Leadership in the School Library

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August 16, 2013 by patriciawhite84

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding leadership in my household recently, comparing the corporate environment to an educational one. During this process we found that the leadership styles in our respective workplaces varied significantly. I am lucky enough to be in a small but well established school that is incredibly supportive, uplifting and encouraging for students and the staff. With that being said, there are some daily communication issues but anything significant and important is well outlined and distributed promptly. It is because of my experience in a school setting that has such a great communication network that I believed it was one of the most critical elements of leadership.

In comparison, frustration amongst employees in the corporate environment stemmed from indecisive leaders who were not able to communicate a clear path or direction for staff to understand. It was also felt that these leadership roles were refusing suggestions to adapt workplace practices in order to match changes in the market. This closed off approach was quickly dissolving the workplace culture as well as the sense of pride and satisfaction that staff once felt. After hearing how much of an impact leadership decisions had on this business and staff morale, I felt that it was also a critical element of leadership.

This is an example of how a traditional hierarchical model no longer generates a sustainable output in today’s society. From my experience, staff would like to feel a sense of pride that connects them to their workplace giving them purpose and direction – a process that relies heavily on leadership. Creating a sense of culture that encourages consistent productivity takes time and dedication (Shamir, 2011). In order for a leader to be accepted, trusted and successful within their role they need to be immersed within the culture they wish to create. This applies at all levels of educational leadership, from executive bodies, the principal, department heads and staff in expert roles, such as the teacher librarian.

A school library can easily become isolated from the school community, making it difficult for a teacher librarian to become immersed within the culture. It is therefore a vital role of the teacher librarian to bridge the gap between classroom and library. This will mean being a flexible team member and working around the needs of teachers and students (Belbin, 2010). Once open relationships start to form through communication and collaboration, a level of respect and integrity will soon follow. Although it may appear like baby steps, taking the time to form these connections in order to make well informed decisions will demonstrate your dedication to the school community.

With that being said I do not feel that at this stage of my teaching career, particularly with the new challenge of being a teacher librarian, that I see myself as a leader. However I do feel that I am taking the necessary steps to get there. After joining a new school, trying to get to know students, teachers and resources, focusing on establishing myself as a known leader is the last thing on my mind. But I do know that I need to be mindful of all the little elements that contribute to effective leadership because one day I will feel like I have enough power (metaphorical power not actual power) to lift off. That is why I see a strong leadership like a hot air balloon, flexible and adaptable, able to move with teams, the ability to pull the right cords and navigate through change, whilst encompassing multiple perspectives and opinions to create a powerful focus in order to surge teams to higher standards.



Belbin, R. M. (2010). Team roles at work (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Shamir, B. (2011). Leadership takes time: Some implications of (not) taking time seriously in leadership research. The Leadership Quarterly, 22 (2), 307-315.


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