What a wonderful metaphor

“Think of school as a tapestry, where all the threads woven together create a picture of what students need to be. If you take out any of those threads, pretty soon you lose that tapestry, you lose that picture . . . we want that picture to be complete and a teacher librarian is part of that complete picture”

Hainer, Colorado Department of Education, Your School’s Team in Frazier, D. (2010) School Library Media Collaborations: Benefits and Barriers. Library media connection. 29 (3). p.36. 

Blinging up the blog

Whilst reading for ITL401 I came across this little gem…

Blogs have the potential to be used for more than online diaries. Camplese (2009) proposes that blogging be used to create an individualized content management system that publishes, organizes, and archives an on-going activity feed of … learning (“Blogs at Penn State” section, para. 3, line 4). Most personal blogging platforms such as WordPress (wordpress.com) and Blogger (blogger.com) also make it easy to go beyond basic text and incorporate other media, such as photographs, videos, and audio. Besides enriching and enlivening a post, these tools make it possible for an individual to publish artifacts that are ill-served by text-only displays.  (Berge, and McElvaney, 2009)

So now the pressure is on….looks like I’m going to have to introduce some razzle dazzle to this blog and bling it up….

References

Berge, Z. and  McElvaney, J. (2009). Weaving a Personal Web: Using online technologies to create customized, connected, and dynamic learning environments, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 35 (2). Retrieved from http://cjlt.csj.ualberta.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/viewArticle/524/257

 

Role of the teacher librarian in terms of evidence based practice – Assessment #1

“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.

Bibliography

(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

A rose by any other name

In an earlier post on the role of the teacher librarian I mused about perception of our role and its possible link to the name of the library and the TL themselves.  I’ve just come across and interesting segment on this very topic whilst undertaking research on evidence based practice.  Please see the extract taken from the Lonsdale Report (2003).

References

Lonsdale, M. (2003). Impact on School Libraries of Student Achievement: Report for the Australian School Library Association. Australian Council for Educational Research, Victoria.

 

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

There seem to be myriad roles required for the teacher librarian of the 21st century (Herring, 2007).  The various standards documents and school library mission statements attempt to address what a teacher librarian and a school library should be.  As Valenza (2010) states this is “a moving target”.

The literature supports that at the heart of it all is a critical need for teacher librarians to ensure their relevance by positioning themselves, and perhaps more importantly, being seen to be positioning themselves, as the information literacy professionals of the future, particularly in terms of digital media.  “The role of the teacher librarian continues to change and one key feature of this role is the ability of the teacher librarian to adapt” (Herring, 2007, p. 32).  This is supported by Lamb who urges teacher librarians to continually  “revisit, reframe, and re-imagine” (2011, p. 27).  As Herring (2007) aptly points out a lone teacher librarian would find it impossible to play all of the roles required all at the same time.  Prioritising is a necessity and is based on the needs of the school community (Herring, 2007).   According to Herring (2007, p. 31) “Learning for the future (ASLA 2003) focuses on three particular roles of the teacher librarian: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager.” So perhaps that is where Australian teacher librarians should begin, along with their school and library mission statements.

Valenza’s manifesto (2010) seems to suggest that an effective teacher librarian must have many strings to their fiddle and that compromise is “non-negotiable”.   I’m not sure that Valenza’s manifesto is realistic for a single teacher librarian to meet.  Perhaps, like the ASLA standards, it is something to aim for – a standard of excellence.  In order for teacher librarians to meet these high falutin standards they need financial, staffing and school policy support from their principals (Herring, 2007).

Lamb also implies that an effective teacher librarian cannot simply have knowledge and skills but must also possess the right “attitudes and dispositions” (2011, p. 27) to go with the job.  This begs the question – can the right attitude and disposition be learned or taught?  These seem to be personality traits that may be developed with maturity and experienced but they are certainly not learnable in the traditional sense.  As in any profession,  some people are born to the role and some have to work bloody hard at it.

In addition to being an expert in information literacy, the literature points to teacher librarians as collaborators with teachers as being integral to their role (Lamb, 2011 and Herring, 2007).  Purcell urges teacher librarians to bring instruction to the fore and place less emphasis on administrative tasks.  Although, according to Herring (2007) emphasis should be placed on good collection development.

