Reflective Portfolio

Task: Provide a critical synthesis of your reflection on how your views, knowledge and understanding of the work of a teacher librarian has been formed and shaped to be a responsive and effective information services leader and teacher librarian.

Had I stepped into the role of TL two years ago, I’m embarrassed to admit that if I had been able to maintain status quo with a few minor tweaks, I would have felt satisfied with the position that the school library was in. Now that I am on the cusp of commencing work as a TL in a purpose designed building, I am so grateful and excited about the transformation in knowledge, skills, attitude and connections through this course that have  prepared me to be a forward thinking, innovative, passionate, collaborative colleague in a vibrant, highly relevant space for engaged students and teachers.

This reflective portfolio of my learning journey while studying Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) will explore the areas in which I have been challenged, inspired and, as a result, better equipped to step forward and embrace the challenges of working as a TL.

The role of the teacher librarian.

Commencing the course by exploring the role of the TL in ETL 401 sparked a pivotal change in my understanding and passion for teacher librarianship. After analysing the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians (ALIA/ASLA, 2004) and reading blogs and articles of innovative leaders in the profession, I no longer saw the contribution of the teacher librarian as an extra to the learning that takes place in the classroom, but came to recognise the significant difference that collaborative planning and innovative teaching could have on the school community.

While exploring the role of the TL I came to understand the importance of advocacy. As I explored here (Grivell, 2012a) the role of the TL is often misunderstood, even by principals. Having this highlighted to me early in my study has been helpful. It has prepared me to explain the role of the TL, their relevance in this ever-changing information environment and to feel confident in the skills, knowledge and approaches that the TL contributes to the learning community. It has also prepared me to be proactive in initiating collaborative partnerships with teachers so that teachers actively see and learn about how the TL can contribute to the learning in Units of Inquiry. In addition to this, it has prepared me to be proactive in communicating with school leadership, initiate evidence based practise and to understand that being an ‘invisible keeper of books’ only contributes to the common but misunderstood perception that school libraries and librarians are destined for extinction.

Embracing technology and web 2.0 tools that are available & the importance of Information Literacy

In some of my early blog posts (including amazing (Grivell 2012b) I expressed my desire to embrace technology. Looking back and reading “by the time I’ve finished this study, the school library will probably start to look very different to what it does today. This is not a bad thing. It’s exciting to see and be a part of embracing changes… may change and innovation be my friends” (Grivell, 2012c) I can recognise that I began this course with the immediate realisation that I did indeed need to embrace new things in order to be effective in the role of the TL. I needed to put aside my fear of trying new things. The constant introduction to new web 2.0 tools throughout the course together with the scaffolding and strong collegial network within the profession and through the Interact forums has helped me delve into ways we can use technology as tools for discovering, communicating and collaborating to learn.

After creating my blog (Grivell, 2012c), using Weebly to construct a pathfinder (Grivell, 2012d) for ETL 501 Information Environment, exploring a range of bookmarking sites, apps and online teaching resources, I no longer feel nervous about new technology tools, nor am I merely ‘warming’ to using new tools as I described in this post (Grivell, 2012b), but I now realise that a little bit of time to explore new tools is well spent and adds to my TL toolkit. Exploring Google Lit Trips when studying Historical Fiction in ETL 403 is an example. Being a little familiar with this idea led to the introduction of these to a unit on Australia with a class recently. I recognise that shying away from new technology limits the impact the role of the TL can have in impacting learning to the Units of Inquiry and prevents the TL from being a forward facing, innovative practitioner.

As I explored here (Grivell, 2012e), since commencing this course I have been challenged by friends, colleagues and strangers about the relevance of teacher librarianship. It was learning about and articulating my understanding in blog posts and assignments about the increased need for information literacy to prevent students becoming victims of the copy and paste generation that enabled me to respond with conviction about the relevance of TLs today. Further to this, articles shared through forum posts, an assignment exploring website evaluation and discussions on the forums for ETL 501 helped me to understand the need for explicit teaching of being responsible and considerate online citizens who respect copyright laws and use social media safely. With the vast amount of information that students need to wade through, I am finishing this course more convinced than ever of the need to teach information literacy and to have this embedded in all Units of Inquiry so that students become critical and creative thinkers who are equipped to navigate and use information and technology with purpose now and in the future.

Photo credit: Pirillo & Fitz on Edwize (cartoon)

Exploring a range of information literacy models including Big6 and Super3 (Eisenberg and Berkowitz, 2012), Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (2012) and Herring’s PLUS model (2004) for an assignment in ETL 401 consolidated my understanding of the processes to guide and teach students to access and use information. However, preparing my blog post IL is more than a set of skills… it is learning power! (Grivell, 2012f) and readings for ETL 501 Information Environment helped me to grasp the importance of the attitudes and approaches to information literacy that are essential for students today to prepare them for life long learning. I now recognise the need for “students to be taught skills and attitudes that will empower them to thrive in an ever changing information world” (Grivell, 2012f). Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that students are challenged to evaluate information from an early age and are taught to think critically. I am still motivated by Valenza’s phrase that encouraging reflection and questioning of the information literacy process equips students with “power to be better learners for the rest of their lives” (2004).

Collection management

Commencing ETL 503 Resourcing the Curriculum proved to be a significant turning point in my understanding of the role of the TL. Again I was challenged and inspired by the notion that school librarians need to be innovative and forward thinking to ensure that the collection is highly relevant. In no way is the mindset of maintaining status quo in relation to the collection going to ensure that the collection is serving the teachers and students and their learning needs. This change in mindset is something I explored in Not just in case! (Grivell, 2013a)

I was comforted when resourcing a unit for my first assignment in ETL 503. I came to realise I was on the right track with resourcing Units of Inquiry. Prior to this course I had often located resources for students and teachers and kept their interests, the layout of the item, text difficulty and the relevance of the information in mind. I further consolidated this understanding when resourcing a unit with a range of historical fiction for ETL 402 Literature in Education. This subject highlighted the important role literature can play in adding depth to a unit and broadened my understanding of how a range of literature can be used within one unit. Exploring both ETL 503 and ELT 402 challenged me to consider the range of resources required to resource the curriculum and the varying needs and learning styles of learners. Prior to my study I had not considered the importance of keeping these factors in mind when considering the collection as a whole.

