“A profession without reflective practitioners who are willing to learn about relevant research is a blinkered profession – one that’s disconnected from best practices and best thinking, and one which, by default, often resorts to advocacy rather than evidence to survive.’ Todd (2008).” One of the challenges that Teacher librarians and school libraries seem to be facing today is the perception that they are no longer relevant. Evidence based practice, in association with collaboration and advocacy, is essential if teacher librarians are to combat this fallacy. Evidence based practice is gathering information about how the school library, its facilities and the teacher librarian are used and critically, how they “make a difference in learning” (Todd, 2008 and Loertscher, 2003). It is an ongoing process (Loertscher, 2003).
Teacher librarians need to be proactive (Farmer, 2007) in gathering evidence to support their value to the school community. Collecting and analyzing evidence is also necessary to ensure that the TL and the library programs are effective (Lamb and Johnson, 2004-2007; Hay, 2006) and that they remain so. Collecting evidence can take a variety of forms. It can range from statistical evidence such as book circulation to surveys and interviews. Oberg says that teacher librarians can draw on the research of others as well as collecting their own data (Oberg, 2002).
In this day and age of devolution of funding through “Local Schools, Local Decisions”, it is more important than ever for teacher librarians to impress upon their principals the effectiveness of and need for a well-resourced school library led by a qualified teacher librarian. “Principals need to be aware of library media programs, and they need to care about them” (Farmer, 2007, p.62). Better funding leads to better libraries and better libraries (as long as their worth is perceived) lead to better funding. It is a circular argument. Teacher librarians must be able to provide evidence of and make that link between teacher librarians and improved student performance (Todd, 2003; Harada, n.d.) “start documenting tangible outcomes. Taking concrete action will help you gain the respect you deserve and eventually play a huge role in budgetary decisions that affect your media center.” (Todd, 2003).
Whilst there appears to be ample international evidence that well-resourced school libraries with qualified teacher librarians do make positive and substantial contributions to student and teacher learning, there is a lack of evidence and research in Australia. The 2010 report by the NSW Department of Education (DET) and recommends “the development and implementation of a sustained evidence-based practice program within NSW DET school libraries” (p.40) as does the Lonsdale Report (2003) and by the profession at large (DET, 2010).
Opportunities for teacher librarians to collaborate with others is a benefit of and necessity for collecting evidence. Collaboration with teachers is necessary in order to gather evidence of excellence in library practice. Teacher librarians can develop outside links to universities and researchers in developing “deeper definitions of best practices” (Harada, n.d.). Extending their links into the community in this way, teacher librarians can increase their professional standing.
(n.d.) The teacher librarians toolkit for evidence based practice. Retrieved from http://accessola.com/osla/toolkit/home.html.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Harada, V. (n.d.). Building Evidence-Based Practice Through Action Research. Retrieved from http://www2.hawaii.edu/~vharada/vi-Building Evidence-12-03-jav.htm
Hay, L. (2006). School libraries as flexible and dynamic learning laboratories? That’s what Aussie kids want. Scan, 25(2), 18.27.
Hay, L. (2006). Student learning through Australian school libraries Part 2: What students define and value as school library support. Synergy, 4(2), 27-38
Hay L. (2005). Student learning through Australian school libraries. Part 1: A statistical analysis of student perceptions?, Synergy, 3(2), 17-30.
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
Lamb, A. and Johnson, L. (2004-2007). Library media program: evidence-based decision making. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evidence.html.
Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2007, March 16). Library media program: accountability. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/accountability.html.
Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2004-2007). Library media program: evaluation. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evaluation.html.
Lonsdale, M. (2003). Impact of school Libraries on Student Achievement: A Review of the Research. A Report for the Australian School Library Association. Australian Council for Educational Research.
Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement? School Libraries in Canada, 22 (2), 10-13
State of NSW Department of Education and Training. (2010). School Libraries 21C. Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/21c_report.pdf
Todd, R. J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: how to prove you boost student achievement. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA287119.html