Purcell places a heavy emphasis on the need for the teacher librarian to be continually and obviously proving their value and securing funds.  It is also mentioned in the AASL podcasts (2012).  The literature implies that it is unique to the USA.  This, then would need to be a priority for those teacher librarians.  In Australia we are fortunate in having to worry a little less about the measuring our success in dollar terms – or is this simply naiviety on my part?  Certainly, in a private organization (where I previously worked as a research librarian) we were considered a “cost centre” and had to “charge” our clients (all internal from the same organization) for our services.  This was then used to prove our worthiness.

From this arises the next issue – would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? In the USA school libraries are known as Media Centres and teacher librarians as media specialists.  Whilst the term media is certainly more indicative  of digital technologies (Herring, 2007), does the name by which our profession is known play a role in how we are perceived and therefore our relevance?   In the six years I worked in the corporate library we changed our name several times.  When I started we were the library.  By the time I finished we had morphed into the Business Information Centre.  However, nobody (even within the organization) knew what this was.  As soon as we explained that we were the “library” they understood what we were there to do.

How to know if there are other roles played by teacher librarians?  It is such a shifting environment and each school library has unique requirements.  Certainly, there are roles outside of the school community such as being part of a larger organisation, for example, as a member of the the Australian Library and Information Association.  Every person, regardless of profession has multiple roles that cross over such as parent or partner.  They might belong to various clubs or undertake certain leisure all activities.  It is only natural that we would bring our skills and perspectives as a teacher librarian to these other roles as well and vice versa.

To be as proactive as Lamb (2011) and Valenza (2010) insist a good teacher librarian needs to be, what would I give up?  To be honest, I really don’t know.  I haven’t worked in a school library so it is difficult to imagine every task that needs to be dealt with.  However, I would hope that I had support staff to whom I could delegate certain tasks – probably the more administrative tasks.

After reading the literature and viewing the podcasts I do see myself fitting with the proposed roles of the teacher librarian.  I think the one that I would have most difficulty with is that of an overt advocate.  I am not by nature one to blow my own horn and I shy away from confrontation so being vocal about the value of the library and chasing funding, rather than letting the services provided speak for the themselves would not come naturally.  However,  I do really enjoy challenging myself and learning new things  and experimenting with new technologies so the ever changing landscape of digital technologies would be welcome, if not somewhat exhausting and sometimes bewildering.  As a teacher, I agree with Purcell that teacher librarians should collaborate with teachers and other members of the school community.  We should be “making a difference in the ways teachers teach and in the ways students learn.” (Purcell, 2010, p. 30)

 

References

The American Association of School Librarians (Producer). (2012 January/February).  30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community.  Are school librarians and endangered species? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/aboutkq/30second_JanFeb12

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.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. TechTrends, 55(4), 27-36.

Purcell, M. (2010, November/December). All Librarians Do Is Check Out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 30-33.

Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/

Are school librarians an endangered species?

Are school librarians an endangered species?  The take home message from the five leaders asked to present in the podcast series 30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community, is “not if they remain relevant”. Teacher librarians are experts in information literacy and they are needed more than ever to equip students with the skills to navigate in and learn from all forms of media which increasingly means digital media.  In Moorefield-Lang’s  (2012) words they are “information literacy leaders”.  Most of the speakers also mentioned the need for teacher librarians to actively redefine their roles ensuring that they are not perceived to be irrelevant.

 

References

The American Association of School Librarians (Producer). (2012 January/February).  30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community.  Are school librarians and endangered species? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/aboutkq/30second_JanFeb12

Share your experiences when searching the library databases.

It has been about 7 years since my last university foray and I have never studied by distance before.  Certainly, undertaking a course entirely online is a novelty for me.  My biggest worry about this course at the moment, apart from time management, is my academic writing.  Will it cut the mustard?  So I’ve found the list of resources on academic writing and critical thinking provided in ITL 401 very comforting.

Whilst I have had access to online journals in my previous studies, I’ve never really taken advantage of them.  I’ve always been more comfortable with print.  Being able to physically handle the words, using highlighters and scribbling all over text with a pen (photocopies of course!!) has been my mode of study.  I’ve always had access to, and made use of, a physical library with physical books and physical journals.  This course is forcing me outside of my comfort zone (not a bad thing – you don’t know what you can do until you try).  I’m experimenting with citelighter to keep a track of my electronic reading and virtual notes.  We’ll see how it goes with the first essay.  I’m also making use of Livebinder to collect the various websites and readings required for the course.

The online tutorial on how to use Primo and other online databases has been useful but I think I will be revisiting it time and again until I “get” it.