Personal Reflections

During the beginning of this journey into the world of the teacher librarian this blogger thought she had at least a decent idea of what this role entailed, boy was she wrong! After having observed lessons from a well-established teacher librarian and conducting a few myself, this is the impression I had of the role of the teacher librarian…

  • Read stories to students
  • Facilitate borrowing and returning of resources
  • Teach students how to understand and navigate the dewy-decibel system
  • Assist students, teachers, staff and the school community in locating appropriate resources
  • Add new resources to the library system
  • Facilitate school book fairs
  • Promote reading in the school community
  • Reinforce any areas of learning in the classroom, as specified by the classroom teacher

Now it is clear that while these are some of the aspects of the role of the teacher librarian, the role is far more extensive and complex.

Through personal experience there was some understanding of the relationship between a teacher librarian and a school principal ‘If another teacher was ill, I would be removed from the library and placed on the class in the name of “consistency”, the library was treated as a way to cover teachers RFF and not as a vital component in its own right’ (Cunningham, 2014). However, through investigating for the blog post ‘Principal support for the teacher librarian, what is it? And how to get it?’ it was clear more than ever the impact that a principal can have on the perceived value of the teacher librarian within the school. The investigation reinforced the understanding that a teacher librarian cannot just expect to have the support from the school principal; it is up to the teacher librarian to earn it. They cannot earn support simply by saying what they are doing in the school, although ‘regular communication on the library initiatives, development needs, and collaborative projects helps’ (Australian Library and Information Association [ALIA] & Australian School Library Association [ASLA], 2012; Oberg, 2006). No, they must demonstrate to the principal that they are valuable to the school via demonstrations of leadership from in-service training to staff and collaboration with staff on programs and units of work.

While collaboration seemed to be a vital aspect of any successful school environment, collaboration was always envisioned as being between fellow teachers working within the same stage or the same faculty. The importance of collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians never seemed to be as critical to the success of a school. Not anymore… It is now clear that by ‘combining areas of expertise’ (Todd, 2008, p. 23) the specialised skills that a teacher librarian has, can go a long way to ‘assist in the navigation of this field and help enhance’ (Cunningham, 2014) both programs and their required resources.

As a child born on the cusp of generations X and Y the use of technology to find information is engraved on my brain, no thoughts were ever given to the extent of the impact that technology has on the teacher librarian profession. For it has always been prominent in my world. However, while investigating the importance of “Using evidence-based practice to promote teacher librarian services” for this blog, it was shocking to learn how some are viewing the teacher librarian profession as obsolete. While yes, libraries and therefore teacher librarians must learn to expand beyond the traditional paper text and embrace all that technology has to offer such as ebooks and virtual classrooms; it does not mean that there is no room for the profession in today’s society. In fact, it may be more important than ever!

While information may be available from more sources than ever before, people and students are still going to be faced with the challenge of navigating, as well as understanding these sources and although the development of information processing models in schools should be the ‘responsibility of all staff’ (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2007, p. 10) it is the teacher librarians who often lead staff development on the subject and facilitates school-wide initiatives. The importance of developing information literate students cannot be underestimated ‘Is information literacy just a set of skills?’ yes, yes it is. The mind of this blogger has been well and truly blown over the challenges faced, the opportunities provided to, the responsibilities of and the absolute importance of the teacher librarian to the school community of today. No longer do the day-to-day mechanics of the role of the teacher librarian spring to mind but a complex tapestry of the diverse nature of the role of the teacher librarian.

References.

Australian Library and Information Association & Australian School Library Association. (2012, Dec 10). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved Dec 1, 2013, from Australian School Library Association: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Cunningham, L. (2014, Feb). Forum Posts. Retrieved Feb 10, 2014, from ETL401 201390W D: http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?task=forums&forum_id=ETL401_201390_W_D_Sub2_forum

NSW Department of Education and Training. (2007). Information skills in the school: engaging learners in constructing knowledge. Retrieved Feb 5, 2014, from Curriculum support: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/index.htm

Oberg, D. (2006, Feb). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian , 33 (3), pp. 13-18.

Todd, R. J. (2008). The dynamics of classroom teacher and teacher librarian instructional collaborations. Scan , 27 (2), 19-28.

Is information literacy just a set of skills?

Information literacy is more than just a set of skills. Skills are an individuals ability to do something well, and if information literacy was just an ability, then there would be greater agreement on what information literacy is; on what know-how is required to become information literate and what outcomes are displayed by an information literate person.

There are so many different viewpoints on what it means to be information literate. While investigating the current topic this blogger has found eight different definitions for information literacy. For example, Abilock (2013, p. 1) states Information Literacy is a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social or global purposes.” Whereas Herring (2004, as sighted in Herring, 2006) defines it as “the skills which pupils use to identify the purpose of, locate, process and communicate information concepts and ideas and then reflect upon the effective application of these skills”. How can information literacy be seen as just a set of skills when there is no clear definition of what it really is?

