The second hat that the teacher librarian wears is that of information specialist.
According to Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001), this means we “provide access to information resources through efficient and well-guided systems for organising, retrieving and circulating resources” as well as providing “training and assistance to students and staff in the effective use of these systems”.
In the past, that was a relatively simple assignment – fiction resources were split into two sections, either picture books or novels, and given a classification based on the author’s name; non fiction was classified and shelved according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system. Students were taught now to use the catalog, how the Dewey system worked so they could make sense of the numbers and then expected to locate the required resources on the shelves.
But the rapid development of technology has changed the goalposts and now, instead of staff and students coming to the information, in many situations the TL takes the information to the students. Thus, as well as having an efficient, up-to-date catalog we need to know how to use hotlists, databases, social media, content management systems, virtual learning environments and a host of other tools so we can provide efficient and equitable access to the resources 365/24/7. No longer is the library confined by walls and clocks.
There is also a push to abandon the traditional arrangements of the library so they become more like bookstores – the titles arranged by genre rather than author or subject. From time to time, this issue is discussed on the TL networks around the world, and Jan Radford has collated a range of articles here.
Before such a change is considered, there is a range of questions that need to be asked and answered with acceptable, independent evidence.
Given that the definition of being the information specialist is based on providing efficient and effective access to resources, then we must demonstrate that any changes will do this better than what is offered now. So we need to consider…
- Why is the change being considered?
- Why is what is currently in place not working? What is the evidence that it is not? How can it be changed/ modified to work rather than introducing a non-standard ‘fix’?
- Is the solution based on sound pedagogical reasons whose efficacy can be measured?
- What reliable evidence (apart from circulation figures) exists to support the changes and demonstrates improvement to student learning outcomes?
- Is it based on library-based best practice? Are there successful models (measured through action research and benchmarks and published in reliable authoritative literature) that demonstrate that this is a sustainable, effective and efficient model to emulate?
- How do the changes fit within your library policy, which, presumably has been ratified by the school’s executive and council?
- If a change is made, what S.M.A.R.T. goals will be set to measure its impact?
- Who will do the measuring and ensure that the conclusion is independent and unbiased?
- If those goals show no change or a decline, will the library be willing to reverse the process?
- How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of the teacher librarian – will more time than currently necessary be spent on locating resources?
- Have students had input into the proposal?
- Will the proposed changes lead to them being more independent, effective and efficient users of the library’s resources?
- Who decides the genre categories and their location – are 26 letters of the alphabet not a more organised format already?
- Who decides the location of each title and on what criteria is that placement based?
- Who decides the placement if a book straddles genres?
- How is that decision made?
- How is consistency across time guaranteed if personnel change because decisions are so subjective?
- Who is responsible for developing and maintaining the criteria for placement and the Procedures Manual to ensure consistency?
- If your library is to be more like a bookstore, then why is that more important than being like other libraries?
- How do the purposes, target audiences and procedures of the school library and the bookstore differ, and can one model be successfully superimposed on the other despite those differences?
- If it is to be more like a bookstore, is the bookstore model effective particularly if you don’t know quite what you’re looking for? Is there evidence that the proposed solution satisfies the needs of the customers in the bookstore, or are they frustrated?
- Is the change worth the time that is invested in re-classifying every title and the money invested in new labels, staff wages etc?
- Could that time and money be better spent?
- If students do not learn how to use Dewey in the primary setting, how will they manage it in high school or public libraries, particularly where there is an expectation by the high school that an understanding of how to use it is an acquired skillset?
- If students are browsing by genre will they then confine themselves to that genre?
- Do primary-aged students, particularly those under 11-12 years, have preferences for particular genres or do they use different criteria at that age??
- What is the purpose of switching non-fiction resources to a ‘genre’ classification when Dewey essentially does this by grouping like subjects together?
- If students say they cannot find what they are looking for is this because Dewey is not efficient or other factors such as clients being unwilling to use the OPAC or arbitrary limiting of the Dewey number?
- If students need to use the OPAC to search for every title, what impact will that have on computer facilities?
- Would better signage, including more shelf dividers address the problem?
- What role can displays play in highlighting different and unfamiliar genres and subjects?
Library 2.0 means that Librarian 2.0 keeps changing and we need to continually monitor and modify the shape and the fit of Hat 2.
Tags : Information Specialist
Categories : Information Specialist, Purpose and Role