In addition considering the broad needs of uses and ensuring that texts match these needs, I was also challenged by Ondrack (2004) and Hughes –Hassell & Mancall (2005) with the importance of ensuring that the collection is effective in resourcing the curriculum and student needs of the particular school. As I wrote in Not just in case! (Grivell, 2013a) “I am also more certain of the need to have a firm grasp of the curriculum so that resources are not acquired ‘just in case’ but with great certainty that they will enhance teaching and learning and ensure that the library remains “a central part of the teaching process” (Shantz-Keresztes, 2002)”.

Prior to ETL 503 I had never considered the importance of weeding to ensure that the collection is not crowded by irrelevant or out-dated items. Maintaining status quo and ignoring the importance of weeding is another example of how the collection needs to be focussed on the current curriculum and current users. I found it empowering and refreshing to learn through Kennedy (2006) how a collection policy could guide the weeding process and eliminate potential controversy about not retaining items purchased with the often limited school library budget.

Seeing the effects of significant weeding in the children’s department on my placement at Victor Harbor Public Library confirmed what I had learned about weeding. Adding further weight to my understanding came when hearing the consistent message on my study tour in Melbourne that weeding and offsite storage were essential to create additional sought after study and meeting spaces. In addition to this my placement provoked reflection on the need to weed to increase access to the collection. An over crowded space is less inviting and difficult for users and staff to maintain shelves in an orderly, inviting manner. I am now convinced that weeding is essential to ensure that the collection meets the needs of users, not just in terms of the collection but to ensure that library spaces meet other user needs as well.

The need to formally and informally evaluate the collection provided yet another helpful guide for me to ensure that my approach to the school library collection is so much more than maintaining status quo. I came to learn that “without careful evaluation and analysis, gaps in the collection can be overlooked, long term planning may not be in synch with the direction of the school and therefore funds may not be used to best meet the needs of the library users” (Grivell, 2013a).

The practical nature of the second assignment in ETL 503 highlighted to me the need for school libraries to have a collection policy. Learning about collection policy content and purpose increased my confidence in maintaining the collection with clear direction of the selection and acquisition process. As I wrote in my blog, the ideas of Kennedy (2006) helped to deepen my understanding “of the importance of policies to inform future planning and spending, and to recognise their importance in communicating decisions to maintain consistency though staff changes and as a tool to avoid selection bias” (Grivell, 2013a).

Completing ETL 505 Bibliographic Standards extended on my learning of collection management further as I came to understand in greater depth how metadata is used to catalogue resources. Exploring the role of metadata and the importance of items being easily identified and retrieved consolidated my understanding of the systems I have seen being used in information agencies and the importance of these systems being efficient so that items are readily available to users. I appreciated seeing how different information agencies broke from traditional cataloguing of particular items to increase access for their users. This helped me to decrease my focus on cataloguing rules and increase my focus on the needs of the users.


The penultimate subject for me was ETL 504 (Teacher Librarian as Leader) and it was this subject that enabled me to shift my thinking from lists of ‘to dos’ in the role of the teacher librarian to recognising the importance of leadership, innovation, forward thinking and being proactive in leading others. Through the readings such as Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005) who highlighted characteristics of different leadership styles, together with the depth of thought required to construct a leadership concept map, I was able to reflect deeply on the importance of being a leader. As I discussed here (Grivell, 2014a) and here (Grivell, 2014b), leadership cannot be left to chance. Without effective leadership, status quo cannot even be maintained. It is therefore imperative that, as the teacher librarian, I step up, embrace the skills of my team, embrace innovation, lead with sensitivity and courage and employ effective communication skills.

Concept map of leadership for ETL 504

Concept map of leadership for ETL 504

Possibly even more impacting than learning about leadership styles and the importance of effective leadership and strategic planning was recognising myself as a leader. As I explored here (Grivell, 2014a) and here (Grivell 2014b), being willing to view myself as a leader in the role of the TL, has given me confidence to step up, speak up and share my insights, support visions and decisions made by school leadership and be confident to lead strategic planning for the library with the school vision in mind so that the library serves as a hub of innovative learning. As a result, maintaining status quo will not be a part of the innovative approaches to learning in the school library that I work in.

After learning about and reflecting on leadership, I felt that the study tour in Melbourne and my placement at Victor Harbor Public Library further consolidated my understanding of the necessity of a teacher librarian to be a proactive leader. Listening to librarians discuss aspects of the visions and strategic plans for their libraries added depth to my understanding of how leadership in this area is critical in ensuring that libraries remain relevant and therefore meet the needs of their users today and in the future. As I explored here (Grivell, 2014c), the vision that Library @ The Dock established about the library being a forward facing place to connect is a clear example of not leaving the vision to chance. It takes leadership to communicate the vision and to ‘get people on board’ (Kotter, n.d). As I move into a new role and library space, I will not be leaving the culture and atmosphere to chance. Instead, taking the lead from Library @ The Dock, creating a culture where people feel welcome and where innovation is a priority will be a part of a well communicated strategic plan and will not be left to chance.

Another example of leadership that I was able to see and felt challenged by through my placement and study tour was effectively embracing the skills of volunteers to add to the library programs. At the State Library of Victoria my understanding of embracing volunteers was challenged as I learned that volunteer roles are advertised and need to be applied for. Having given considerable thought to how volunteers could add to the school library following my study tour, I utilised my placement to explore procedures that effectively match volunteers to particular roles within the library and strategies employed to minimise the need for micro management of volunteers. Having the opportunity to explore both the theoretical and practical leadership approaches to volunteers, I now feel equipped to lead and ensure that the library and the learners at my school are able to benefit from the rich and diverse skills of volunteers in our community.

