The teacher-librarian’s role

As I began this course, I searched for statements of the role of the teacher-librarian [TL]. These were difficult to find both locally and departmentally. At the time I was alarmed by this lack of role description as I felt that it reflected the poor value placed on the role of the TL by education administrators (Barton, 2011, 4 March). While I still believe that, in many cases, the role of the TL is poorly valued, I now realise that this lack of role description may be due more to the changing and evolving nature of the role as priorities change within schools and education.
I found it difficult to describe what exactly the TL role entailed as so much of it goes unnoticed (Barton, 2011, 4 March). Like Heimann (2011, 31 March), I assumed that TLs had a largely resource related role (Barton, 2011, 15 February). They managed the resources, ensured that people got the resources they needed when they needed them and taught other people how to use the resources they wanted to use. My personal observations of TLs stem from my experience over 14 years during which time we had 5 different TLs. As Jegers (2011, 13 April) observed, new TLs tend to focus on the library management role before later developing the collaborative and curriculum support component of the role. Perhaps each of the TLs I had experienced never moved on from their initial management phase. Because of this, I believed that the role of a TL was largely product related.
Through my reading for this subject, I realise that the service TLs provide is equally, if not more, important, than the products (Eisenberg, 2006, p. 80; Herring, 2007, p. 30; Lamb & Johnson, 2008; Londonderry (NH) School District, 2009; Purcell, 2010, p. 31). By virtue of the role title itself, TLs are teachers first (McInerney, 2011, 25 April). There is growing acknowledgement that it is important to first be recognised as a teacher to be seen as a good TL (Marscham, 2011, 17 March; Sharpe, 2011, 14 March; Taylor, 2011, 18 March). From my own experience with professionals engaged to advise and support teachers, it is difficult to respect and acknowledge the expertise of people who have not experienced teaching in a classroom. When you consider the importance of being a teacher first, it becomes immediately apparent that the service component of the role is more valued than the management component.
I recognised information literacy as a key feature of the teacher-librarian’s role early in the course (Barton, 2011, 4 March). I did not however recognise how pervasive this concept could be. Information literacy promotion is interwoven through the course of a TLs daily activities. A TL can promote information literacy practices to some extent, with teachers and students, in every information related task. A TLs input will be more valued and sought after when connections are made between IL and curriculum and learning outcomes (Kemp, 2011, 1 April).
Through the course of this subject I have had several opportunities to interact with our school TL and have come to realise that just because I don’t see things happen doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Lack of promotion of the TLs role has led to a lack of acknowledgement of their importance in the school. Perhaps it was the “invisibility” of the TL role that led me to see the role as mostly product related. TLs need to promote themselves and their library. This, I believe, will be the most difficult part of the role for me, as I have always enjoyed being the supportive player in the background. However, if the school community is to truly appreciate the role that the TL plays in teaching and learning, it is important to promote the services they provide. Where the services provided by the TL are not explicitly recognised and valued, the role itself becomes devalued, leading to the TL being deployed in other areas of the school (Williams, 2011, 2 April). Few TLs are fortunate enough to be in a school where the importance of collaboration and promotion of the library is highly valued (Swartz, 2011, 18 March).
In summary, I have come to realise that the role of the TL is more that of service provider than that of resource manager. With a trained and enthusiastic TL, it should be possible to engage in collaborative planning and to provide a real service for staff and students while promoting the development of information literacy skills. TLs can have a very positive effect on the teaching and learning that occurs in a school, if they want to. I can’t wait!

References
Barton, N. (2011, 4 March). The role of the teacher-librarian. Retrieved from http://nbart29.edublogs.org/2011/03/04/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian/

Barton, N. (2011, 15 February). Role of the teacher-librarian. Retrieved from http://nbart29.edublogs.org/2011/02/15/role-of-the-teacher-librarian/#more-13

Eisenberg, M. B. (2006). Three roles for the 21st-century teacher-librarian. CSLA Journal, 29(2), 21-23.

Heimann, S. (2011, 31 March). Evidence-based practice and its influence on the TL role [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Herring, J. E. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information. (pp. pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Jegers, V. (2011, 13 April). Principal support & successful collaboration: As shared vision [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Kemp, J. (2011, 1 April). Connecting the TL role with learning outcomes [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2008). School library media specialist 2.0: A dynamic collaborator, teacher, and technologist. Teacher Librarian, 36(2), 74-78.

