One Semester In: What does a TL do again?

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ETL401 Assignment 2 Part B Critical Reflection

One Semester In: What does a Teacher Librarian do?

So, I’ve finished my first semester of study in the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship). I’ve blogged, I’ve posted on forums, I’ve read (LOTS!!!), I’ve chatted with fellow sufferers … ahem, students … in our collaborative facebook group, and I’m ready to answer the big question now. What exactly does a TL do?

I hope I’m not letting the side down here when I say I still find this question challenging to respond to. But I’m certainly coming to grips a bit more with how to deal with those people who tell me, oftentimes well-meaningly, that it must be lovely to spend my days surrounded by books. It is, really. Totally lovely. But what I’d give for five minutes to actually open one and read it beyond the blurb on the back, or the SCIS record! So, being a TL is about far more than curating books, as I reflected in an earlier blog post (Rodgers, 2014a)

I don’t actually feel like my view of the role of the TL has changed much due to my studies in this subject. Not that my perceptions are the same as they were six months ago – far from it. But “changed” feels like the wrong way to describe it. It has been, for me, more of a process of clarification, of being able to put critical concepts to ideas that were floating around in my head. Applying theories to the practices that I was attempting to undertake within the wonderful walls of my library without consciously realising why I was doing it, apart from that it just kind of felt like the right thing to do.

So, now I have might on my side. The might of Karen Bonanno, who tells me that it’s vital that I advocate for the importance of my role in the school, and that I fight with all my mighty fingers to ensure that my colleagues recognise my worth, both intrinsically, and in what I can give to them and their teaching practice (Bonanno, 2011) The might of Annette Lamb, who believes that my strength as a TL lies in my ability to partner with teachers, and to ensure that my role description clearly identifies the profound impact that I as TL can have on the curricular goals of the school, and on student achievement (2011). The might of Carol Kuhlthau, who advocates for the importance of the teacher librarian as the primary agent for 21st century learners to call upon, and who recognises the key role that a TL plays in creating a school which prepares its students for the complexities of a 21st century information and learning landscape (Kuhlthau, 2010, p17). And who, just quietly, was so on the money about the feelings of frustration, doubt and confusion in the exploration phase of her ISP model – I felt like she was monologuing my life at points in my journey through this subject!

The many and varied discussions about the ways in which libraries can meet the ever-changing needs of a 21st century learning have been fascinating, and have informed my own thoughts about the future of resourcing in such a transforming information landscape. The contrasts between reading onscreen vs paper was a topic in both the forums and our collegial facebook group that generated much discussion, both in our roles as 21st century learners and our roles as Teacher Librarians in Training (Rodgers, 2014b).

Similarly fascinating has been the ongoing discussion about the importance of collaboration, and tied into this the need for principal support of the role of TL. Farmer’s discussion of the principal as the “chief catalyst for collaboration” (2007, p56) really resonated with my own experiences of working with a dynamic and engaging school leader who strongly supports the role of the library in the learning framework of the school. Comments in both the forums and to my recent blog post about support have indicated that this is not a common thing, however (Rodgers, 2014c), which makes me mourn for those TL’s who aren’t experiencing that essential support from their leadership. It also reflects on the critical importance in our profession of advocacy – the need for us all to ensure that our influence is not only felt, but visible, and that the wider teaching profession are aware of the vital role a connected and engaged TL can play in establishing and steering the learning culture of the school in profound ways (Oberg, 2007)

I’m equally as enamoured with my chosen profession now as I was when I started paddling this canoe upstream, and I’m glad for a rest in the rapids before next semester starts. I wonder what additional enlightenments might come about the wonderful world of Teacher Librarianship in my next subject? I can’t wait to see!!