Meeting the needs of the users

Through the diverse subjects of this course, seeing the wide range of libraries on my study tour and learning how a local public library places priorities on their services, I finish this course realising that meeting the needs of the library users is central to being effective in the role of the TL. In my post Text selection: not by date of manufacture but for individuals (Grivell, 2014d) I discussed the importance of selecting texts with users in mind and echoed Travers and Travers advice of “the secret to leading a child to the right book is not only knowing the books but also knowing the child” (2008, p. 9). Seeing the diverse needs of the uses of the libraries on my study tour and how the various libraries operate with varying hours, furniture arrangements, borrowing policies and programs, highlighted to me that meeting the needs of the users extends well beyond the collection.

If keeping the needs of the users and being sensitive to why and how these change over time is at the fore of strategic planning, collection management and teaching and learning experiences, the school library will remain an innovative hub of learning and a relevant space for all in the school community. I wholeheartedly agree with Joyce Valenza that the“library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!” (2010). It’s time to use the knowledge and apply the forward thinking attitudes I have developed to whip up a storm in the school library.


Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library      Association (ASLA) (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher            librarians, Australian School Library Association/Australian Library and Information Association, Zillmere, Qld.

Grivell, S. (2012a, September 5). Principal support. Retrieved January 13, 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2012b, August 17). Amazing. Retrieved January 13, 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2012c, July 8). A new journey. Retrieved January 2015 from  

Grivell, S. (2012d). Farm to table pathfinder. Retrieved January 2015 from

Grivell, S. (2012e, July 29). Evidence based practice – preventing teacher librarian         extinction. Retrieved January 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2012f, September 24). IL is more than a set of skills – it’s learning power!   Retrieved January 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2013a, November 16). Not ‘just in case’!. Retrieved January 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2014a, August 7). It’s time to step up! Retrieved January 2015 from

Grivell, S. (2014b, October 1). Perception is everything. Retrieved January 2015 from   

Grivell, S. (2014c, September 29). Melbourne study tour day 1- day 4. Retrieved          January 2015 from    tour-day-1-day-4/

Grivell, S. (2014d, January 15). Text selection: not by date of manufacture but for         individuals. Retrieved January, 2015 from            individuals/#

Kennedy, J. (2006). Collection Management: A concise introduction (rev. ed.). Wagga   Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University

Marzano, R., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. (2005). School leadership that works: From       research to results.
Alexandria, Va:Association for Supervision and Curriculum          Development.

Ondrack, J. (2004). Great Collection! But is it enough?. School Libraries in Canada,    23(3).

Herring, J. (2004). The internet and Information Skills: a guide for teachers and school   librarians, London: Facet Publishing.

Hughes-Hassell, S., & Mancall, J. (2005). Collection Management for Youth: Responding to the needs of Learners. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-Step Process for Leading Change. Kotter International –          Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved May 13, 2013 from principles/changesteps/changesteps

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2012). Information Search Process. Retrieved August 28, 2012 from   

Shantz-Keresztes, L. (2002). School library collections: Form here to eternity. School         Libraries in Canada, 21(4), 9-11.

Travers, B. E. & Travers, J. F. (2008). Children, literature and development :            interactions and insights. In Children’s literature : a developmental perspective (pp. 2-17). Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons.

Valenza, J. (2004). Substantive searching: Thinking and behaving info-fluently.   Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(3), 38-43

Valenza, J. (2011). What librarians make. Or Why should I be more than a Librarian?     Vimeo. Retrieved from

Perception is everything. Reflective critical analysis. ETL 504, Assignment 2

Assignment 2 Part B – provide a critical reflection on what you have learnt as you examined leadership in depth during this subject. How has this subject extended your knowledge and understanding of the role of the teacher librarian as leader?

Examining leadership in ETL504 has been empowering for me. As I shared in my blog here  (Grivell, 2014a) and here (Grivell, 2014b), recognising that I can step up and demonstrate leadership (and that it is an imperative part of being an effective TL) has given me confidence to perceive myself as a leader and seek to learn more about how I can lead.   With an increased awareness from the readings in this subject of how to motivate others, share visions, solve problems, develop collaborative teams, actively listen and have a hopeful, forward facing mindset, I now have greater confidence in my ability to lead in the library.

Learning about leadership styles highlighted to me that my initial thoughts on leadership (Grivell, 2014c) reflected qualities of a transformational leader but I also recognised the importance of distributive leadership. I initially described a leader as “being a forward thinking person who is willing to put planning as a priority and willing to open doors to change” (Grivell, 2014c). However I was unsure of how to go about documenting this or where to begin to justify the need for change. Reading Matthews and Matthews (2013), Nelson (2008) and Wong (2012) helped me to recognise the importance of articulating the need for change and establishing visions and goals to steer the direction of the school library. My understanding of this was further heightened as I visited libraries for the ETL507 study tour (Grivell, 2014d). I came to learn and reflected on how the varying needs of users are essential in forming the vision and goals and, as a result, have a deeper understanding of Nelson’s statement “excellence must be defined locally. It results when library services match community needs, interests, and priorities” (2008, p. 5).

Looking back to my Critical Reflection for ETL401 (Grivell, 2012) I remember feeling inspired by other TLs who shared their innovative approaches with technology. I hoped I too could be innovative as a TL. What I grossly underestimated was the necessity of being innovative as a TL in areas beyond integrating technology and to perceive myself as an innovative leader who embraces change. I now recognise, as Matthews and Matthews (2013, p. 1) highlight, the importance of looking beyond maintaining status quo, identifying the key needs and priorities of the library users and making a concerted effort to plan and think big about the future to ensure that innovation is not simply left to chance, but is an intentional approach to Equip 21st Century learners. I am determined to remember Kotter’s (n.d.) reminder that leadership is about change and this subject has helped me to embrace a more proactive mindset for this.

