Throughout the duration of this degree, the Australian School Library Association & Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) standards of professional excellence (2004) have been a guiding document in developing my professional skills, attitudes and ongoing learning. My professional knowledge, practice and commitment has grown during each session and supported throughout each unit I’ve participated in.
As established in my first blog post (Bernard, 2019a) I came to this degree with limited teaching experience and zero experience within a school library. Whilst embarking on this Masters with an abundance of enthusiasm within my first subject, my professional knowledge expanded including the professional practice expected of a TL and a richer understanding of the use of information services (Bernard, 2019b). A strong focus for development of my professional knowledge falls under Standard 1.4 (ALIA, 2004).Resource management was introduced to me during ETL503 and ETL505 and highlighted crucial nature of a excellently managed and resourced school library to support the needs of the community and develop an environment that supports 21st century learners. In furthering this, on my placement at a local public library I witnessed the support of the wider community through programs and quality resources. This knowledge is transferable to when I’m active in a teacher librarian position.
One challenge I faced throughout this degree is not having active participation in a school library and to physically implement the theoretical knowledge into practice. Whilst the standards require practical experience to be considered excellent, I feel supported by the knowledge and assignments presented throughout this course to ensure when applied in practice I will have a quality understanding of what is required. An example of this would be INF533 Digital Storytelling Project (Bernard, 2019c). This assignment created opportunities to explore, create and nurture an information-rich learning environment, actively incorporating and understanding the nature of ICT for educational purposes. In conjunction with the reflection aspect of the assessment and comments from the marker, I was able to engage in a teaching practice and improve my learning and teaching skills before applying this within a practical setting. One area of standard 2.3 I wish to improve is strategically planning and budgeting for services and programs as I feel I have limited experience in the practicality of this standard.
Once again, I come back to Short (2018)’s article as discussed in my ETL402 blog post (Bernard, 2021). The resonance the article had highlights my drive for empowerment of others, the emphasis on needing to support and implement possible changes and actively engage in leadership styles that support all the needs of the community. Through the use of INF447 I am able to recognise evidence-based research and practices and use these to support debates on issues and promote the importance of teacher librarians to the wider community. Each unit undertaken in this degree has provided the structure to continue to develop my skills as a practitioner and utilise the skills of a leader learnt from ETL504 (Bernard, 2020) to further enhance the library structures within the school environment.
My initial understanding of the role of a teacher librarian (TL) was sheltered (Bernard, 2019a) focusing on the books and students. This conceptualization has grown into a rich and deep understanding of the value of TLs outside of creating a safe library and maintaining books. The contribution TLs can make to the students, staff and wider school community embrace many roles such as being an information specialist, literacy advocator and quality investigator, tech-support, leaders of a changing curriculum and more. I shall be focusing on my growth in my understanding of literature, in all its forms, ICT in schools and leadership capabilities.
Before diving into this course, I had just finished my undergraduate degree in primary teaching and I would have confidently described my theoretical knowledge of ‘literature’ as sound. I understood the importance of having quality literature to effectively teach students a variety of skills within the classroom. Throughout the duration of this course my understanding of literature has shifted to encompass the dynamic nature of literature and diverse media and modes available for consumption.
Literature has taken on a new identity with the development of my understanding and encompasses not just the formats available but also the ability to create and respond to texts, understanding and appreciating the enrichment brought to individuals and the larger society (Johnston, 2014). Literature practices have expanded to incorporate 21st century skills due to the ever-shifting nature of the digital world. INF533 continually shifted the way in which I looked at literature within the digital world – expanding further than just eBooks (Bernard, 2019c) and demonstrating the tools and practices available to ensure the selection of quality digital literature, to be discussed further in Information Communication Technology.
This course has left me with a passion to seek out various forms of literature and explore their application in a dynamic and unique way. Using all formats of literature as a teaching tool to explore concepts, relate ideas and support students, staff and the school as a whole has become a focus to shift my teaching practices into a 21st century style.
One implication that has resonated throughout my degree is looking at the future of children’s literature. ETL402 directly asked for our vision for the future of children’s literature (Bernard, 2021) and I continually think on this topic. Short (2018) had a deep impact on my understanding of the trends within children’s literature currently. Progressing through the course we’ve been taught one method for students to promote and foster reading is through engagement with texts where they are represented (Short, 2018). My understanding of the lack of diversity in children’s literature and the responsibility for TLs to foster an environment where learners are encouraged and empowered to read (ALIA, 2004) has continued to grow and as a response committed to actively participate and foster reading cultures within a school.
Furthermore, the development of advocacy as a TL provides opportunities to facilitate literacy learning through application of diverse high-quality literature. A practice I have developed is being actively engaged in a variety of sources to seek out unique, relatable literature, one example would be attending the virtual event 2021 Diversity in Children’s Literature Symposium. The discussions through using children’s literature to educate and acknowledge attitudes about racism, sexism and transphobia to daydream for a better future (Library of Congress, 2021) highlighted the importance of using literature as a learning tool and the capabilities available to TLs and classroom teachers.
