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.
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).
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.
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 https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/principal-support/
Grivell, S. (2012b, August 17). Amazing. Retrieved January 13, 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/amazing/
Grivell, S. (2012c, July 8). A new journey. Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/a-new-journey/
Grivell, S. (2012d). Farm to table pathfinder. Retrieved January 2015 from http://libraryfarmtotable.weebly.com
Grivell, S. (2012e, July 29). Evidence based practice – preventing teacher librarian extinction. Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/evidence-based-practise-preventing-teacher-librarian-extinction/
Grivell, S. (2012f, September 24). IL is more than a set of skills – it’s learning power! Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/il-is-more-than-a-set-of-skills-it-is-learning-power/
Grivell, S. (2013a, November 16). Not ‘just in case’!. Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/not-just-in-case/
Grivell, S. (2014a, August 7). It’s time to step up! Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/it-is-time-to-step-up/
Grivell, S. (2014b, October 1). Perception is everything. Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/perception-is-everything-reflective-critical-analysis-etl-504-assignment-2/
Grivell, S. (2014c, September 29). Melbourne study tour day 1- day 4. Retrieved January 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/melbourne-study- tour-day-1-day-4/
Grivell, S. (2014d, January 15). Text selection: not by date of manufacture but for individuals. Retrieved January, 2015 from https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/text-selection-not-by-date-of-manufacture-but-for- individuals/#https://fromlittlethingsblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/text-selection-not-by-date-of-manufacture-but-for-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 http://www.kotterinternational.com/our- principles/changesteps/changesteps
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2012). Information Search Process. Retrieved August 28, 2012 from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
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 http://vimeo.com/17247140