The Role of the Teacher Librarian with regard to the convergence of literacies in the 21st century.

Over eons the library has been used as a ‘storehouse’ and a “repository for all key information”  (Frey,T. 2007) and librarians have been seen within this context as the “information specialists” (Purcell, M. 2010 p. 33)  and the primary “gatekeeper[s]” (Rheingold, H. 2012 p.53)  In light of rapid technological changes in the 21st century, the focal role of the teacher librarian as a “steward of literacy as well as curators of knowledge” (Rheingold, H. 2012 p.53) has altered, especially in the face of the democratisation of information and a convergence of literacies.  


Literacy was once easily defined as “the individual ability to encode and decode in a medium” (Rheingold, H. 2012 p.53), essentially, reading and writing.   In the 21st century in addition to traditional, predictable, linear text, technology in all its kaleidoscopic forms has changed the way we view literacy; it is now “unpredictable…three dimensional” (Jaeger, P. 2011 p. 45)  ‘Literacy’ has therefore changed to include “information fluency, technology, and media literacy” (Bush, G. 2012 p.7).   As Jaeger so aptly puts it: “Our role of librarian needs to change to one of cybrarian, focused on transliteracy and embracing varying forms of information.” (Jaeger, P. 2011 p. 47)


In order to be both academically and socially successful, student’s need to be able to “read, listen, view, understand, synthesise and apply what [they] gather across all different platforms” (‘Transliteracies Project’ website, 2013).   Literacy has converged into transliteracy, and teacher librarians are at the centre of equipping students with the essential skills, tools, understanding and etiquette, to adeptly navigate their way through this ever-expanding labyrinth of information.  “Teacher librarians and teachers will have to teach students how to apply their information skills irrespective of what technology they are using” (Herring, J. 2007 p.35).


“Students need to be taught how to use the tools available” (Purcell, M. 2010 p. 32) and as such, teacher librarians must become integral to explicitly teaching the range of different platforms and skills required to be transliterate. Skimming, decoding, encoding, multi-tasking, and managing their media attention span or “infotension” (Rheingold, H. 2012 p. 54) are all transliteracy skills the “millennial generation” (Jaeger, P. 2011 p. 47) need.  The role of the teacher librarian and library are central to “direct instruction on 21st century skills and opportunities to practice and apply those skills.” (Purcell, M. 2010 p. 33)


Teacher librarians must become transliterate in their own spheres of influence.  They must model the use of technology and information gathering for students.  Buffy Hamilton is an exceptional example of the teacher librarian incorporating so many different literacies to effectively teach and enhance student learning.  In her paper, “What type of teacher are you?” (Hamilton, B. 2011), she documents using nine different platforms with her students. LibGuides, Netvibes, GoogleDocs, Evernote and student blogs are just to name a few. Developing websites, wikis and online guides are some of the essential tools used to promote, manage and establish the library at the centre of transliterate learning.


Supporting other staff in their use and deployment of information resources is also a key area of the teacher librarian’s role in relation to transliteracy.  Clearly in the teacher librarian’s brief there is a “responsibility…to teach information and technology literacy skills not only to students but also to classroom teachers.” (Purcell, M. 2010 p.33)  ALIA’s ‘Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians’ also states teacher librarians should, “promote and nurture a ‘whole school’ focus on information literacy and implementation.” (ALIA, 3.3)   We are at the nexus of convergent literacy and can offer support across the depth and breadth of the school community and curriculum.


Students are excited, motivated and determined to utilise the plethora of different technologies.  “The fact that students operate in a virtual world, more than print, should tell us that we need to understand this platform and use it in our own instruction” (Jaeger, P. 2011).  A good teacher librarian is there to seize that motivation and teach those transliteracy skills required for them to achieve their educational goals.  We have to ‘meet people where they are’ (Berry, A. 2012). The millennia generation are tech savvy, used to ‘instant’ information being “portable, participatory and personal” (Purcell, K. 2012 p. 6) but they require the skills to digest, evaluate and apply what they have learnt in a meaningful way. Students learn brilliantly in a transliterate way and teacher librarians are there to educationally enhance this enthusiasm.


A competent, current, expert and educationally powerful teacher librarian addresses, embraces, teaches, supports and embodies transliteracy.





ASLA.   Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians – accessed 20.7.13


Berry, A. (25 June 2012) How Libraries are Reinventing themselves for the Future. Time Newsfeed. accessed 18.7.13


Bush, G. (2012). The Transliterate Learner. School Library Monthly29(1), 5-7.


Frey, T.  The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation – accessed 16.7.13


Hamilton, B. J. (2011). The school librarian as teacher: What kind of teacher are you? Knowledge Quest39(5), pp.34-40.


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.


Jaeger, P. (2011). Transliteracy–New Library Lingo and What It Means for Instruction. Library Media Connection30(2), pp.44-47.


Purcell, K. (2012) Libraries 2020.  Imagining the library of the (not too distant) future.  Pew Internet & American life project.  Annual conference.  Accessed through:


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.


Rheingold, H. (2012). STEWARDS OF DIGITAL LITERACIES. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 52-55.


Transliteracies Project. Accessed July 24, 2013


About kblaich

I live in Melbourne, Australia, have one lovely husband, one delightful daughter, one bouncy son, lots of pets (2 dogs and 3 cats) and work at a primary school part time. I am currently studying my Masters in Teacher Librarianship through Charles Sturt University.
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