Londonderry (NH) School District. (2009). Sample job description: School library media specialist. Knowledge Quest, 38(2), 80-82.

Marscham, M. (2011, 17 March). role of teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

McInerney, M.-L. (2011, 25 April). Topic 2 the role of the teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the roles of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.

Sharpe, L. (2011, 14 March). Re: Teacher or Librarian which comes first? [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Swartz, G. (2011, 18 March). Role of the TL [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Taylor, A. (2011, 18 March). Re: role of teacher librarian [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

Williams, J. (2011, 2 April). Thoughts on Purcell (2010) [online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?forum_id=ETL401_201130_W_D_Sub2_forum

More on Digital Citizenship – it’s not just about being safe!

So much attention has been given within government, the media and especially in schools to the “dangers” of the Internet.  Many of the policies being developed are focussed on keeping children safe.  In some schools, certain aspects of the Internet (eg youtube, googledocs) are banned altogether.  Much of the reaction in schools, by focussing on keeping students safe, is missing an important point.

Encouraging students to be responsible digital citizens is a 2 sided coin.  It is firstly about empowerment through access and participation, and a part of this is to ensure responsible, respectful and ethical use of ICTs.  By focussing only on the safety issues, and not on the participation opportunities, many schools are “missing the boat” and disempowering students.

We need to teach digital literacy and digital inquiry skills to enable students to gather information from a range of formats, understand it, apply it and communicate it to others (Stripling, 2010, p.16).

Greenhow (2010, p. 24) outlines 6 important 21st century competencies:  technological fluency, innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, problem solving and digital citizenship where digital citizenship is the ability to practice and encourage online behaviour which is legal, ethical, safe and responsible.  The 21st Century Fluency Project lists digital fluencies, since they advocate that the focus must be on the transparent use of ICTs as tools, not a focus on the tool itself.  A digital citizen must therefore develop solution fluency, information fluency, collaboration fluency, creativity fluency and media fluency.

As teachers, we first need to develop and model these competencies and fluencies ourselves before teaching them to our students.  So we need to “get connected” and begin participating in social network systems– blogging, bookmarking and developing our own personal learning networks.

This topic has inspired me so much I am going to base my first assignment on it.

The video below reinforces the idea that it is not just about being safe, it is about being there.

Digital Citizenship

As I have been exploring the many digital tools and resources being introduced through this course I began to become enthused about the possibilities for use in the classroom.  Social bookmarking, for creating schoolwide, collaborative resource banks; blogs for classroom, school, student and teacher interaction; googledocs for collaborative creating.  I began working with my departmental laptop.  So much of the social and participation sites were blocked.  I couldn’t access facebook or set up a yahoo account using my school laptop.  Couldn’t access googledocs.  I’m sure there was more.  I know I can contact someone to have these sites unblocked and I am sure there valid reasons for blocking those sites.  But I am noticing that the immediate reaction to the potential difficulties with many of the sites has been a blanket ban on them.  Yet our job is education.  The overriding message through all of my reading on transliteracy and digital citizenship has been that education is the key.  The fact is that our students are going to grow up in a digital world and they need to learn the skills to participate responsibly in that world.  As educators it is our job to teach them those skills and develop those values. 

This video by fosi makes an important point (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=e0I13tKrxcA).  Teaching students about digital literacy is not just about safety.  If it was just safety, then perhaps a ban is an acceptable answer.  It is about empowering them to participate in the digital world.  Through bans on these tools, students are disadvantaged.  Let’s embrace the tools and use them to empower students to become lifelong learners and full participants in the world around them.

P.S. Now I am using my own laptop I feel free and empowered!  Free!!!

The Role of the Teacher-librarian – a critical reflection

The variety and scope within the role of the teacher-librarian has not been obvious to me in my teaching experience.  I have often seen the TL supporting the classroom teacher by providing resources and taking lessons, usually computer skills based, but rarely has this support gone beyond some resourcing or computer skills aspect of a current unit of work.

On reading several views of the role of the TL it is interesting and promising to note the significance given to the collaborative nature of the role (Herring, 2005; Lamb & Johnson, 2008; Purcell, 2010).  Purcell’s roles of program administrator and information specialist have been visible roles of the TL but the roles of instructional partner and teacher have had limited significance.  While I believe the TL role offers a great opportunity in the way of leadership (both in the areas of curriculum and information literacy as distinguished by Herring), I believe that this potential often goes largely untapped, either through lack of acknowledgement by administration or through a lack of effort on the part of the TL.  Lamb and Johnson suggest that TLs leadership activities should be “woven through the school curriculum”.  So much depends on the individual person’s interpretation and implementation of the role.

