Saturday, April 11, 2015

Teacher Librarians as Transformational Leaders and the Multiplier Effect

Having read a fair amount regarding school librarianship, I am well aware that providing leadership is a core responsibility for Teacher Librarians. Information Power, published by the American Association of School Librarians in 1988, was foundational in charging Teacher Librarians with leading as instructional consultants who link students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the general community. But, how exactly should we as Teacher Librarians lead?

When thinking about leadership, it is important to realize that there are different flavors including transformational, transactional, adaptive, and servant leadership. Of these forms, the one that interests me most is transformational leadership, in which “a key element is influence, with both the leader and followers influencing one another” (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 323). I am drawn to the way that influence is bi-directional and thus collaborative.

My interest in transformational leadership has grown even stronger after reading Smith’s (2014) article regarding the leadership skills of pre-service school librarians. Smith writes:
transformational leaders are people who evolve with the situations present within their organizations . . . Transformational leadership can be defined as a leadership approach that builds on the concept that leaders may bring about or guide change within an organization by engaging in unselfish behavior [emphasis mine] (p. 59). 
Thinking about Teacher Librarians, a challenge is to figure out how to lead school communities in this way when not holding a formal position of power.

Someone I believe has been successful in leading as a transformational leader is my colleague Steve Montgomery, who has worked for over a decade as a Teacher Librarian. Steve was instrumental in leading efforts to save the jobs of Teacher Librarians in our district during a period of severe budget cuts, and he continues to lead his school by helping with initiatives such as their recent Gold Ribbon School application. To me, he is a model of truly unselfish leadership.

Working on this post, I called Steve and asked what helped him develop as a leader. He immediately identified how The Multiplier Effect helped clarify the impact that various school administrators have made in either multiplying or diminishing his leadership capacity over the years. For instance, he cited how his current principal has multiplied him due to her understanding of the role of Teacher Librarians as school leaders. She encourages and guides him, providing advice regarding ways to be effective. She mentors and respects him, and while he had always felt that he could be a leader, her recognition of his potential has helped him emerge as an even greater one.

My follow-up question was what to do if working under a diminishing leader, and he said that while this is a challenge, he would work from the “ground up” by collaborating with key teacher leaders until school administration can’t help but see your leadership potential. This echoes the idea of being able to work within present situations. In closing, just as Steve has benefited from mentorship, I consider him to be a mentor for me, and I hope that as I grow in my new position as a Teacher Librarian, I may also develop as a transformational leader.


American Association of School Librarians. (1998). Information power: Building partnerships for learning. Chicago: American Library Association.

Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.).  New York: Neal-Schuman.

Smith, D. (2014). Improving the leadership skills of pre-service school librarians through leadership pre-assessment. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science, 55(1), 55-68.

Wiseman, L., Allen, L. N., & Foster, E. (2013). The multiplier effect: Tapping the genius inside our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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