ETL401 – Comparing & Contrasting Herring, Purcell, Lamb, and Valenza


Prioritising Roles of the TL

Herring, Purcell, Lamb and Valenza all make it abundantly clear that the role of a teacher librarian is “multi-faceted” (Herring, 2007, p.30). Although each author has their own specific way of the categorising or labeling the roles of the TL, fundamentally they all list and describe many of the same roles.

There are some differences in how they believe TLs should prioritise the roles they play in the school. Purcell divides the TL role up into five roles. Purcell explains that these roles are all connected to each other, that one can not be achieved without the others (Purcell, 2010). Purcell also demonstrates the need for school librarians to write a time study of their daily activities to get a clear understanding of all tasks they perform in a day. This can then be analysed and give a clear picture of the many roles the school librarian performs daily. Which could be used to highlight what roles need more attention and how to prioritise multiple roles to be more effective (Purcell, 2010). Herring  on the other hand states that “the key role is developing information literate students” (Herring, 2007, p. 32). Herring’s idea focuses more on education as a priority rather than administration. Effective time management should mean that TLs can prioritise their roles according to the needs of their learning community (Herring, 2007). Lamb (2011) uses the “PALETTE” (p. 28) model to define the roles of the TL. People are listed first, communicating and working effectively with the school learning community being the first priority (Lamb, 2011). Lastly, Valenza describe an enormous list of tasks that a TL is responsible for but reading is at the top of this list, overall teaching and reading are the priority according to the author.

Other roles?

Lamb lists people first in her model for defining the roles of the TL. The TL needs to be able to communicate with the wider learning community which requires a more social role in building healthy and effective relationships with that community (Lamb, 2011).

How do Lamb’s views on the TL’s role compare and contrast with those of Herring and Purcell?

As mentioned previously Lamb, Herring and Purcell all describe the TL as having a “multi-faceted” (Herring, 2007, p.30) role. Lamb divides the roles in to  six key roles. Purcell describes five key roles. Herring identifies a larger variety of roles and also focuses on describing three key roles as defined by ASLA (2003). There are many similarities between the key roles that Lamb identifies and those identified by Herring and Purcell. It is often the case that different labels are used but the content is very similar. The only key role that Lamb identifies that is not mentioned in either of Herring’s or Purcell’s articles is “Environment” (Lamb, 2011, p. 28).

What existing tasks/roles do you think you as a TL could give up in order to be as proactive as Lamb and Valenza want you to be?

The answer is none. The idea of a time study appeals to me and seems a really practical way to analysis realistically how I am spending my time and then deciding which tasks/roles I could allocate more time to and which I have been giving to much time to. It is essential to always be taking into consideration the needs of the students and their learning (Purcell, 2010). All of the tasks need to be performed for the library to function effectively.

 Do I see myself fitting with the roles proposed by these authors?

I would aspire to be able to fulfill all of the key roles identified by these authors and the thoughts from the podcasts. As Herring states it would be difficult to expect that any TL could perform all these roles at the same time (Herring, 2007). Being able to fulfill all of these roles to the highest standard is very much dependent on the TL being supported by adequate funding, adequate support staff, support and an encouraging attitude from administrators and teachers.

I would change the order of the roles that Purcell identifies, ‘teacher’ should come first.

As Valenza so clearly articulatesIt’s about learning and teaching.” (Valenza, 2010)


Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp.27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0509-3

Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do Is Check Out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33. Available from

Valenza, J. (2010, December 3). A revised manifesto [Blog post]. In School Library Journal. Retrieved from:

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