School library collections provide a high quality and diverse collection of both physical and digital resources, in a variety of formats, that support and meet the needs of the learning community (IFLA, 2015). A school library collection is guided by a clearly structured policy framework that acknowledges the learning community by identifying its users, the formal and informal curriculum, a clear and defined role of teacher librarian (TL) and a clear mission and vision statement of why the collection exists (ALIA & VCTL, 2017). By having documents like these in place, they allow the school to fulfil its duty to its learners, reflect on the ethos, mission, aims and objectives of the school library collection, and ultimately be used as an advocacy tool for library needs and the status of the TL in the school (IFLA, 2015). The role and nature of the school library collection, the incredible importance of developing a collection development policy as a strategic document, and how this enables TLs to future proof their collection, are key areas of how my understanding and knowledge has grown since commencing this subject.
When understanding the role and nature of school library collections, there is a great deal to consider. The collection needs to be aligned to the curriculum and the TL needs to have a solid understanding of the nature of the users and their needs both academically and recreationally (Oberg and Schultz-Jones, 2015). This was clearly explained in our module 5 readings, when we looked at curriculum mapping. Curriculum mapping allows the TL to collaborate closely with classroom and subject specialists to evaluate the collection (Newsum, 2016). In my reflections on my blog in module 5, I acknowledged that whilst this would be a time-consuming task, especially because the very nature of teaching is a busy one, it is so important for the TL to collaborate and develop solid and positive working relationships with teaching staff. This curriculum mapping, which also serves as a collection evaluation tool, informs curriculum collection and provides the TL with a visual snapshot of curriculum topics that embody the curriculum and allows the TL to fulfil their mission statement, allocate funds appropriately, purchase materials and write collection development and selection policies, and even weed the collection of resources no longer relevant (Loertscher, 2005). It is this information gained by the TL that helps identify whether the collection is indeed meeting its objectives and if it is adequately serving its users (Johnson, 2014). It is this role of connecting classrooms to the resources needed for learning, whereby collegial input is valued, that allows TLs to be responsive to curriculum resource needs (Newsum, 2016) and advocates for our incredibly important role. We need to find the time to do this, and I have already started the ball rolling in my school to have dedicated sessions on student free days to start this process.
The idea of evaluating a collection does feel incredibly daunting, but I gained a better understanding of how to do this when we looked at the readings in module 5. I really enjoyed Johnson’s (2014) excellent model of methods that could potentially assist me when analysing our collection. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate both quantitative and qualitative methods, but after careful consideration, I was able to identify the ones that I felt would be most suitable for me in my blog in module 5, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
I learned so much about censorship and the importance of this in a collection development policy (CDP). Hoffman & Wood (2007) concur the CDP should be produced in a collaborative manner and then authorized by the administration body, particularly the principal. TLs need to engage in ongoing dialogue with administration that not only discusses the purpose of library and its collection, but the freedom to read and the role the TL and the principal play in selection (Dawkins, 2018). As stated in Leech’s discussion forum post (Leech, 2020), this is so important when working in a religious school. Having clearly stipulated selection criteria and the support of a principal who has been involved in the ratification of this, supports us as TLs and reaffirms our position within the school (Dawkins, 2018). By asserting the Library Bill of Rights, this sets the tone for the acquisition of resources that may be challenged (Hoffman & Wood, 2007).
I understand now how important a CDP is, and realise it serves two purposes. It provides the TL with a blueprint of the vision and mission of the school library (Braxton, 2018), ensuring that the learning community’s needs are met, and it is also a working document for not only the TL, but other key stakeholders that provide insight into the invaluable role the TL plays in a school. The CDP certainly assists in future proofing the collection, because with triennial evaluation as Braxton suggests (Braxton, 2018) it allows the TL to improve the collection, identifying its strengths and weaknesses in alignment with the curriculum, and a future vision would naturally evolve out of such a process.
In terms of my own practice, I really want to be part of the curriculum committee, but my principal doesn’t perceive it as necessary. I am going to provide a written proposal to him, citing the values of curriculum mapping and planning, and how it will inform the process of selecting and deselecting resources, improve collegiality and promote the important and vital role a TL plays when having a clear understanding and bird’s eye view of curriculum (AASL, 2009).
I also need to dedicate more time promoting our digital resources, which are heavily underutilised. I acknowledged my frustration of this in my blog for module 6, in that whilst we invest a great deal of funding towards these resources, they clearly aren’t ‘visible’ enough. This visibility isn’t just about showing our learning community what we have available, but teaching them how to locate, use and evaluate these emerging technologies (AASL, 2013). Newsum (2016) maintains that to use digital resources, students (and staff!) require demonstration, orientation and that these need to be made visible through promotion. One thing that I have found, is that promotion needs to be an ongoing process. If our CDP further acknowledges these digital resources and indeed includes measures that allow for promotion of these invaluable resources, it could very well be a springboard into cross-curricular teaching which would ensure greater use and exposure of resources and increase both functionality and reusability (Newsum, 2016) (Bourne, 2020). This ultimately justifies the allocation of funds and continues to advocate the vital role that TLs play in schools.
ALIA & VCTL (2017). A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian school library resource centres.
American Library Association. (2017). Selection & reconsideration policy toolkit for public, school, & academic libraries. http://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/selectionpolicytoolkit/mission
Braxton, B. (n.d.). 500 Hats: The teacher librarian in the 21st century. https://500hats.edublogs.org/policies/
Bourne, H. (2020). Forum 5.1. Methods of Collection Analysis [Online discussion comment]. Interact 2. https://interact2.csu.edu.au/
Bourne, H. (2020) Forum 6.1. New areas needing coverage in your CDP [Online discussion comment]. Interact 2. https://interact2.csu.edu.au/
Dawkins, A.M. (2018). The decision by school librarians to self-censor: The impact of perceived administrative discomfort. Teacher Librarian, 45(3),8-12
Hoffman, F. W., & Wood, R. J. (2007).Intellectual freedom. In Library collection development policies : school libraries and learning resource centers, (pp. 63-80). Lanham, Maryland : Scarecrow Press. (e-reserve)
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (2015). IFLA school library guidelines. https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/school-libraries-resource-centers/publications/ifla-school-library-guidelines.pdf
Johnson, P. (2009). Fundamentals of collection development and management. American Library Association.
Johnson, P. (2018). Fundamentals of collection development and management (4th ed.). ALA Editions.
Leech, K. (2020, May 10). Forum 6.2. Key take away from your reading on censorship [Online discussion comment]. Interact 2. https://interact2.csu.edu.au/
Loertscher, D. (2005). The power of professional learning communities and other professional resources. Teacher Librarian, 32 (5).
Newsum, J.M. (2016). School collection development and resource management in digitally rich environments: An initial literature review. School Libraries Worldwide, 22(1), pp97-109.
Oberg, D., & Schultz-Jones, B. (eds). (2015). IFLA School Library Guidelines, (2nd ed.). IFLA