As the definition of information literacy differs so does the process of becoming information literate also vary. Across the globe there are a range of information literacy models being utilised in schools, from the New South Wales [NSW] model (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2007) currently used in NSW, Australia; the Big 6 model (Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1990) used in North America, and the PLUS model (Herring, 2004) in the United Kingdom and many more. While some aspects of each model may be similar [each model encompasses locating information as one of its steps] each model cannot even agree on the number of steps required to becoming information literate some state six, others four, some models only contain three steps. With no agreement on how to become information literate how can information literacy be seen as just a set of skills?

Furthermore, with differing views on what information literacy is and on how to go about achieving it, it is not possible to have a centralised viewpoint on what an information literate individual is able to achieve. While the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004) provides 11 points defining the abilities of an information literate person, these points cover skills such as the ability “to recognise a need for information“, the expertise to “classify, store, manipulate and redraft information collected or generated” and the know-how to “access and use information ethically and legally“. However, due to the extensive number of definitions and models it is impractical to believe that these outcomes will apply to all conditions. Indicating that even the abilities of an information literate person cannot be agreed upon.

In conclusion if information literacy were just an ability to use information well, there would be greater agreement on what information literacy is. Becoming information literate would be a simple, step-by-step process with the fundamentals being embraced by all models across the globe. Finally, the essential skill set of an information literate individual should be similar no matter the framework in place. Due to the lack of consensus it is clear that information literacy is by no means a simple set of skills.

References.

Abilock, D. (2013, 11 22). Information Literacy: Building blocks of research: Overview. Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from NoodleTools: http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/1over/infolit1.html

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., & Berkowitz, R. E. (1990). What is the Big 6? Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from Information and Technology Skills for Student Success: http://big6.com/pages/about.php

Herring, J. (2006, Sep 27). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9

Herring, J. (2004). The PLUS model. Retrieved from http://athene.riv.csu.edu.au/~jherring/PLUS%20model.htm

New South Wales Department of Education and Training. (2007). Information skills in the school. Retrieved 01 24, 2014, from Curriculum programs and support: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/teachingideas/isp/index.htm

Using evidence-based practice to promote teacher librarian services.

Thanks to the increasing influence of technology it is now easier than ever to gather information, and therefore extremely important that teacher librarians [TLs] promote their usefulness to their fellow teachers, their principal and members of their school community [cite]. Not only is the promotion of library services a part of the ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (Australian Library and Information Association & Australian School Library Association, 2012) to which all excellent TLs should aspire; but it also increases awareness of their abilities, enhancing collaboration requests which is well documented as having a significant impact on learning (Fullan, 1999; Gibbs, 2003; Farmer, 2007; Haycock, 2007; Morris, 2007; Todd, The dynamics of classroom teacher and teacher librarian instructional collaborations, 2008). This is why early implementation of evidence-based practice by TLs is so vital.

What is evidence-based practice? According to Todd (2003) and Lamb & Johnson, (2013) evidence-based practice is ‘the process of documenting how a teacher librarian [TL] makes a difference in student learning’, by recording the effectiveness of library initiatives a teacher librarian demonstrates their significance to student learning which may help increase their influence within the school.

How can evidence-based practice be incorporated practically? Firstly, recording the amount of money raised for the school as the result of a book fair, or the number of potential parents who visited library events organised by a TL documents the effectiveness of library promotions. It is simple to measure the difference a TL makes to a program or a unit of study when they have had direct involvement. Lamb & Johnson (2013) provides a great example ‘count the use of proper citations in presentations a few days after a mini-lesson on citing sources’, this demonstrates how easy it is to document TL impact from everyday interactions with student.

However, the multi-faceted role of the TL means that differences that they make to the learning will not always be from direct interaction with students. An example of indirect involvement from a TL; a TL provides in-service training to fellow staff members on web 2.0 resources, this enables teachers to incorporate them into their classrooms thus setting the stage for increased student engagement. In this example a TL can provide evidence or both direct [in-service training] and indirect influence [its subsequent utilization in the classroom]. Questionnaires are a great way to obtain evidence of both measures, providing staff a questionnaire after in-service training asking them to indicate ‘what they learned’ (Todd, Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, 2003), and then providing a follow-up questionnaire a week or more after training asking staff who has incorporated their new skills in the classroom provides documentation of the TLs impact. Alternatively, a TL has evaluated some of the schools’ resources, determined that they no longer meet current standards and has arranged for them to be replaced. Asking teachers to document the quality of resources utilized by students in presentations both before and after improvements were made, provides evidence for the indirect influence on student learning.