References

Bonanno, K. (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

Kuhlthau, C. (2010) Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide January 2010, Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Accessed from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/docs/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Oberg, D. (2007). Taking the Library Out of the Library into the School. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii

Rodgers, T. (2014a)  Library Girls! And Boys. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/11/librarygirlsandboys/

Rodgers, T. (2014b) Online vs IRL reading. Blog post 1. 03-Aug-14

Rodgers, T. (2014c) The Teacher Librarian and the Principal: A Modern Fairytale. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/10/16/the-teacher-librarian-and-the-principal-a-modern-fairy-tale/

 

Information Literacy: More than just a set of skills

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ETL401 OLJ Blog Task 2

Literacy has increasingly become a buzzword in the rhetoric around education. We often hear in the media the need for a focus on literacy, and people commentators frequently bemoan the need to get “back to basics” in literacy education.

What is missing from these discussions, though, is a clear understanding of what “literacy” is. In education today, literacy is about more than just phonics and grammar. The literacy spectrum that we are dealing with in education covers a wide spectrum of literacies, embracing myriad skills and requiring multiple levels of understanding and application of knowledge. Schools deal with often competing demands to teach multiple literacies, and students are required to negotiate these complex skills across a wide range of subject areas. It’s not just about conjunctions!

Information literacy is really, as I see it, one of the core competencies that all students need to be fluent in, and all teachers should be addressing in their teaching and learning. It’s also one of the primary responsibilities of the TL, as we lead our schools into the brave new world of the 21st century information landscape. So what is information literacy then?

Information literacy is a broad concept. Fundamentally, it is about the ability of an individual to access information from a wide range of sources, analyse and synthesise what they find, and then use and present that information in ways that are appropriate to their purpose. This covers a wide range of individual literacies, from visual literacy to traditional grammatical literacy to computer literacy and more. ASLA defines information literacy as “an information process where students can access, use, organise, create, present and evaluate information” (2009). This is a core skill required by all students in all stages of education, and is really, in my opinion, the “basics” that we should be getting back to – or, more accurately, moving forward to!

Information literacy is not just about the ability to succeed at school, however. Its impact is far broader than that. As we face a rapidly changing technological and information landscape, the skills that people need in everyday life are also changing, and the ability to critically evaluate and engage with new forms of information is a vital skills for all learners (Eisenberg, 2008, p.43). Bundy cites ALIA in referring to information literacy as an essential skill for lifelong learning, with impacts on social inclusion, knowledge creation, participative citizenship and empowerment on personal, corporate and organizational levels (2004, p4).

The role of the teacher librarian in ensuring that our students are information literate is paramount. In our positions in the information heart of the school, we have the ability to influence the learning culture that our students are immersed in by providing rich and meaningful information literacy experiences. Working collaboratively with classroom teachers to support the implementation of curriculum in meaningful ways allows us the opportunity to ensure that information literacy is an embedded way of thinking, not simply something that is learned for the exam and is then forgotten. This requires, in some cases, significant change in the learning culture of a school, as staff all need to support the idea that information literacy and curriculum are inextricably linked (Herring, 2011, p34). By ensuring that learning is meaningful and related to real world contexts, we ensure that our students become thoughtful participants in their world, able to engage and interact with the complex information processes that will surround them. What an exciting role to play!

References

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2009)

Bundy, A. (Ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Eisenberg, M.B. (2008). Information literacy: essential skills for the information age. DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, information literacy and transfer in high schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 32-36.

 

Library Girls!! And Boys. :-)

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Otherwise known as, “The Role of the Teacher Librarian”. OLJ Blog Post 1

Just_Call_Me_Library_Girl.jpg

Just Call Me Library Girl! image created by Jennifer LaGarde (2011)

As I reflect on my understanding of the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools, I’m struck by how formative my own experiences with Teacher Librarians have been in my understanding of what they SHOULD be like. I had a librarian in primary school who made me hate the place, as the one time this shy little girl ventured to tell him about why I loved the book I’d just returned (the newly released George’s Marvellous Medicine, if you’re interested) he pointed to the “Silence in the Library” sign and turned away. I’m sure, looking back, he’d probably had a bad day with the Year 6 class he’d taken before lunch, and hadn’t had time to use the bathroom or finish the coffee he’d made himself upon arriving at school that morning. The sign probably didn’t say “Silence in the Library” either, that’s most likely an effect of my Doctor Who obsession. But the episode still stands as one that impacted me deeply, and led to my close relationship with my municipal librarian. It also meant that one of the most prolific readers at Wallerawang Public School rarely ventured into her school library again.

