Monday, July 11, 2011

ETL504 - TL as Leader

Donham, J. (2005). Leadership. In Enhancing teaching and learning : a leadership guide for
school library media specialists (2nd ed.) (pp. 295-305). New York : Neal-Schuman

First reading

Donham's chapter deals with the concept of leadership for TLs.

Bennis (1999) outlines a set of traits for successful leaders in business:
  1. technical competence
  2. conceptual skill
  3. people skills
  4. judgement
  5. character

Covey (1990) talks about leadership involving the "circle of influence defining around those things that a person can control". "Leaders act from an internal locus of control" page 296 In a lot of ways it is the perspective and attitude brought to the role of TL which can see an individual fulfil the leadership potential of the role in any school or not. As Gandhi would suggest - be the change you want to see. The concept of being one who has a external or internal locus

Hartzell (2000) discusses the importance of being proactive. "Hartzell suggests that proactive people look for change opportunities, they anticipate and prevent problems, they take action and tend to persevere (page 297)" A positive attitude, looking within to see what the individual can bring to the external factors in order to make the change for the better the leader wishes to see.

Collins (2000) - Good to Great - has two bits of advice which Donham thinks are important:

  1. understand what you can and cannot be best at.
  2. pursue what you are deeply passionate about.

"A library media specialist (TL) who intends to take a leadership role must exhibit a set of critical skills and understandings that being with a vision" (page 298)

What is needed for VISION?

Fullan (1996) suggests three attributes for a sound vision:

  1. "sharedness" - the degree to which it is shared
  2. "concreteness" - the degree to which people have some concrete image of what it will look like
  3. "clarity" - the degree to what people are skilled in carrying it out.

Which then require people skills

  • collaborative skills
  • effective communication skills
  • listen actively
  • negotiate
  • earn the professional confidence of colleagues

And technical skills

  • ability to organise information sources effectively
  • to use information efficiently

Donham makes the important point that 'having influence requires establishing one's expertise, working collegially with others, articulating one's ideas clearly, maintaining a good "say-do" ration (one does what one says one will do) and establishing processes for continuous reflection and assessment. (page 300)."

The pertinent factors in gaining influence necessary for leadership require separating out.

1. EXPERTISE - with the ever-changing nature of the TL's role and the context within which TLs are working it is necessary to undertake continuous professional development - to have the finger on the educational and information technical pulse - or as Covey describes it "sharpening the saw" - If as TL you aspire to being a leader then you should be "always looking for learning opportunities to expand and update (your) expertise" p. 300

2. WORKING COLLEGIALLY - these people skills are at the heart of the leadership function of a good TL - it is so easy to remain cossetted in a wonderfully rarefied world of the library - living like a dragon in your cave, protecting the books and devouring small children who annoy you -but this does not ensure that the library is a place when knowledge is created and teaching/learning is the core function of its existence. If as TL you aspire to being a leader then you should be "modelling best practice with technology or initiating conversations about new resources, .... to bring (your) special expertise to bear on curriculum and instruction." page 300


4. "SAY-DO" RATIO NEEDS TO BE HIGH - follow through and be accountable

5. REFLECTION AND SELF-ASSESSMENT - undertake systematic reviews and continually seek to improve, value feedback.

Donham describes this as leading from the middle. TLs as in the unique position in many schools to be able to work with all teachers and students and can offer a holistic appraisal


  1. anticipating what needs to happen (VISION AND PROACTIVE - easily perceived vision and clearly communicated)
  2. devising a plan to set the course of action (ACTION PLANNING)
  3. organising resources to carry out the plan for success.
  4. assessing progress (BENCHMARKS AND OUTCOMES)
  5. readiness to seize opportunities as they arise (OPPORTUNISM - able to define and utilise a critical moment - or STRATEGIC MINDSET)

Reeves (2002) defines strategic leadership as the simultaneous act of executing, evaluating, and reformulating strategies, and focusing organizational energy and resources on the most effective strategies.

Part of leadership - is the communication of the common purpose and the role the TL and the library plays within this - needs to be articulated. The importance of policy documents and mission statements cannot be underestimated. "the mission statement will provide a focus for developing the goals and objectives of the program. Again, these goals must then align with the school's mission and goals in order to connect the library program with its constituency." (page 302)

And what about the call for the strategic mindset - IF AS A TL YOU ASPIRE TO BE A LEADER THEN YOU SHOULD

  • be active in committees,
  • be active in task forces
  • be active in brainstorming sessions
  • be active in leadership teams
  • be active in whatever forms idea-generating groups take within the school.


This should not be overlooked and should be considered fundamental to professional practice. Effective leaders reflect periodically on progress made and goals yet to be met." page 303.

Three questions to ask

  • what will I do differently from what I did last year/time?
  • what will I stop doing that I did last year/time?
  • how and when will I know that I am making progress?

Donham recommends journal ling - on-line blog such as this - to help in the all important reflection. Along journalling he also suggest mentoring as a good way to show and develop leadership within the profession.


  • Identify you special expertise
  • Develop your skills in other areas as required
  • Increase the visibility of the library program with a homepage
  • Have a vision and mission statement on the homepage
  • Ensure a link from the school's home page to the library's homepage
  • Volunteer on committees

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