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Understanding the Role of the School Librarian: A Guide for Headteachers and Senior Leaders

Updated: Mar 12

In the last few days, I have spoken to a few school librarians who have expressed their frustration with being unable to bring more to their role due to the lack of understanding from their line managers or senior leadership team. School librarians are an investment in your student's future. Find out below how you can ensure your school is reaping the real value of your school library and librarian.

Elizabeth talking to colleagues
Understanding the Role of the School Librarian

Every Role is important

As we know, in the dynamic ecosystem of a school, each role is pivotal in shaping the educational journey of students. From the Headteacher through to the cleaners, everyone has an important role to play. Amongst these roles, the school librarian occupies a unique position, often underestimated but crucial in enhancing literacy and critical thinking skills across all year groups and subjects. For head teachers and senior leaders, understanding and leveraging the expertise of school librarians can be a game-changer in achieving educational excellence.

The Multifaceted Role of School Librarians: Understanding the Role of the School Librarian

School librarians are more than custodians of books; they are educators, information specialists, and curriculum advisers. They curate resources that align with and enrich the curriculum, assist in developing students' research skills, and foster a love for reading that extends beyond academic requirements. Their role encompasses guiding students in navigating the vast sea of information, teaching them to discern credible sources, and encouraging critical analysis.

Why Head Teachers and Senior Leaders Need to Engage

1. Enhancing Literacy Across the Curriculum: Literacy is not confined to the English classroom; it is the foundation upon which all academic success is built. School librarians have the expertise to support literacy across subjects, offering resources and strategies tailored to diverse learning needs. By collaborating with librarians, teachers can integrate literacy into every lesson, making learning more engaging and effective.

2. Fostering Critical Thinking Skills: In an era dominated by information overload and artificial intelligence (AI), critical thinking is essential. School librarians equip students with the skills to evaluate information, question biases, and synthesise knowledge from various sources. These skills are vital for academic success and responsible citizenship. Senior leaders should ensure that librarians are integral to the teaching strategy, embedding critical thinking across the curriculum.

3. Resource Utilisation and Curriculum Development: Librarians are resource specialists who can significantly enhance the curriculum through carefully selected materials and digital tools. Their involvement in curriculum development ensures that teaching resources are diverse, current, and relevant. Headteachers and senior leaders should facilitate regular collaboration between teachers and librarians to maximize the effectiveness of educational resources.

4. Creating a Culture of Reading: School librarians play a key role in creating an environment that nurtures a love for reading both fiction and non-fiction. Through book clubs, author visits, and reading challenges, they make reading a part of school life. This culture of reading is essential for developing literacy skills and a lifelong learning attitude. Leadership must support these initiatives, recognising their value in student development.

Implementing Effective Collaboration

To harness the full potential of school librarians, headteachers and senior leaders should:

  • Encourage regular collaboration between teachers and librarians in planning lessons and curriculum development.

  • Ensure the library and Librarian are within your whole school curriculum map making it clear to teaching staff that you expect collaboration with the librarian to be within their planning.

  • Include librarians in professional development opportunities to ensure they stay at the forefront of educational strategies and digital resources.

  • Promote the visibility of the library within the school community, highlighting its role in supporting teaching and learning.

  • Allocate resources to ensure the library is well-equipped and the librarian's role is valued within the school.

The expertise of the school librarian is a vital resource in the educational process, significantly contributing to the development of students' literacy and critical thinking skills. For Headteachers and senior leaders, recognising and promoting the role of the librarian is not just an administrative responsibility; it's an investment in the future of their students. By fostering a collaborative environment where the librarian's skills are integrated into teaching and learning, schools can ensure that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Where Can Headteachers and Senior Leaders get help?

If you are a Headteacher who can see that this is important but are not sure how to get started or feel that your librarian may need some support to work with your teachers I run a training membership called Engaging and Empowering School Libraries where they can learn more about their role and what it entails. I also support schools that are interested in doing more with their school library. If you would like to talk through your options please don't hesitate to contact me.

Here is a link to an infographic that might be useful too.

Guide for Headteachers and senior leaders
Download PDF • 1.62MB



Kammer, Jenna et al (2021). Strategies for Successful School Librarian and Teacher Collaboration. Accessed 6/3/24:

Lance, Keith Curry, Marcia J. Rodney, and Bill Schwarz. 2010. “Collaboration Works—When It Happens! The Idaho School Library Impact Study.” Teacher Librarian 37 (5): 30–36.

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT [Large language model].

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