Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)


I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)


More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/


9 thoughts on “Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

  1. Lisa Mueller

    Wow! It’s like you were writing the ideas from my head…only way more intelligently! I fell into the role of teacher librarian at my middle/high school 6 years ago and I can tell you that your ideas really resonated with me and my experience so far. Agree with everything you’ve said here. I follow/admire Couros as well and I think your adapted Top 10 list is a perfect take on the spirit in which his lists were created. I’ll be printing it off (if that’s ok with you!), and hanging it in my work space. Good luck on the start of your year! I’ll be checking back in here to read more about your thoughts on being a special kind of leader in a school.

    1. jencasatodd@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I am so glad you stopped by. I’m glad that my idealistic view of the role of Teacher-Librarian is a real one to you! Give me much hope. I sometimes think I’ve built it up in my head so much that when I get there, I won’t have the opportunity to do everything I dream of doing. I hope that the teachers and students trust me enough to let me work with them. Have a super year! 🙂 Jen

  2. dougpete

    Nice post, Jennifer. Look for a thought or two on it come Friday.

    I want to hold your feet to the fire over #4 in your list. Not the words mind you, because they are good and noble words and one would like to think that every teacher-librarian does this. I’d like to know the logistics and specifics …

    1) How much of the library budget are you prepared to devote to this goal?
    2) Is the goal to just address the need for your students or for the world at large?
    3) How do you assess what you’re calling “the diversity”?
    4) How will you know if you’re successful?

    1. jencasatodd@gmail.com Post author

      Hi Doug,
      Those are awesome questions which I know I will delve into as I live in this role. And you are right, it’s something that came up in my Part 3 Librarianship–something I truly believe needs to happen, but the how is a little fuzzy!
      1) I think part of the Library budget HAS to be devoted to this. We can’t say we’re a welcoming space and then not show that with actions. To me, this means getting a sense of the cultures in my school and diversifying the authors of the books we select and the parts of the world they talk about.
      2) My students. I hope to bring in diverse perspectives whenever I co-teach with teachers because it is so simple today to get access to information from different countries or organizations. Critical literacy is essential and what I bring into the role as a TL.
      3 & 4) Ah. These questions are connected to me and are indeed the toughest. It’s that whole qualitative/quantitative dilemma. A survey won’t tell me enough. When I see resources borrowed? When kids come in more often and feel comfortable there? This is one where I think I’ll feel the answer rather than know the answer, but I’d love it if someone else had an idea!
      Thanks so much for pushing my thinking and for stopping by, Doug. I very much appreciate your feedback.

      1. Jane Steiback


        In our library the EALD teachers are setting up a permanent display area. This will contain books and posters and other displays of things from other cultures. We have at least 34 different cultures in our school of 550.
        We are trying to encourage the children as well as their parents to use these books and items.
        We are trying to source books with dual languages from the different countries that parents could read with their children to help and encourage them in both languages.
        It is difficult to access these resources. We have a committee of teachers and parents working together to make this dream a reality.
        Will let you know when it is finished.

  3. Sue Bursztynski

    I manage #4 quite easily, with a tiny budget that would be small change at wealthy schools. I get to know my kids(some of whom I teach in a regular classroom), I consult with the literacy co-ordinator and I get in book displays and let the kids help choose.

    1. jencasatodd@gmail.com Post author

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for reading and for sharing how you diversify your collection on a small budget. I love that you help kids choose and as a former Literacy Consultant, also appreciate that you utilize the incredible human resources at the Central office for support.
      🙂 Jen

      1. raventracks

        Hi Jen,

        Actually, our literacy co-ordinator is a colleague at my school, an English teacher who also runs our school’s literacy program. We used to have a literacy consultant who dropped in a couple of times a week, a wonderful lady who helped me set up my first literature circles sessions. Then our Tory government of the time decided to save money by scrapping literacy consultants. She got a job as an English teacher elsewhere and we were out a supporter.

        Ack, I HATE the term “human resources”! I hope the person who created it burns in hell. It impłies the staff are just “resources” like photocopiers or chairs and it has encouraged bosses to treat them that way.

        Thanks for appreciating my comment. I also have a book blog and insist on print review copies, which I then donate to the library. That way, our students often get books that aren’t in the shops yet. A lot of publishers, alas, are turning to Netgalley now. It’s cheaper. One publisher said they wanted to be environmentally friendly, which didn’t stop them doing print copies, just giving them away for review. But I still get print books for my students to enjoy, from others.

        Sue Bursztynski
        (Sorry for the Raventracks. I once made the mistake of trialling a WordPress blog and ever since, they have insisted on using my WordPress label. If I try to log in with my Google account I’m told that account is in use by someone else. I HATE WordPress!)


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