Reflection – Reviewing Digital Literature for a High School Library.

Reviewing Digital Literature for a High School Library.

congerdesign / Pixabay


A teacher librarian (TL) is tasked with ensuring the collection development and management policy (CDMP) suits the needs of the curriculum and the school community (Johnson, 2018).  

Whilst the curation of the physical collection is well established, the rapidly evolving nature of digital resources makes the selection of digital literature (DL) more challenging.  This complexity arises from the variety of emerging DL trends and their integration into the library management system (LMS) (Johnson, 2018, p.128; Hughes-Hassell & Mancall, 2005).   

geralt / Pixabay

There has been much controversy regarding the efficacy of digital literature (DL) in education.  Jeon (2012) suggests that DL has lower rates of comprehension in comparison to print, but Ross et al., (2017) believes that there is no notable difference between print, screen and tablet.  The discrepancy is based upon the role digitisation plays in comprehension.  Keen (2016) believes that digitisation increases engagement, improves learning outcomes and addresses the behavioural, cognitive and developmental needs of teenagers.  Whereas Mitchell (2011) points out that not all digital texts are superior to print texts, and that DL needs to be evaluated  against a set criteria to ensure that the enhancements promote the learning of literacy and language.  

A printed text requires:

  •  a single literacy to gain access to the information.   

However, DL needs the reader to be:

  • masterful with multiliteracies,
  •  competent with computation and 
  • dexterous with devices (Rettberg, 2012).  

These skill requirements indicate that poor traditional literacy will translate to poor digital literacy because technology virtuosity and digital aptitude are not intuitive  (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.5; Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  This necessity of explicit instruction has thoroughly debunked the myth of the digital native.  


ACARA (2018) has included DL in the Australian Curriculum in an effort to address the multimodal and multiliteracy needs of the 21st century.  The embedding of DL allows students to use these new technologies to connect to the curriculum, develop multiliteracies and competencies, which are essential for active citizenship in a digital society (MCEETYA, 2008; Cullen; 2015).  Importantly, DL acknowledges students’ learning needs, the shift in the reading paradigm as well as the presence of participatory culture in modern society (O’Connell, Bates & Mitchell, 2015; Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.6). 

There are several pedagogical implications of utilising DL in teaching practice.  Visual ergonomics and information overload have significant impacts on the reader (Mangen, Walgermo & Bronnick., 2013).  Print texts have strong visual permanence which aids comprehension, but in nonlinear hypertext narratives such as After 6/4, the inability to ‘flip back’ is a hindrance.  However, both Schreuder’s digital novel and the Bible app provide linearity and a sequential storyline which facilitates text comprehension for low ability and literacy students (Gonzales, 2016; Botzakis, 2018).   

Information overload is an issue in After 6/4 and Land of the Magic Flute.  The multimodality of these resources require readers to critically evaluate the images, text and audio simultaneously, and this can overwhelm some students.   But in Schreuder’s digital graphic novel, the arias give the reader time to process the multimodal information, whereas in After 6/4, the format enables the reader to navigate at their own pace.

Peggy_Marco / PixabayFrom a pedagogical perspective, app based learning such as the YouVersion Bible app are ideal for teenagers in a Catholic High school  as it promotes engagement, increases motivation, provides access to online communities, allows for text anonymity and acknowledges the importance of a personal devices to a teenager’s social capital (Cullen, 2015; Vidales-Bolanos & Sadaba-Chalezquer, 2017; Yokota & Teale, 2014; Dickenson, 2014; Hashim & Vongkulluksn, 2018).  This app also satisfies the requirement of enhancing the learning of language, and the supplementary videos assist in decoding and comprehension for EAL/D and learning needs students  (Gonzales, 2016).  

The major hurdle to implementing this app across the school is that it is an app.  My school has a strong mobile phone policy due to persistent disciplinary issues (Selwyn, 2019).  The current criteria does not permit its inclusion even though this app meets the educational, behavioural and behavioural needs of the students, as well as addressing the content requirements.  This exclusion of this resource should question the validity of the CDMP and its selection criteria in this digital age (Johnson, 2018).

The reality is that teachers are very confused about young people and their literary preferences.  Dickenson (2014) and Earp (2017) both agree that teens favour print, whereas Twenge et al., (2019) suggests that the internet and interactive media are the preferred medium due to the prevalence of participatory culture.  But this preference does not always translate to successful classroom practice.  Whilst students may have a strong inclination for DL, not all formats aid the learning of literacy and language.   It would be poor professional practice to promote DL that impedes learning, just like its poor practice to exclude excellent resources due to an impediment in the CDMP.  

But then… I did just that. 

But then… I did just that. 

Sometimes our practice is as only good as the policies that frame it. 


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2018). Literacy. In Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from

Brown, C., & Czerniewicz, L. (2010). Debunking the ‘digital native’: beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 26(5). DOI:

Dickenson, D. (2014). Children and reading: Literature review. Australia Council 2014. Retrieved from

Earp, J. (2017). Infographic – Teen reading habits. Teacher Magazine. Australian Council for Educational Research.  Retrieved from

Botzakis, S. (2018). Comics in the classroom: Using graphic novels for content learning. In D. Wooten, B. Cullinan, L. Liang & R. Allington (Eds).  Children’s literature in the reading program: Engaging young readers in the 21st century, (5th ed., pp. 140-152). Retrieved from Proquest Ebook Central.

Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn. In EducationTechnology. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2016, October 9). Graphic novels in the classroom: A teacher roundtable. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from

Hashim, A & VongKulluskn, V. (2018). E reader apps and reading engagement: A descriptive case study. Computers and Education, 125, pp.358-375. Retrieved from

Hughes-Hassell, S., & Mancall, J. C. (2005). Collection management for youth : Responding to the needs of learners. Retrieved from

Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Jeon, H. (2012). A comparison of the influence of electronic books and paper books on reading comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception. The Electronic Library, 30(3), 390-408. doi: 10.1108/02640471211241663 

Johnson, P. (2018). Chapter 4 – Developing Collections. Fundamentals of Collection Development 4th Edition. ALA Editions. Chicago. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Books.   

Keen, N. (2016). Stopping the slide: improving reading rates in the middle school. Connections, 99. Retrieved from

Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Bronnick, K.A. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61-68.doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2012.12.002 

Mantei, J., Kipscombe, K., & Kervin, L. (2018). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Curriculum Corporation. Australia. Retrieved from

Mitchell, P. (2011). Resourcing 21st century online Australian Curriculum: the role of school libraries. FYI: The Journal for School Information Professionals 15(2). Retrieved from CSU Library. 

Moore, J., & Cahill, M. (2016). Audiobooks; Legitimate ‘reading’ material for adolescents? Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. Retrieved from

Moorefield-Lang, H., & Gavigan, K. (2012). These aren’t your father’s: the new world of digital graphic novels. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35. Retrieved from

O’Connell, J., Bales, J., Mitchell, P. (2015). [R]Evolution in reading cultures: 2020 vision for school libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 63(3), 194-208. DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2015.1048043

Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from

Ross, B., Pechenkina, E., Aeschliman, C., & Chase, A. (2017).  Print versus digital texts: understanding the experimental research and challenging the dichotomies. Research in Learning Technology 25. DOI: Retrieved from

Selwyn, N. (2019). Banning mobile phones in schools: Beneficial or risky? SBS News. Retrieved from

Teen Reading In a Digital Era. (2017). Report at a glance – Teen Reading in a digital era. Murdoch University & Deakin University.  Retrieved from

Twenge, J., Martin, G., & Spitzberg, B. (2019). Trends in U.S. adolescents’ media use, 1976-2016: the rise of media, the decline of tv, and the (near) demise of print. Psychology of Popular Media Culture 8(4). p.329-345. Retrieved from

Vidales-Bolanos, M., & Sadaba-Chalezquer, C. (2017). Connected Teens: Measuring the Impact of Mobile Phones on Social Relationships through Social Capital. Media Education Research Journal 53(25). Retrieved by

Yokota, J., & Teale, W. (2014). Picture books and the digital world. The Reading Teacher 67(8), pp.577-585.    DOI:  10.1002/trtr.1262   



Module 3 – Managing collections thriftily

Gellinger / Pixabay

Our school library has nearly 100 000 print texts on its shelves.  Unfortunately, even though our library is well stocked, it is underused by our school community.  Resources were acquired based upon the presumption that was what the students and teachers wanted.  Instead the books, databases and audiobooks have languished on shelves and data servers, completely under-utilised.   I have previously mentioned this phenomenon of Tsunkudo. So whilst I am not going to rehash the other post, I will focus this blog post on budget aspect of managing a collection.  SMLS (n.d.) lists three roles a TL must consider when they are managing a budget for resourcing; a collaborator, a steward and a thinker. This blog post will elaborate further on these roles and how it relates to collection development.  

When a teacher librarian is being a collaborator with resourcing, they start with the community they are resourcing for.  Our school is currently suffering from Tsundoku so in an effort to change this we are collaborating with the staff and students to access and source resources that will ‘spark joy’.  The first section we addressed was the Religious Education collection. As a Catholic high school in the MSC tradition, Religious Education is mandatory till year 10 and then most senior students continue to study the subject till year 12 in varied formats.  Therefore it is an essential part of the collection. Unfortunately most of the current range of print books are outdated and unappealing for the student body. In an attempt to alleviate this lethargy for library services, we organised several brochures and sample book packs delivered to the school.  One of our team members organised the RE departmental meeting to view these samples so that orders could be made.  The HOD of RE and the Library managed to thrash out an agreement where the funds would be shared between both departments but the books would reside in the library to ensure equity of access.  As our school is affiliated with the MSC order, we managed to secure some funding from them to access newer editions of Jules Chevalier biographies and other MSC materials.  This additional funding was ample enough to cover the purchase of a two print biographies as well as one in an audiobook for our differentiated learners. Ideally, one print copy would stay as teacher resource for new staff that may need an understanding of the MSC ethos and the other would be in the general collection. This collaboration has allowed us to purchase a greater range of resources and fulfill the needs of our community.

