Search Results for: technology

the technology hat

hat_technologyWhile it may seem like it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it is only 20 years since computers, LANs and Internet access started to be widespread in schools. At the time the teacher librarian was seen as the guru of all things ICT, their position and purpose in the school valued and unquestioned and the leadership hat fitted snugly.  Even though our duties seemed to be more about troubleshooting printer errors because of loose cables or empty cartridges, and our teaching was based on just-in-case skills rather than just-in-time learning, nevertheless ICT in those days was seen as the prerogative and priority of the teacher librarian.

 

But times have changed and the world has caught up with us. Storing files on floppy disks, CDs and USB sticks has almost gone; “Google” meaning “to search the Internet” has become part of the population’s  everyday vocabulary, and wifi has eliminated many of the cable issues.  Even the students have computers in their pockets these days; kindergarten students come to school well able to use their fingers to control a screen; and people ask “Why do you have a teacher librarian if you have the Internet?”  (We know the answer but are they ready to hear it?)

fire_hydrant

Perhaps it is time to reposition ourselves.

Many have but from messages to the networks to which I belong, it seems their role has become being the go-to person when someone wants a new app to accomplish something within their teaching or learning or they are the person who presents a range of must-use apps to staff who then find that the technology is driving their teaching rather than the other way round. Others have become the guardians of students’ digital footprints focusing on students’ online safety and well-being. Many are the suppliers and emergency chargers of devices as well as troubleshooting issues with them or the library is the place to print off that last-minute assignment. 

In worst-case scenarios, some schools have by-passed the TL leaving them to their perceived preference for print and hired ICT coaches and instructors who teach typing skills and how to format Word documents and so on, completely ignoring what Jamie McKenzie has been saying for 25 years about just-in-time rather than just-in-case.

All of these roles have a place in the school, but is it the most effective and efficient way of using our professional knowledge, understanding and skills?

google_mug

The teacher librarian of 2016 has to be so much more than this. If we are to wear the technology hat well, we need to put the teacher part of teacher librarian to the fore.

It is our role to help our students enter, safely navigate and use the digital world both as information consumers and creators.  Little of what is online is offered for free (even if it appears so on the surface); is suitable for access and use by children (hence COPPA which restricts much to over-13s); or is without bias. Therefore we need to help them understand what it is they are looking for, be able to analyse, interpret and evaluate what they find to determine if it meets their needs at the time; manage what they gather so it is easily accessible and then use and communicate it efficiently and ethically.

We need to put on our curriculum leader’s hat and burrow down into school, state and national documents of syllabus and standards to identify where the use of technology will enrich and enhance the curriculum rather than drive it.  We have a critical role in both the design and the delivery of the curriculum.

Our designer role can be broad-based or specific.

If there is a formal Digital Technologies curriculum such as that released by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) or a formal learning continuum of ICT capabilties  we need to know the knowledge and performance expectations of it and match those markers to other curricula so skills are taught in context and thus have meaning and value.

For example, under the Australian curriculum, students in Foundation – Year 2 begin “to learn about common digital systems and patterns that exist within data they collect. Students organise, manipulate and present this data, including numerical, categorical, text, image, audio and video data, in creative ways to create meaning.” This requires them to develop a range of understandings and skills including

  • recognising and exploring patterns in data and representing data as pictures, symbols and diagrams
  • collecting, exploring and sorting data, and using digital systems to present the data creatively
  • following, describing and representing a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve simple problems
  • creating and organising ideas and information using information systems independently and with others, and sharing these with known people in safe online environments

Digital Technologies Curriculum, V.8.1, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2016

Knowing this, we then need to know how these outcomes could be achieved through units of work identified in the English, History, Geography, Science and even Mathematics curricula through an inquiry-learning approach scaffolded by both the information literacy process and the outcomes of the ICT Capabilities Continuum.

Continuing with the Australian example. under the Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum, Foundation students explore the two key questions…

  • Who am I, where do I live and who came before me?
  • Why are some places and events special and how do we know?

They explore both historical and geographical concepts by

  • posing questions about past and present objects, people, places and events
  • collecting  data and information from observations and identify information and data from sources provided
  • sorting and recording information and data, including location, in tables and on plans and labelled maps
  • sequencing familiar objects and events
  • exploring  a point of view
  • comparing objects from the past with those from the present and considering how places have changed over time
  • interpreting data and information displayed in pictures and texts and on maps
  • drawing simple conclusions based on discussions, observations and information displayed in pictures and texts and on maps
  • reflecting on learning to propose how to care for places and sites that are important or significant
  • presenting narratives, information and findings in oral, graphic and written forms using simple terms to denote the passing of time and to describe direction and location

Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum,  V.8.1, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2016 

By knowing how and which digital technologies can be used in both the consumption and creation of information to achieve these outcomes , we can add real value to the teaching and learning as well as demonstrating how outcomes from other curriculum documents can be covered at the same time.  In this example, there are clear correlations with the information literacy process,  the mathematics curriculum  and the English curriculum enabling integrated, meaningful delivery of the curriculum as well as killing more than one paperwork bird with the same stone.

two_birds

Armed with this in-depth curriculum knowledge the teacher librarian can then collaborate with the classroom teacher to work out which responsibilities each will take on and then how the needs of the Digital Technologies curriculum can be met at the same time.  For example, it may be that while the classroom teacher teaches the students how to collect data, the TL might be responsible for showing them how to present it using an app such as MaxCount from Max’s Toolbox (an early childhood interface for Office) aka Scholastic Keys. Even if the classroom teacher does not teach alongside you and you run a parallel program, you can have the children collect different but unit-related data and use the software to present it.  This approach not only consolidates their understanding and skills but also enables them to transfer their knowledge to new situations – a true sign of mastery of the learning. At the same time, we are helping students to develop that deeper understanding of what it is to be a citizen of the digital world and demonstrating that we have a valuable teaching role in students’ learning rather than just being the resource provider.