When I wrote ‘It is time to step up‘ (Grivell 2014b), perceiving myself as leader was a significant step forward for me. However, it was the readings in module 2 about leading change and in module 4 about communication that led me to recognise that leadership skills can be developed and improved. I was particularly challenged to analyse my own approaches about decision making when reading Adair (2010) and encouraged by Belbin (2010), Bender, 2005) and Shearouse (2011) to approach potentially difficult situations with new strategies and greater confidence in my communication skills as a leader. I am now intentionally putting into place the active listening skills that I referred to in ‘they’re too prickly‘ (Grivell, 2014e) which have enabled discussions to begin, end and include hopeful and positive conversations. I am determined to continue listening more attentively and heed the advice that “40% of leadership is listening; the rest is doing something about it!” (Minute MBA, n.d.).

In my critical reflection for assignment 1 (Grivell, 2014b) I discussed the need for leaders to lead people. On my recent study tour visit to State Library of Victoria my understanding of this grew as I learned about their proactive approach to utilising and managing volunteers and their skills. It was clear in this situation that having a strategic plan was ensuring that volunteers were not simply working aimlessly but were there to “support the service priorities (to) result in more effective library services” (Nelson, 2008, p. 62). Advertising and matching people to specific volunteer roles is an example of how having and actioning a strategic plan “motivates people to take action in the right direction… (and) helps to coordinate the actions of different people in a remarkably fast and efficient way” (Kotter, n.d). Including how volunteers will be organised in the strategic planning of the school library is just one example of how I intend to step up and lead people to ensure all who work in the library can collaboratively and purposefully work towards enhancing student learning.

A forum post from a peer (Husarek, 2014) sharing a quote about leaders needing hope has kept me reflecting and pondering the importance of this for effective leadership. I wrote about this here (Grivell, 2014f). I am determined to perceive myself as and be a hopeful leader as I step into a TL role next year. “Here’s hoping it helps to make the library a place where things can happen, ideas can be created and positive partnerships are established and grown” (Grivell, 2014e).


Adair, J. E. (2010). Key problem solving strategies. Decision making and problem solving strategies (pp. 45-53). London: Kogan Page.

Belbin, R. M. (2010). Chapter 9. The art of building a team. Team roles at work (2nd ed., pp. 97-106). Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Bender, Y. (2005). Building effective communication. The tactful teacher: Effective communication with parents, colleagues, and administrators (pp. 3-18). White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press.

Grivell, S. (2014a, August 17). I need to recognise myself as a leader [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014b, August 17). It’s time to step up [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014c, August 17). Initial thoughts about leadership [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014d, September 29). Melbourne Study Tour Day 1 – Day 4 [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2012). Part B: Critical Reflection [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014e, September 29). “They’re too prickly… Good communication can prevent poor perceptions [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014f, September 30). Hope. So important. Keep it always [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Husarek, L. (2014, July, 28). Teacher Librarian as Leader, Topic 3 [online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-Step Process for Leading Change. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved May 13, 2013 from

Matthews, S. and Matthews K. (2013). Crash Course in Strategic Planning. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited

MinuteMBA. (2012, November 13). Let Your Ears Do the Talking: How Good Managers Listen. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Nelson, S. (2008). Part one: The planning process. Strategic planning for results (pp. 3-139). Chicago: ALA Editions

Shearouse, S. H. (2011). Reaching agreement: a solution seeking model. Conflict 101: A manager’s guide to resolving problems so everyone can get back to work (pp. 195-214). New York: American Management Association.

Wong, Tracey. (2012). Strategic long-range planning. Library Media Connection 31.2 (2012): 22-23.

Hope. So important. Keep it always.

When a fellow student (Lorraine Husarek, 28/7.2014, Topic 3, ETL 504) shared Napoleon Bonaparte’s quote “A leader is a dealer in hope” I kept thinking how true this is of the leaders in my school and how essential it is for leaders to have hope. If the people leading present as ‘giving up’ or despairing, the followers are left without a positive vision or purpose. As the modules and especially the reading from Kotter (n.d.) on managing change highlighted, it is essential that people recognise the value in where the leader is leading them. Without a hopeful leader, there are unlikely to be hopeful, committed and active followers.

Months later, I am still pondering the importance of leaders ‘dealing in hope.’ Now that I see the absolute necessity of being hopeful as a leader, I am considering the practical ways that leaders at my school are hopeful. Being open to new initiatives, being active listeners and being determined to end challenging situations with positive outcomes, showing grace, dreaming big and believing in people are some of the ways that they demonstrate hope.

Being hopeful is not something I would have included in a list if I had to give my ‘top 10 qualities of a leader’ before hearing this quote. However, I know I will be approaching my TL role next year in a hope-filled way. Here’s hoping it helps to make the library a place where things can happen, ideas can be created and positive partnerships are established and grown.


Husarek, L. (2014, July, 28). Teacher Librarian as Leader, Topic 3 [online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-step process for leading change. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved September 5, 2014, from

Melbourne Study Tour Day 1-Day 4

Day 1 

State Library of Victoria

I wondered how a non borrowing library could be appealing and relevant to users today but I walked away with a greater understanding of the specialised role that the library plays in maintaining state history and how it provides many services that are relevant for a range of interests and age ranges. The key words used to describe the volunteer programs (enhance, extend, assist and compliment), the illustrations of how volunteers’ skills are used to make the library more relevant and accessible to its users, and the strategic approach to recruiting and training volunteers has challenged me to consider the way volunteers are utilised and managed in my work situation. I liked the way the focus was on volunteers ‘adding value’ to the current programs.

