article. I was a teacher and teacher-librarian in NSW Public school for over 30 years. I have been saddened watched the ever increasing decline in the importance of Teacher -Librarians in the last 10 years as Principals are given the ability to choose how they staff their schools. Please continue to get this very important message out there .

  2. Thank you for your comment Sandra.

    Sadly, the situation is just as dire here in Victoria, especially in primary schools. I often feel like an “endangered species”. I am passionate about the role of school libraries and teacher librarians and I’m doing my best to get the message out there!

    Kim 🙂

  3. A library without a librarian is… a museum, then a curiosity, then an artifact, then something an archaeologist digs up. Not to be flippant, and as one who studied under the great Jose Marie Griffiths and Carol Tenopir, the answer to me is quite simple. Add value.

    • Thank you for your thoughts Eric.

      I totally agree that libraries have to ‘add value”. That’s exactly what I try to do in my school through what I teach in my library program and by planning with teachers and providing resources that assist them in teaching effectively. I also try (within constraints) to ensure that our library continues evolving to to meet the needs of our school community. Our library plays a huge role in the reading culture of our school and is a vibrant and highly valued learning space…definitely not an artefact to be dug up!

      Kim 🙂

  4. Please let it not be so. Are there any figures on the reduction of properly staffed libraries in schools, particularly primary schools? Worst examples of misguided management.

    • Hi Paul,

      Sadly it’s true. In my zone of 21 primary schools we now have only 3 full time qualified teacher librarians. The other schools are predominantly staffed part time by a mixture of classroom teachers or library technicians. New primary schools being built now don’t even have a library. Each year I see the numbers dwindling and wonder how long it’s going to take before the impact of this is felt.

      These figures are from 2010 but they will give you a bit of an insight and I would say that numbers have definitely dropped even further…


      Kim 🙁

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