On searching for my school’s role description for the TL, there was none.  Nor could I find one on the departmental website.  Is the role of TL so poorly valued that it is often not even worth a description?  I am undertaking this training in the hope of obtaining a TL position at some time in the future.  Yet it is possible to obtain a TL position without even having the required qualifications prior to job start.  Some organisations require some commitment to undertake this training but is this enough?  In how many career choices is it possible to obtain the position without the qualifications?  This is not a comment on unqualified TLs currently working within the system but rather on the system itself that holds so little value for the position that it is willing to employ unqualified personnel.

Through my reading about the role of the TL, I am developing an understanding of the many roles that they are required to fill.  Of these, I believe that collaboration and leadership, in the areas of curriculum and information literacy, are most vital.  Indeed, what was previously the most obvious (to me) role of the TL, that of resource management, now seems very minor indeed.

References

Herring, J. E. (2005). the end of the teacher-librarian. Teacher Librarian, 33(1), 26-29.

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2008). School library media specialist 2.0: A dynamic collaborator, teacher, and technologist. Teacher Librarian, 36(2), 74-78.

Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do Is Check Out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.

Teacher-librarians as team leaders

Teacher-librarians potentially have many opportunities to participate in and lead teams within schools (eg curriculum planning, professional development, policy development). From reading Law and Glover (2000) I have developed my understanding of how TLs can ensure that teams that they lead are effective. It is important to recognise that every team is firstly a collection of individuals with individual personalities, needs and goals. Once these individualities are recognised, a good leader will do their best to exploit these for the good of the team. Each member of the team should have a chance to introduce themselves to the team (even if members are already known to one another) in terms of their interest, prior knowledge, needs and goals relevant to the team’s current goal or tasks. Through attention to this early “forming” stage, the team has a better chance of success. TLs should then work forward from these individual needs and goals towards a shared understanding of the group’s goals and tasks, including some discussion of the routines, procedures and schedules to be followed. It is important that the TL have a good understanding of the different characteristics of team members which may make them more suited to some group roles than others (eg action oriented roles, people oriented roles and cerebral roles (Law and Glover, 2000, p 80-81)). This should allow the TL to be proactive with regard to dealing with expected weaknesses and strengths for each team member. Vital to the team’s effectiveness is time to develop as a team and an unambiguous, shared goal.

I don’t know but I can find out

Many years ago, my son had a lot of medical issues, neurological and otherwise and we had to consult with doctors, specialists and therapists from many different fields. They all had different ways of communicating with me – some effective, some not so much. Some seemed to have all the answers, some didn’t seem so trustworthy and you sometimes felt that they were holding something back. I came to realise that I did not trust or respect doctors who “knew it all” or at least liked you to think that they did. The doctors who impressed me the most, and whom I found to be most trustworthy, were those who, in answer to a question of mine said, “I don’t know but I will find out for you.” The doctor who was always ready with the “answers” sometimes appeared to be just paying lip service to my information demands. The digital learning age needs to equip all users with this ability – to understand that it is OK not to know everything immediately, but that we need to know how to find out. Learning skills are vital – we have digital means to locate and store information, but we need to develop the skills to use these tools effectively.

In a recent school audit I was concerned about the interview process as I thought I would be expected to know everything off the top of my head. I do not know my planning and curriculum documents that well – but I do know how to locate them on my laptop. Luckily for me, the auditor also acknowledged the importance of knowing how and where to retrieve the information, over the value of instant recall.

With information of all kinds available at the click of a button, we should be teaching learning skills rather than knowledge (Richardson, 2010).  Students need to know how to learn and how to access the information they need to know.

My first post

OK, so I have started a blog.  Did it because it is a requirement for ETL401 in my Masters and now the challenge is to figure out what to do with it!  I know I am supposed to reflect on my learning but this is something I am still learning how to do.  So I guess jumping right in is the best way to start.  I am loving the reading and the challenge of moving out of my comfort zone.  While it is at times a little daunting, information is something I am finding that I just can’t get enough of.  So, with the help of this blog, I fully intend to make the most of my year of study.