Evaluation – Not having had a diverse exposure to libraries other than school, university (as a student) and community libraries, this visit provided an excellent insight into the varying specialist roles of librarians (eg family history, Australian History, Arts, archives etc.). Learning about how a large non-borrowing library creates initiatives to be relevant to its users today was invaluable in highlighting the need for innovation. The tour was helpful but also felt a little overwhelming.

Rating: 4/5

William Angliss Institute of TAFE

Our visit to William Angliss Institute of TAFE helped to build a bigger picture for me of the importance of digitising resources. Already reoccurring themes for the tour are building like having only a portion of resources on display, digitising older resources and making these available through Trove (to increase access and preserve originals like the Zimmerman banquet menu collection). Meeting the needs of users by including a menu collection, resources mostly in a small Dewey range and having furniture to cater for the ‘resting’ needs of people in the catering industry are examples of how this library caters for the needs of its unique users. Budget cuts were topical at the time we visited. I wasn’t convinced of the strategic approach to consider users but appreciate it is a sensitive issue.

Evaluation –

Learning about the historical collections and the importance and passion of recording the culinary past of the state broadened my understanding of the role of libraries meeting its users needs and an institution’s place within the community. This also prompted me to consider how archives are being approached at my school.I found the discussion about accepting donations useful. Regardless of the collection’s monetary value, the importance of ensuring donations meet the collection policy and can be disposed of reinforced further that the overarching issues in libraries are similar.I will definitely be passing on the details of this library to the Food Tech teachers.

Rating: 4/5

Day 2

RMIT Swanston Street Campus Library

Some of the ways that RMIT are adapting to meet the needs of their users include self checkout, roving reference librarians (who can work from iPads), reducing the number of items on display to include more study and discussion spaces (with a range of seating arrangements) and creating animated Libguides (that are concise and engaging). I liked the idea of doing away with the reference desk (although the physical desk is heritage listed) and creating a central area like banks and Centrelink use. From here staff move around but service can be found in a central location.

While the tour through acquisitions was a bit over my head, the tour with the architecture librarian was helpful in illustrating how maintaining physical resources is essential to meeting user needs. This was a contrast to other areas where e-resources are a priority.

Evaluation – This visit was invaluable in highlighting the need for libraries to utilise broader skills such as those of a communication specialist to ensure that the services are more accessible to users. I also left feeling like there was an effective long term plan and vision. While some of this was explained to us, there seemed to be consistent messages about this from the people who spoke to us. This illustrated how having long term plans and visions and communicating these well with staff has positive results.

Rating: 5/5

Library of the Federal Court

The language and content discussed in this visit highlighted yet again how libraries serve to meet the specific needs of users (in this case it is primarily the judges of Australia). While the public is welcome to browse the collection, this library does not hold catering for the needs of the public as a priority. It was therefore no surprise that all borrowing priorities are given to the judges, there is no public borrowing and wifi is not offered to the public. I found it interesting that weeding is not a long-term priority at the moment and that only some journals are being acquired in digital formats. The use of physical resources is a priority for the users. Given that the library services may be required during high pressure situations, the library staff and environment appeared very calm.

Evaluation – While interesting, I felt this visit was of limited value. The purpose of this library is so specific and the user needs are vastly different from the user needs in a school library. Having recently read so much about strategic planning and the need for librarians to be innovative, the focus in this library (as it needs to be) appeared to be about maintaining status quo. It therefore, didn’t provide any inspiration for long term planning or innovation for the school library setting.

Rating 2/5

Day 3

Victoria University City Flinders Library

The stand out of this visit was listening to the empathetic way that the library service supports students in their learning. It was refreshing to hear that every attempt (through computer access, minimal fines etc) is made to support students to complete degrees regardless of their financial situation.

After visiting RMIT, the need to analyse the staff structure and skill set stood out. Listening to a subject librarian at VU speak left me convinced that the role seemed disconnected from the needs of the students. I did, however, appreciate learning about the Rover program. The idea of having students apply for, be trained in some library services and then provide a triage style service seemed beneficial for students, the Rovers and the library staff too.

Evaluation – The open and honest (but at times negative) sharing from the presenters certainly provided great insight. Since the visit was so soon after RMIT’s, comparisons were naturally drawn which was helpful for me to identify how an effective vision and staffing structure can enhance a service. This is something I felt VU could do better.

I also benefited from the sharing about self checkout and returns, digital resources, copyright issues, publisher restrictions, libguides, printing systems, and the weeding guidelines in the collection policy.

Rating: 4/5

Lenton Parr Music, Visual and Performing Arts Library

It was fascinating to learn how this library meets the specific needs of their users – the students of the Victorian College of Arts. I appreciated learning how the subject specific resources (such as music scores, LPs etc) are shelved, acquired (including through many small galleries and publishers) and catalogued. Our presenter, Georgina, communicated with passion about the library profession, interest and appreciation of the arts schools that the library provides services for and with an understanding of and a desire to support the students and their unique learning needs. It struck me that her positive, enthusiastic team approach is a key to ensuring that this library is relevant today and effectively changes as the needs of the users do (removing reference desk, digital resources, advocating for additional study spaces, current magazines, PS3).

Evaluation – This was a very inspiring visit largely because our presenter shared passion and a desire to work collaboratively with staff, students and library associations. I was inspired to hear her ‘can do’ approach and willingness to share priorities which led to some decisions (ie CDs not being used much and therefore time and money is not invested in re-cataloguing) being made.

Rating: 5/5

Day 4

Library @ The Dock

There was lots be inspired by during this visit. The building and how it is designed to meet user needs was explained so well and left me with no doubt that this is a library for people to use, connect in and be inspired to read, learn and create. I was also inspired by the people working in the building and can see how selecting staff with the mindset of being “inclusive, energised, open to possibilities and forward facing” helps to make the services appealing and relevant to the users. Learning about the way the statistics of Melbourne help to inform much of the long term planning, collection development and some policies (such as allowing people who are homeless to access services) was helpful too.