Due to being new to the field, ETL503 introduced concepts such as collection management and acquisition. The use of strategic documents and policies are necessary to become an effective TL and this knowledge is crucial for the development of a quality library. Application of my growing understanding is not currently possible, however, on placement I was able to have in-depth discussion with the acquisitions manager and their policies and processes and I could see the theoretical knowledge in action, whilst aware of the difference in a public setting to a school library.
Without practical experiences within a school setting, my options are limited for reflection on the success of changes my theoretical knowledge has undergone whilst completing this course. INF447 has developed my understanding of evidence-based practices supported by research and introduced the Teacher Librarians as Australia Literature Advocates in Schools (TLALAS) project. Merga (2019) highlights the characteristics of support to foster a whole school reading culture. When applicable, I can apply these practices for the betterment of students, staff and the school community as a whole.
As I continue to develop my understanding and knowledge surrounding literature, there are further impacts on my development and practices in relation to information literacy and seeking out high-quality literature to demonstrate information literacy skills to students and staff. I will confidently advocate for the high-quality literature to be accessible to all and for diversity within literature to be included. To be an effective and responsive TL, my responsibility is to be a driver of change (Bernard, 2021) and provide valuable resources for every student, staff and community member to see themselves within.
Information and Communications Technology
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are prevalent in today’s digital society and to prepare students for the 21st century world, schools and TLs need to equip students with the skills to navigate this world. This course has emphasised the importance of developing systems, ideas and a deep understanding of how ICT can be effectively utilised within the classroom and school library. Each unit has offered unique ways in addressing ICT within schools and the opportunities for students available when implemented in programs and services effectively. A successful pedagogy towards technology utilises the high-quality literature available through discussion and analysis to engage students in long term value of literature, rather than approaching technology as a ‘hook’ to gain fleeting engagement and attention.
Learning and engaging with reading has stark differences throughout the changing of generations (Ng & Graham, 2017) and as a result the current generation of children and young people act differently towards digital devices. Teacher librarians are able to support this shift in engagement and use ICT to present multimodal texts on digital devices, exploring a range of literary devices and skills through the different mediums. Student engagement with high-quality digital literature was a strong focus throughout the course and provided a foundation in which my understanding of successful use of ICT has grown.
The implementation of ICTs to support literacy learning has been a strong focus throughout this degree. A learning moment of mine was the different capabilities of ICT to enhance learning, in particular, a stand-out was using The Boat (Le & Huynh, 2015) to develop visual literacy and provide authentic interactivity to students. My confidence to deep dive into the choices of ICT and digital literature available and learning to be selective was a supported learning curve throughout this course (Bernard, 2019c) and improved my understanding of how to implement ICT in unique ways.
One joyous moment throughout my studies was the creation of my own ‘digital text’ using ICT (Bernard, 2019d).
Whilst I acknowledge it is not high-quality literature, the experience opened my eyes to the opportunities for students to create their own literature and delve deeper into their learning about literature through this creation process. Similarly to learning to read and write, we get better with practice, and one implementation I’d love to make in a school library is the use of ICT to create digital narratives for students to have available to view and engage with outside of classroom and library lesson times.
One thing I wish to challenge is the term ‘digital native’ coined by Prensky in 2001, as it was thrown around throughout the course and this term is a myth (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017). Regardless of age, students are not adept at using ICT because they are born of a younger generation, merely exposed to it younger and have more experiences. The importance for TLs to not apply this term is that students who are not raised with devices, due to numerous circumstances, may not be as efficient in utilising ICT. Furthermore, a focus for TLs is creating digitally literate students who are able to navigate the digital world safely and critically analyse the content they are consuming on these devices, similarly to critically analysing physical text-based forms.
In response to this, accessibility of ICTs is a concern that all TLs need to be conscious of. Students are impacted by a range of social and educational inequalities that impact on their access to technology (Wolf, 2014). A key responsibility of TLs is to ensure that we are not romanticising technology or using those ‘hooks’ rather exploring social, economic and political challenges and providing the skills for students to move into the digital areas, even when not always available outside of a school setting. An important note is that whilst ICTs are important to use in schools to raise 21st century learners, conscious thought needs to go into the activities that are going home and the experiences students may have with an online school environment, when there is no online at home.
It is the responsibility of a TL to ensure that students are able to successfully use appropriate and relevant ICTs (Standards, 2004) and one professional practice I would like to implement as a facilitator of this information is the continual improvement in my own skills to engage students in quality activities and do away with using ICTs as a ‘hook’. I believe to accomplish this through professional development training, as well as working independently on my hobbies that pertain to this area.
Teacher librarians play an important role as advocates for literature, ICT and collaboration. TLs have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership within school and professional communities (Standards, 2004). Initially, due to my lack of practical experience within a school setting, the idea of being a leader was petrifying. My ideas of leadership were ones of the typical business model (Bernard, 2020a), however, through the support of this course, especially ETL504, and developing my professional skills and attitudes, I feel confident in introducing positive leadership styles to promote whole-school focuses on information literacy and collaboration between all active parties involved in the school environment.
