ETL 504. the Why of the TL

In the forum discuss how you can approach developing your leadership role in your school using Simon Sinek’s “why” and your purpose in education. What is it that makes me (as a TL) unique in the school, what can I do?

In Sinek’s “golden circle” theory, the quantitative aspects of an organisation, those he labels the “What” and “How”, are secondary in importance to the purpose of the organisation; the, “Why”. (Sinek 2009) As Sinek puts it, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Establishing this “Why” is crucial to the success of the TL as a leader. It has to be said that the over-arching purpose of a TL is the same as the purpose of the school, or the education system at large (Zmuda and Harada, 2008); generally this is to provide a quality, equitable, and relevant education to a community of students. But while this is clearly a major part raison d’etre for the TL, as it is for any educator worth their salt, it is not the whole picture.

In many schools the TL is in a unique position to help the school. They are both teacher and information specialist, they (ideally) are comfortable ICT gurus and innovators, yet they possess ancient wisdoms and arcane knowledge, passed down from the sepia-toned days when the librarian really was a grey haired dinosaur. The TL is a unique asset to any educational institution, yet in many instances they are overlooked and even cut out of school planning (Belisle, 2005).

It may be that the dual role gives people the wrong idea, that TLs have so much to do that they must always be busy. Maybe the TL is viewed as only semi-present, a half teacher, and someone who can thus be discounted. Maybe it’s that the TL is still viewed as someone too busy putting Dewey labels on books to be of any help. Maybe it’s the TLs fault that they are viewed this way.

The TL needs to establish a strong educational and moral purpose for their role. They need to be able to stand their ground and proclaim that they exist to make a positive difference in the lives and learning of students. In essence, TLs need to change the way they are perceived by becoming active and highly visible members of their school community.


Belisle, C. (2005) The Teacher as Leader: Transformational Leadership and the Professional Teacher or Teacher-Librarian. School Libraries In Canada (17108535)24(3), 1

Combes, B. (2009) Challenges for teacher librarianship in the 21st century: Part 3 – Status and role. SCIS Connections, 68. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from:

Sinek, S. (2009) How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved from

Zmuda, A., & Harada, V. H. (2008). Librarians as learning specialists: moving from the margins to the mainstream of school leadership. Teacher Librarian36(1), 15-20.



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