Evaluation – What an inspiring library to end the tour! I left excited about how libraries (both school and other) can creatively and successfully meet the needs of their users. After listening to Julia and Aimee I felt inspired to enhance my public speaking skills and to make sure I am actively promoting programs in the library, I look forward to creating loud, quiet and maker spaces in the library, and I am going to investigate how iPad dispensers could work in the school library too. I am dreaming about having touch screen tables for collaborative reading and a budget to create such beautiful spaces that you just do not want to leave.

Rating: 5/5

Study Tour Reflection – Melbourne September 2014

I have come away from the Melbourne study tour far more inspired than I anticipated and with a mindset and greater confidence to lead and implement changes next year when I step into the role of TL. While the libraries we visited serve users with diverse needs, I gained a clearer understanding of how the needs of users vary and need to be at the fore of library planning for the library to remain highly relevant. I also now recognise how leadership is more effective when visions and planning are in place and I have been inspired and seen the difference that forward thinking, ‘can do’ attitudes of staff can make to ensure that libraries effectively meet the needs of their users.

Learning about the specific needs of users in different libraries was interesting, but what struck me was that nearly all of the libraries are adjusting their spaces to meet the changing needs of users. The common theme of users wanting more study spaces for discussions and quiet study, as well as more computers and power points was mentioned in all libraries except the library of the Federal Court. I was interested to see how these requests were being catered for with small bookable rooms, a range of creatively shaped tables and chairs suitable for different collaborative work, individual work stations for Arts students at Lenton Parr Library and couches for students to study and rest at William Angliss. The initiative at Library @ The Dock to include the café as a part of the ‘connect’ area with magazines and newspapers was an inspiring way that non-traditional user needs were considered in the planning of the space.

In order for many libraries to provide more open spaces for users, the collection has had to be reconsidered. It seems that the need for space and the preference in many cases for digital resources have risen concurrently. I was interested to hear about the off site storage and sharing of resources and how this has aided libraries to not only minimise resources but to effectively clear spaces too. While the argument for maintaining physical resources in some areas was strong (like architecture at RMIT, the library of the Federal Court, popular IT resources at Library @ The Dock and text books at Victoria University to ensure equity for all students), I appreciated the discussions about digital resources, the importance of 24/7 access and questioned whether students at all of the tertiary institutions would really be prepared to wait for resources to be brought out of storage for use.

I also now have greater understanding of how collection policies can drive acquisition of digital resources when a digital preferred policy is in place like the ones described at Victoria University, RMIT and Lenton Parr. I also have a greater understanding of how digitising resources and providing access through Trove not only makes the item more accessible but ensures that originals are protected too. I also feel more informed about the potential copyright issues associated with digital resources and am more aware of the tension libraries can feel with regards to publishing companies delaying the release of digital resources or the risk of resources no longer being available. The discussion at Library @ The Dock about varying e-reader platforms was helpful as I am on the cusp of investigating this for the school library. If only my budget would allow for the fabulous table with the in-built touch screen for students to browse and explore e-books!

Another recurring theme in this tour was how libraries are changing the way staff are utilised. The use of self checkout systems, libguides, online logins and printing stations seem effective for many settings and free staff up to serve in different ways. The initiatives of student ‘Rovers’ at Victoria University, roving reference librarians at RMIT, employing people with a broad skill set such as the communications specialist at RMIT and advertising positions for volunteers to apply for at The State Library of Victoria are examples of how forward planning can ensure that staff and volunteers are meeting the needs of users. In addition to this, these systems are ways to add value and compliment the existing library services.

The most inspiring libraries and presenters were those who shared a genuine interest in their users, were positive about the profession and shared a desire to innovatively serve. While budget restrictions, staffing structures and other concerns are a part of daily working life for us all, it was helpful for me to recognise that keeping the values articulated at Library @ The Dock of staff being “inclusive, energised, open to possibilities and outward facing” were key to libraries genuinely serving their users. I saw this at Victoria University as students were allowed to eat inside and have minimal overdue fines. At Lenton Parr, compassion was shown towards students needing places to sleep. Library @ The Dock created ways for people without a fixed address to access services and The State Library of Victoria have created programs to make their historical collection relevant to families.

With a positive, inclusive, forward facing mindset, it seems that challenges can be overcome and staff are less likely to get bogged down in what cannot be changed. Rather, they can show sensitivity, serve and meet user needs more effectively. Building on a forward facing mindset, the examples of being committed to the profession explained by Georgina at Lenton Parr and demonstrated through the team approach at Library @ The Dock and RMIT highlighted to me how important ongoing learning is for librarians in all settings. Learning about the benefits of being apart of associations, seeking a mentor and participating in ongoing professional reflecting have helped me to consider how my learning journey can be enhanced and challenged, and my positive, forward facing mindset constantly recharged as I begin working as a TL.

Despite the diverse needs that the libraries we visited cater for, I was surprised at how the recurring themes of change and innovation are as relevant in school libraries as they are in the community and tertiary libraries. I have been inspired and very much appreciate the generous, honest and passionate sharing from our presenters.

“They’re too prickly”… Good communication can prevent poor perceptions.

I recently heard a friend discussing TLs at her school. “They’re too prickly” she commented. All teachers need effective communication skills but perhaps in the role of the TL this is even more imperative. Not only are there old school stereotypes to dispel, the TL needs to be an effective communicator to ensure that the role isn’t that of a scarcely seen book keeper, but that of a collaborative teacher and innovative sharer of resources and strategies.

Reading Bender (2005) and Rai and Rai (2009), was a helpful reminder of how effective communication can help to prevent unnecessary angst and can make the path forward much smoother. While the strategies (see below) were mostly common sense and examples of demonstrating respect towards others, I took particular note of the 4 Ways To Improve Listening Skills and some of Bender’s advice about emphasising areas of agreement, being willing to compromise and beginning with a positive.