In conclusion, it is more important than ever for TLs to promote the differences that they make to learning and to the school community. By incorporating evidence-based practice a TL is able to provide tangible proof of their value to the school, and promote services that may otherwise be underutilized.

Reference.

Australian Library and Information Association & Australian School Library Association. (2012, Dec 10). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved Dec 1, 2013, from Australian School Library Association: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide , 12 (1), 56-65.

Fullan, M. (1999). Deep meaning of inside collaboration. In Change forces: the sequel (pp. 31-41). London: Falmer Press.

Gibbs, R. (2003). Reframing the role of the teacher librarian: the case for collaboration and flexibility. Scan , 22 (3), 4-7.

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide , 13 (1), 25-35.

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2013). Library media program: Evidence-based decisionmaking. Retrieved Jan 6th, 2014, from The School Media Specialist: http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evidence.html

Morris, B. J. (Ed.). (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide , 13 (1), 23-24.

Todd, R. J. (2008). The dynamics of classroom teacher and teacher librarian instructional collaborations. Scan , 27 (2), 19-28.

Todd, R. J. (2003, April 1). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement. Retrieved Jan 16, 2013, from School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/2003/04/students/irrefutable-evidence-how-to-prove-you-boost-student-achievement/

Principal support for the teacher librarian, what is it? And how to get it?

It is of vital importance that teacher librarians have the support of their school principals. A school principal can affect collaboration opportunities and budget. Without the support of principals, teacher librarians would be forced to limit their involvement in the planning and implementation stages of program development and they could have their budgets significantly reduced severely limiting resources. A teacher librarian can gather support from their principal by becoming a mentor to staff, and engaging in regular communication. It is imperative that a teacher librarian gathers support from their school principal as the level of principal support enables teacher librarians to either flourish or fail (Nancy, 2006).

Some fundamental roles and responsibilities of a teacher librarian have improved chances of success through the support of the school principal. Collaboration with teachers, staff, and the wider school community is a requirement of the ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (Australian Library and Information Association; Australian School Library Association , 2012) that ‘increases the capacity to get things done, improve community conditions, in this case the school community and address more successfully the needs of all students’ (Ken, 2007) and it may sound like a simple matter; however, it requires the support of the principal to either permit a flexible schedule which allows the teacher librarian time to collaborate (Morris, 2007) or to ensure that there is a common time for planning (Morris, 2007) for all involved in the collaborative process.

Part of the role of the teacher librarian is to ensure library resources are aligned with current standards and benchmarks as well as planning and budgeting for any improvements that may be required (Australian Library and Information Association; Australian School Library Association , 2012). As it is the school principal that has ultimate control of the allocation of funds to the library budget (Morris, 2007), a supportive principal is therefore fundamentally important if any library is to be able to budget for up-to-date technologies and resources (Morris, 2007) therefore remaining a useful commodity to both staff and students.

A teacher librarian should be able to gather support from their principal by becoming a leader within the school and a mentor to colleagues. This may be achieved through provision of in-service training to staff members (Oberg, 2006) not only is it part of the ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (Australian Library and Information Association; Australian School Library Association , 2012) to which an excellent teacher librarian should aspire; but it is also an effective means of enhancing a teacher librarians value to their principal by demonstrating specialized skills that they are providing the school.

Furthermore regularly communicating with the principal regarding any professional development needs, the status of the library, or of any collaborative projects that the teacher librarian may be apart of (Australian Library and Information Association; Australian School Library Association , 2012; Oberg, 2006) ensures that the principal is kept appraised of all needs and developments. Such appraisal will improve the principals’ ability to “evaluate the success of the library and information literacy programs” (Oberg, 2006) thereby increasing the benefit of the teacher librarian to the school community.

By maintaining a leadership role within the school environment through the provision of in-service training to staff, as well as sustaining regular communication between both the school principal and a teacher librarian they should be able to garner support from their principal. Such support makes the collaborative process easier to arrange and may reduce the rick of substantial budget cuts. Therefore it is imperative that all teacher librarians garner support from their principal if they wish to see their program achieve its maximum potential.

Reference.

Australian Library and Information Association; Australian School Library Association . (2012, Dec 10). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved Dec 1, 2013, from Australian School Library Association: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Ken, H. (2007).Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide , 13 (1), 25-35.

Morris, B. J. (Ed.). (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide , 13 (1), 23-24.

Nancy, E. (2006). Principals’ evaluation of school librarians: A study of strategic and nonstrategic evidence-based approaches. School Libraries Worldwide , 12 (2), 38-51.

Oberg, D. (2006, Feb). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian , 33 (3), pp. 13-18.