Personally, leadership has always been a concept I’ve struggled with, however, looking back on the personal and professional growth I’ve had in the past 2 and a half years highlights the importance of good leadership and the necessity of being a good leader, even outside “leadership positions”. Without direction and support from the TL, there may be a crucial element missing from the promotion of information literacy and the collaboration between teams maximising skills, services and programs offered by the TL (Bernard, 2019b).
As discussed earlier, advocating for high-quality diverse literature in a range of formats is essential for students to have relatable experiences when interacting and learning from literature. As teacher librarians we are in the most optimal position to push for these changes and implement positive focuses at a school and community level. By adopting a transformational leadership style and encouraging collaboration with teachers, administrators, students and the community form partnerships and build effective teams who all have the same vision in establishing students as lifelong users and creators of information (Bishop, 2011).
The transformational leadership style adopted by TLs is encouraged in the ALIA Standards (2004) as this style focuses on strategies and goals to incite others to high levels of performance through team-building, motivation and collaboration. Changes such as advocating for quality literature, collaborating to have ICT teaching and learning experiences in all areas of the school community and strengthening the school’s vision (Colvin, 2002) with students at the forefront are possible through active use of transformational leadership. The importance for strong leadership and fostering positive changes within the school community allow for better teaching and learning experiences. TLs need to be flexible in their strategies to address the needs of every student and as INF447 as taught, use data-led insights to support decisions to better address the needs of individuals.
Servant, instructional, distributed and transformational leadership all place emphasis on collaboration as a key component to successful implementation within a school setting. A TL is often a lone figure and through collaboration quality learning experiences are provided for all stakeholders within the community. The benefits of collaboration have continued to be addressed throughout this course, outside of leadership opportunities. It is through collaboration that strong bonds and connections are made to support students in all areas and the implementation of quality literature and use of ICT are enacted in positive collaborative approaches. Deringer (2013) articulated the simplicity for inspiring collaboration with 4 main points. The 3rd point “Don’t be afraid to say something” was lacking in my professional ability when in an RFF position, however, my professional and personal growth in this area presented itself when on placement. Consistently in meetings and discussions with the team I would contribute ideas to lead the changes happening and supported my suggestions with the knowledge I had acquired on this course.
A reminder in these situations is also the importance of context and leadership styles present in each facility. The school itself did not have a strong library focus and the previous librarian had not taken any leadership positions within the school, so the perception of the library itself was undervalued by the leadership teams at this point (Bernard, 2020b). On placement, the passion for all library activities and funding were available to drive forth change and support for the local community, making it a different environment to experience and this would have an impact on the ability to take direction and lead.
Taking on a transformational leadership role provides the opportunities for teacher librarians to have a strong and decisive voice within the school community. The TL should be focused on the school goals and vision, enabling their passion to promote policies, activities and implementation of programs to best assist the school community in reaching these goals. Collaboration with staff, students and key stakeholders creates a unified school culture and allows opportunities for all voices to be heard and the best decision to support students made.
Each subject within this degree has formed a foundation on which to stand when I am working in the library and information services realm, whether in a school or out. I am beyond thankful for this course providing a wealth of experiences in which I can venture forth and become an excellent librarian.
Part B – References
Anderson, K. (2016). Librarians… [Image]. http://lunastationquarterly.com/more-to-librarians-than-a-stereotype/
Bishop, K. (2011). Connecting libraries with classrooms. Linworth.
Colvin, G. (2002). Managing in the info ear. Fortune, 141 (5)
Deringer, S. (2013). Inspire Collaboration: A Quick and Easy Guide for Super Busy School Librarians. INALJ. Retrieved 15 September 2021, from http://inalj.com/?p=40373.
Johnston, R. (2014). Literary Literacies: Digital, cultural, narrative, critical and deep literacies. In Winch, G., Ross Johnston, R., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (Eds.), Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (5th ed., pp. 537-545). Oxford University Press.
Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching And Teacher Education, 67, 135-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.06.001
Ng, C., & Graham, S. (2017). Engaging readers in the twenty-first century: what we know and need to know more. In C. Ng & B. Bartlett, Improving Reading and Reading Engagement in the 21st Century: International Research and Innovation. (pp. 17-46). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4331-4_2.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On The Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816
Short, K. (2018). What’s trending in children’s literature and why it matters. Language
Arts, 95(5), 287-298.
Wolf, S. (2014). Children’s literature on the digital move. Reading Teacher, 67(6), 413- 417. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1002/trtr.1235
An effective teacher librarian (TL) is one who has the needs of the students, staff and school community at the heart of their actions. Effective TLs implement services and programs that encourage lifelong learning and ensure resources in all formats are accessible, rich, engaging and relevant to the current and future curriculum and pedagogies. Through inspirational and transformational leadership styles, TLs build a culture of innovation, learning and digital citizenship to support the development of thriving 21st century learners and staff. An effective TL excels at juggling the numerous hats, requirements and responsibilities present within the position.