In my current role, communicating with parents about potentially sensitive issues has challenged me to reflect on my communication, to be more proactive about maintaining a positive, hopeful approach but to also to ensure that in each meeting we do make note of what we agree on and make plans for moving forward with this in mind.

Two areas that I continue to work on are maintaining opening communication when I feel that I am not seeing ‘eye to eye’ with someone else and sharing sensitive information that could potentially be upsetting for the other person. Rai and Rai (2009), highlight that feeling defensive when you don’t see eye to eye with someone can prevent us from fully understanding what is being communicated as when we feel threatened, “we may question the motives of others or become sarcastic or judgemental” (2009). Recognising these feelings will be helpful for me but also applying Bender’s advice to “try to find the motivation behind the communicator’s message and use that motivation as a basis for the mutual agreement” (2005, p. 14) may help me to feel more confident in my own approach and feel less defensive. I also like Bender’s advice to be willing to compromise to “aid the dialogue” so that “everyone arrives at a mutually acceptable solution” (2005, p. 15).

I also feel more empowered to share sensitive information after watching ‘4 Ways To Improve Listening Skills’ ( which points out “A wise man once said, it’s never to early to shut up and listen, but it’s often too late.”

Sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I should have all of the answers but I now see that actively listening could not only aid communication but could also allow me to gain greater insight and background information. “Paying close attention, making supportive comments, and asking pertinent questions” (Bender, 2005, p. 13) will be a priority for me. I will also be more conscious of focussing “on the issues they present and try to see things from their point of view” (Bender, 2005, p. 13).

Reflecting on areas of growth in communication in my current role is helpful, but the effective communication skills that I consolidate now will support me in my future role as TL too. Being confident to bring up sensitive issues, to actively listen to needs and motivations of others and to focus on positive beginnings, endings and points of agreement will support me in building and maintaining positive, honest relationships with colleagues, parents and students. I do not want the reputation of being ‘a prickly one in the library’.


Bender, Y. (2005). Building effective communication. The tactful teacher: Effective communication with parents, colleagues, and administrators (pp. 3-18). White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press. (2012). Let your ears do the talking: How good managers listen           [Video file]. Retrieved September 29, 2014 from   

Rai, U., & Rai, S. M. (2009). Barriers to communication. Effective    communication (Rev. ed., pp. 57-67). Mumbai, India: Himalaya     Pub. House.

4 Ways To Improve Listening Skills from

  1. Give people your undivided attention to show that you are listening. This includes putting away all devices. The listener will appreciate it.
  2. Be conscious of responding to good and bad news “with poise” so that colleagues feel comfortable to share.
  3. Be proactive and do something about what you have listened to. The way you take action earns respect. According to research only 40% is the act of listening, 60% is what you do after listening.
  4. Create an annual, anonymous review to get an honest snap shot of how your team and you are fairing. Honest feedback and self evaluation can set you on a positive path.

It is time to step up!

Based on your work in Part A, write a blog post that articulates and reflects upon your own understanding and practice of leadership in the school library.


Viewing myself as a leader is a new concept. I naïvely thought that working as a Teacher Librarian (and in my other roles in schools) was more accurately described as responding to the needs of others which Sosik & Dionne (in Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005) explain as “management-by-exception-passive” (p.14). However my mindset has changed since exploring the modules of this subject. Yes, I am a leader and yes, it is imperative that I view myself as a leader in the role of a TL in the future.

My post initial thoughts about leadership (Grivell, 2014a) reflected many qualities of what I now understand to be transformational leadership including forward planning, collaboration, consultation, team, delegation and a sensitivity towards others. However, in reality, I did not step up and actively recognise myself as a leader (Grivell, 2014b) and that my role does require “leading from the middle” (Winzenried, 2010, p. 16).

Given that effective leadership abilities within the school have been shown to raise student achievement (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005, p. 11) and that school libraries can also positively impact student achievement (Lonsdale, 2003; Todd, 2003), I need to reserve my more passive approach when working as a TL. I need to step up and embrace the distributive leadership responsibilities entrusted to me and remember that “managers manage things (and) leaders lead people” (Brocker, 2012).

I felt empowered after reading Tapscott’s model of open leadership (2012) and Kotter’s 8 step process for leading change (2012) which enabled me to see that with forethought and planning, I do have the skills as a TL to lead more effectively in;

  • Innovation and change.
  • Collaboration and professional development
  • Decision making, problem solving and policies creation (in the library and the wider school)

Leading innovation and change transparently is an essential element for the TL to be a transformational leader in the library. I now know that it is imperative that I am involved in establishing and communicating visions and goals so that the library continues to be an innovative, forward-looking hub that meets the changing learning needs of the school community and reflects the vision of the wider school (Kotter, n.d.). By helping to illustrate why change is important and then enlisting and energising people with expertise and leadership, the TL can play a pivotal role in effectively facilitating innovative change (Kotter, 2012).

I now recognise that the TL needs to do more than initiating collaborative opportunities with teachers. TLs ought to be leading by sharing their ongoing knowledge of solid pedagogical understandings through mentoring and initiating professional development that supports and prepares staff for change. As a result, the TL would be actively promoting a school culture of “continuous learning” (Hackman & Wagerman, 2007, p. 46) and therefore fostering a culture where staff and students want to share, learn and work collaboratively (Winzenried, 2010, p. 45).

With the school vision and background knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy across the year levels in mind, the TL needs to lead collaborative decision making, problem solving and policy development so that they positively impact student achievement. This can involve decisions about the practical aspects such as timetabling or how resource access can be maximised. It is through the problem solving and decision making processes that the TL can empower and support others to remain focused on the long term goals of the school.


Brocker, B. (2012, March 22). Leadership theory and critical skills [Video file]. Retrieved August 8,
2014, from

Grivell, S. (2014a, August 17). Initial thoughts about leadership [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Grivell, S. (2014b, August 17). I need to recognise myself as a leader [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Hackman, J., &Wageman, R. (2007). Asking the Right Questions About Leadership. American Psychologist,
(1), 43-47.