I had two librarians in high school, however, who redeemed the profession for me. The first, Mrs Compton, was an angel who created a safe space in her walls, and introduced me to Atticus Finch. She never paid attention to how many books were currently listed on my borrowing card as being loaned, and studiously ignored the “TWO BOOKS AT A TIME” rule above her counter. The second, whose name for the life of me I don’t recall, created an academically challenging environment for his senior students. He paid attention to what we were doing in our classes, and provided us with brain teasers around the concepts we were looking at in 3UMaths, or provided us with journal articles about the legal cases we were analysing. And he’d wander through the study area quoting my favourite TS Eliot poem, varying expression and tone, and challenging us to think about exactly what Prufrock was trying to say.

It’s in that vein that I think about my own role in this wonderful profession. There’s a lot to negotiate. Competing priorities to colleagues, executive, students, and community in so many different areas. When I was asked towards the end of last year if I’d like to take on our school library for a year, I jumped at the chance, but in my head, I had a particular idea about what that meant. I thought I was aware of all the requirements of the job, but mentally I was focused (quite delightfully, I must admit) on the fact that I’d be getting paid to spend my days in a building full of books. The enormity of what faced me took a little time to hit, like an avalanche of, well, books from an overstacked to-be-read pile. (I’m not alone in having one of them, right?)

So, what do we Library Girls and Boys face? It’s way more than just buying pretty new books (although that is fun!) The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001) see the Teacher Librarian’s role as covering three key areas: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager. Purcell (2010) breaks these roles down further, and refers to teacher librarians as leaders, program administrators, information specialists and instructional partners. Given the complexities of the tasks that a Teacher Librarian might find themselves faced with in a school, I tend to agree with Herring’s (2007) inclination to provide a wide range of possible role descriptors for the Teacher Librarian, which allow for diversity and differentiation depending on their individual context, rather than tying the TL down to a specific job criteria. Lamb (2011) emphasises the importance of negotiating a balance between the often competing demands of the career, and not placing emphasis on one element (eg teaching and learning) over another (eg collegial collaboration). It’s far more complex than just making sure there are books on the shelves!

In many respects, the role of the TL is hugely dependent on their school context, and the needs and expectations of the community that they are serving. This is a departure from the standards that a traditional classroom teacher is used to dealing with, as outlined in the AITSL National Teaching Standards, because of the many and varied requirements of the Teacher Librarian. ASLA’s recent work on tying the professional standards to the role of the Teacher Librarian will hopefully lead towards a stronger recognition of the professional skills of the TL, in the areas of professional knowledge, professional commitment and professional practice.

I think about the librarians in my past, and wonder how they’d negotiate the changes in their career if they were facing a 21st century library. If, as well as negotiating paper book literacy, they were dealing with ICT literacy, the widening responsibilities of social and cultural awareness that faces teachers today, the conflicts of BYOD, global education, ever-increasing complexity in curriculum requirements, and the myriad other expectations that are heaped on their cape-wearing-shoulders. Maybe they did deal with some of that, and little girl curled up with Scout Finch and Margaret Simon after the lunch bell rang didn’t notice. That’s probably an indication that they were doing their job well. But I’m very grateful to them for their services. And I hope I can be the kind of teacher librarian who will do them, and that little girl, proud.

 

References:

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001).  Learning for the future:  Developing information services in schools (2nd ed.).  Carlton South, Vic:  Curriculum Corporation.

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 Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette, TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning. Jul2011, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p27-36. 10p

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), pp30-33