The Leadership Role of Library Media Specialists

Instructor: Kim-Kathie Knudsen

Kim-Kathie has taught high school and college Spanish and has worked as a professional development specialist and instructional technology administrator. She has a master's degree in Teaching and Curriculum and is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Library media specialists have a unique role in the district as a leader. They provide training and tools for using information resources and attaining digital literacy, and serve as a valuable resource for both teachers and students.

The Library Media Specialist as a Teacher Leader

Dave was just hired as a new library media specialist and is looking forward to starting his job. He reflects on libraries from his student years and realizes that his job will be vastly different. As he prepares for the new school year, not only does he begin organizing the physical space of the library but the digital space as well, along with learning technology and curriculum.

School library media specialists have expanded their role in recent years, and their duties go far beyond organizing and maintaining a quality collection to meet the needs of a school district. Today's school libraries are expected to be the center of a school facility and an active learning environment where students and faculty can go to collaborate, learn information and digital literacy, and seek assistance to meet their academic needs.

Library media specialists support and nurture the learning environment and are a resource for students, teachers, administrators, and other school workers. They sometimes function as both an instructional coach, a teacher leader who works with teachers to improve both student and teacher performance, and a technology coach, a teacher leader who helps integrate digital instructional technology into the classrooms. Today's librarians are often asked to help support school technology programs, and some libraries house a place for students and teachers to sign out and store devices, learn programs, and get technology help.

Resource for Students

While Dave doesn't have direct responsibilities teaching students with a formal curriculum, he is aware of and helps to integrate library, media, and technology standards. He works to upgrade his technology skills and learn what his students are researching in an effort to provide both adequate print and digital resources for them.

Library media specialists may or may not teach a formal library or research class but are involved with students for the majority of the day. Today's students expect more from the library than a book checkout system and often come to the library needing expansive resources, technology help, and assistance with creative projects. In order to meet these needs, the librarian needs to take on a leadership role in the school and be proactive in providing these materials in the following ways:

  • Collaboration- make an effort to know the students and find out what they are working on.
  • Orientation- think of new students to your school or division. Provide either online or in-person orientation sessions so students know where to find and locate resources.
  • Digital Space- keep the library website up-to-date and engage with students on social media. Let them know of new resources and eBooks and invite students to come into the library through contests, surveys, and activities.

Resource for Teachers

Working with students is great, but Dave wants to begin working with teachers as an instructional leader in his district. He attends curriculum meetings; familiarizes himself with national, state, and local standards; and begins to work on resources. Professional development is a district need, and Dave begins to offer training sessions on information literacy, digital resources, and digital tools before and after school, during district inservice time, and during individual teacher meetings.

A library media specialist may offer training sessions to teachers.
teacher pd

Teacher professional development is an important leadership role of a district library media specialist and serves to not only build relationships with teachers but also to provide valuable information that teachers need. In this role, library media specialists often act as an instructional or technology coach and can provide individual, small group sessions, or large group sessions to teachers on specific tools and resources.

In order to find out what teachers need to know or topics to cover, consider working with building leadership to find out what needs are, surveying teachers on areas of interest, and working with grade level or department leadership for specific needs. Offer teachers the opportunity to work individually with them in a teacher leader/coaching model and meet before a lesson to talk about goals, objectives, and training needs; during a lesson to co-teach on areas of instructional or digital resources; and after the lesson to debrief and talk about future topics.

Also, consider these points:

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