Kotter, J. (2012). The 8-Step Process For Leading Change. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy
Implementation Professionals. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from

Kotter, J. (n.d.). Kotter International – Change Leadership. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy
Professionals. Retrieved August 14, 2014, from

Lonsdale, M. (2003). Impact of school libraries on student improvement: A review of the research.
Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved August 14, 2014, from aultsite/filesystem/documents/research.pdf

Marzano, R., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results.
Alexandria, Va:Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tapscott, D. (2012). Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world. TEDGlobal 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2014,
from s/don_tapscott_four_principles_for_the_open_world_1.html

Todd, R. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement. School Library Journal,
(4), 52-56.

Winzenried, A. (2010). Towards an organisational theory for information professionals. In Visionary leaders for
information (pp.23-61). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies.

I need to recognise myself as a leader!

Completing the leadership survey on buzzle was quite a helpful eye opener for me. The first time I approached the survey with my current role (as a part time teacher in Adaptive education). At the forefront of my mind is collaborating well with others, respecting my line leader and ensuring that relationships with colleagues, parents and students is positively maintained. What I didn’t expect was the following feedback about how ineffective this makes me as a leader.

“You are a delegative leader, where your leadership style is known as Laissez Faire. A delegative leader is one of the least productive leaders, or in other words, he is hardly a leader. Such leaders do not take any decisions independently, and so cannot even guide their group members or subordinates to take the right decision. They often trust their subordinates blindly and let them handle every situation on their own. This kind of leadership works well only in situations where one has a highly qualified and highly committed workforce. For example, Laissez Faire could be an effective leadership style in nursing or medicine, where a doctor can allow a professional nurse to take care of a patient using her own set of skills and knowledge.” Read more at Buzzle:

In reality I do make independent decisions but I am also conscious of not being overly assertive or opinionated because the decisions don’t affect me as much as people working full time in the team. I am willing to offer my opinion and to speak up if the discussion/decision is related to something I am have a strong back ground in or understanding of. However, there is clearly room for me to step up as a leader in my current position!

Out of intrigue, I then did the quiz again with the mindset of being a leader and answered the questions as if I was expected to be a leader and with a different role (namely that of the TL) in mind. I also imagined being a part of a team that doesn’t work as collaboratively as my current team which would require a different approach than I currently need to use. For example, it hasn’t been an issue for my team that people get frustrated before a decision is reached so I haven’t had to previously consider being more assert to ensure that decisions are reached.

The result was “your style of leadership is democratic, a.k.a. participative. It is considered as one of the most effective leadership styles in ideal situations. As the name suggests, democratic leaders consider the suggestions and opinions of group members and involve group members in the decision-making process. But they make sure that the final decision is taken by them while being in sync with the majority. This kind of leadership motivates the followers and encourages the group members to participate in the process. It ultimately improves the creativity and productivity of the members. It is one of the ideal leadership styles in an education system.”

Read more at Buzzle:

I think this describes my approach more accurately but does reinforce to me that I need to view myself as a leader and be prepared to make decisions for the benefit of all at times to ensure that my contribution is more effective.

Initial thoughts about leadership

I believe leadership is primarily a collaborative realm, where consultation is a priority and valuing the strengths of all team members is the best way to achieve successful and comprehensive outcomes. I also believe that leadership requires individuals to be conscious of finding balance. This balance may be expressed in terms of deciding between single-minded conviction and delegation, firmness and gentleness or making decisions that take into account multiple priorities and people. Leadership also includes being a forward thinking person who is willing to put planning as a priority and willing to open doors to change.

I am currently working as a teacher in Adaptive Education. I demonstrate leadership through being an advocate for my colleagues, as well as for the students in my care. I communicate actively and openly with teaching staff and I seek to work collaboratively within my team. I aim to conduct myself in a professional and conscientious manner by maintaining diligent records, being acutely aware of the needs of students, and maintaining clear and open lines of communication with staff, students and parents.

A work in progress – Leadership

Creating My Concept Map

I’ve stewed over enough assignments over the last two years. This time I’m determined to do it differently and have set some parameters to ensure that my stress levels are balanced. After completing the readings for the first few modules I felt confident using key words and phrases that were covered. I’ve had to cull a few and hope I have kept enough diversity to demonstrate some depth of thought. I placed these phrases out on card, played around, scribbled lots of ways that these connect, rearranged them many times and played with a few concept maps. From these, the hierarchy of the effective leadership became clearer in my mind (but the links between them all felt a little overwhelming).

concept map 2concpet map1ideas

As I played with the concept maps and included some of the pie charts and Venn diagrams that for me illustrated some connections, I kept thinking about the hierarchy in shapes and drew many analogies. There was the snail, the person, the more traditional concept map and eventually I settled on the ‘target’.

I felt that the ‘target’ best illustrates how all of these key phrases and concepts work together, build on each other but that the essential ingredients of school leadership (principals and heads of school, their leadership style and the goals and visions they create) are at the core of effective school leadership. It is this core that influences every other key phrase I have selected.

Representing this hierarchy has proved challenging. I couldn’t find an online program that would allow me to quickly create all of the visual connections that I wanted to include but I knew that I did want to use a program to add some arrows to map out more of my thinking than my target would allow (and I knew this would require lots of changes as I worked so it needed to be flexible). To solve this, I used Photoshop to create my target and then used gliffy to complete my concept map. I selected this site because it allowed me to import and build on the image I created in Photoshop.

Once I started illustrating the connections between each phrase, my muddled working felt like it was getting clearer. I’ve been tossing up whether too many connections will create a very confusing image and whether I should allow the image to ‘speak’ more for itself. I have added many key connections but do feel that the target implies interconnectedness. What is on the outside of the target is influenced (directly and indirectly) by everything inside it.