A teacher librarian in a stewardship role is responsible for the management of the library (Cambridge dictionary, n.d.).  As such, they are responsible in ensuring the value of the collection is maintained whilst responding to the needs of their community.  In this role, a TL uses a variety of methods in which to select resources for the collection. They can range from book lists such as Magpies, teacher recommendations, popular best seller lists as well as SCIS, Scootle and other educational blogs.  Acquisitions of resources are naturally dependent on the parameters of the selection policy. An astute TL will be able to identify resources using the policy and add them to the collection.  

Lastly, the teacher librarian needs to adopt the role of a thinker in managing the collection.  Some schools allow for dialogue between the principal and TL about the budget allocation for the year.  Other principals just delegate funds and leave its dispensation to the discretion of the TL. Either way, the TL has to manage the collection in whatever funds are available.  A clever TL is aware of the curriculum and is aware of the teaching practices across the school. This knowledge of curriculum and student learning, when combined with an ability to engage with multiple staff members, maximises the scope of funds available.  In our school, the Dance teacher and the Food Technology teacher were both doing units of work on multicultural practices in Year 8. So my HOD organised sample book packs to be delivered for both teachers to peruse.  The result was that both teachers have combined their funds to obtain a series of books about nations and their cultural practices. This combination of departmental monies has enabled us to address the needs of two departments, increased value to our collection, and all without us having to spend our budget allocation.  My HOD was rather pleased with herself at this point.


Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.) Defintion: Steward. Retrieved from

Piemmons, A., (2010) Student Voice, Student Choice: Students as part of the budgeting process.  Georgia Library Media Association. Retrieved from

School Library Media Specialist (n.d.) Program Administrator: Budget management. Retrieved from

Curriculum + information + access = Superhero

My path to the role of teacher librarian is but a fortuitous accident.  A recent graduate, blissfully unaware of the actual requirements, I blithely applied for the role citing my repertoire of favourite novels, familiarity with Dewey and my flexible nature in the requested selection criteria. In hindsight, I flinch at my old self, but obviously the principal saw something within me that I had not envisaged.  Fast forward six months, and I have gained valuable insight into the role of a teacher librarian; progressed to full registration and now am a permanent member of staff as a teacher librarian.

Figure 1 – Trombetta (2017)


The role of a teacher librarian has changed dramatically from memories of high school, which had T/L as the “the literature expert at the school” (Braxton 2008).  These bastions of knowledge, could with great skill, able to place the right books into correct hands using age, developmental ability, curriculum and abilities as criteria.  But these days, the teacher librarian themselves have grown into a powerful resource due to the dynamic way information is now sourced.

The advent of the portable devices and the ubiquitous use of the internet has permanently changed how we learn.   Instead of numerous shelves holding reference books, journals and encyclopaedias, most school libraries are equipped with databases, online newspapers and encyclopaedias with a significantly smaller physical collection.  But with such transition comes with a transformation in practice and this has been described by  ALIA (2004) – Teacher Librarian in their standards.

The first role of a TL is a curriculum leader.  Whilst wearing this hat, T/Ls work with heads of departments and the executive to ensure that information literacy skills are embedded across the curriculum and school.  They work with classroom teachers to “plan, teach and evaluate…to ensure the effective integration of information resources and technologies into student learning” ASLA & ALIA (2014).  This role extends to ensuring access for students with diverse learning needs, cultural backgrounds and for students where social justice may lead to inequity. (Braxton 2008)

An information specialist is another aspect of the role.  Being able to obtain, interpret, provide access and assist students as well as staff in utilising the information management system available.  ASLA & ALIA (2014) clearly state the importance of providing “specialist assistance to students using technology and information resources in and beyond the school and for independent research”.  This is further substantiated by the General Capabilities curriculum which promotes the need of students to become independent learners with a life long learning capacity (ACARA 2014).  

Figure 2 – Trombetta (2017)

The last countenance that ASLA & ALIA (2014) deems to be part of a TL role is as an information services manager. It seems redundant to point out that teacher librarians are also responsible for maintaining the resource collection whether it be physical or electronic.  A TL must also be able to select resources that fulfil the needs of the curriculum as well as meet the needs of the students within the policies, budget and moral frameworks of the school.

So basically, a T/L is a multifaceted superhero fighting a battle against illiteracy and promoting critical thinking… without wings.


Figure 3 – Superhero Teacher Librarian (Jones, G., 2011)


ACARA (2014) General Capabilities Curriculum Overview. accessed 6/3/19

ALIA (2004) ALIA/ASLA standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. accessed 6/3/19

ASLA & ALIA (2014) Learning for the future: developing information services in schools, 2nd Ed. Cited in (accessed 6/3/19)

Braxton B., (2008) Teacher Librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian 35 (3)

Costello, C., (2016) The role of TLs. accessed 6/3/19

Jones, G., (2011) Daring librarian. accessed 6/3/19

Trombetta, S., (2017) 17 quotes that prove librarians are the best. Bookbub. accessed 6/3/19