If the teacher librarian’s role remains one that is more in isolation than collaboration and is more focused on the concept of “library skills”  then it is essential that we examine the information literacy process thoroughly and identify those aspects that are more likely to be done digitally now such as locating resources, highlighting keywords, making and organising notes, creating bibliographies, presenting products and so forth and develop our teaching around those. In essence we need to translate those skills that were once applied only to print into the digital environment. Show the students that using tools and apps can help them work smarter rather than harder but all the while pushing the message of cybersafety and protecting their digital footprint.

More broadly we need to know and promote the SAMR model. so the technology is deeply embedded into the teaching and learning, guiding teachers to set assignments that have rigour and relevance.

SAMR and Blooms Taxonomy

SAMR and Blooms Taxonomy

In this article  Alan November challenges us to consider whether we are technology rich but innovation poor by posing six questions about how technology is used in student assignments.Is it used as just a substitute for a writing tool or does it open up new worlds to explore by providing access to people, information and so forth that were not available in a wall-bound classroom?

Teaching the teachers is also a critical element of the TL’s role.  Alan November has written an article about what students don’t know about searching Google (their go-to source regardless of any alternatives we put before them) so as well as teaching the students, teach the teachers by offering to lead professional learning sessions on whatever aspects of information literacy in the digital world they need. However, there is nothing worse than sitting through stuff you already know so conduct a needs and skills audit.  Discover what teachers want to know and what they are capable of sharing and set up a mentoring model so specific needs are met.  Introduce new tools or apps that you know have immediate relevance and share examples of how they can be used so teachers can use the ideas as springboards.  Require they show and share what they have done as a result of their learning. Remember just in time is much more effective than just in case.  

Apart from giving them skills that they can pass on, it reinforces the importance of the TL in navigating the digital landscape.

Because the support of literacy and literature is also our core business, look for ways to use ICT to support students’ free voluntary reading (or even that which is mandatory) by 

  • providing books in a range of formats to support students’ needs and preferences understanding that the print-reading brain is different from the digital-reading one (which is elaborated here.)
  • sharing and creating (or getting them to create)  book trailers to encapsulate the essence of a book whether it be
    • a contender for an award,
    • popular reads and recommendations
    • for an author study so different titles can be compared and contrasted
    • to demonstrate the reader’s understanding of the story
    • any other reason
  • displaying QR codes that lead to reviews of the title, related resources or further information
  • creating a blog where students can share their reviews
  • creating an online book club that allows students to connect with others from other places 
  • promoting recommendations through an app like Padlet Backpack
  • providing links to authors’ and series’ websites where there are often extra activities and information
  • using Skype, Google Hangouts and similar software to connect with authors or students in other schools
  • using an online service such  Biblionasium, Goodreads or Shelfari for students to track and reflect on their reading
  • exploring how the International Children’s Digital Library could become part of what you offer particularly for providing reading resources for those for whom English is not their first language

We need to be operating in the same environment as our students and helping them to maximise the benefits of that environment, even if it does mean helping them to use Wikipedia effectively.  We cannot be resource snobs.

We also need to acknowledge the students’ preferences for learning and provide resources in a variety of different formats as well as the information and means to access these. However the provision of the collection must not be an either/or situation – apart from the growing body of research that clearly demonstrates students need to build a foundation of traditional literacy skills based on print, we need to ask ourselves which is the most effective and efficient way to access and disseminate the information within the resource.  

As well as being a leader in the design of the curriculum, the teacher librarian can also have a leadership role in its delivery.

If your school, district or education authority is implementing a blanket suite of tools such as Google Apps for Education undertake the professional learning so you become the go-to person to help other teachers learn how to use the tools and embed them in their teaching effectively. By demonstrating to individuals how the tool they are learning has immediate application in their teaching,  new skills are more likely to be applied and consolidated. Being known as a leader in the suite may also give you access to an individual teacher’s Google Classroom or blog or wiki where you can further support student learning 24/7 with resource suggestions, pertinent instructional videos such as the creation of a bibliography and so forth.

Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education

Similarly, you could co-ordinate Parent Participation programs so parents can also learn what their children are using so they can assist them out of school hours when necessary. Reaching out to the community in this way goes a long way to overcoming the perception that the library is only about print. 

Making slideshows or videos that support student learning beyond the walls and hours of the library is an essential service.  My go-to model is always The Library Minute from Arizona State University. Even those these are for university students they encapsulate the idea of providing information and teaching support 24/7. If you’re short of time to make them yourself, ask the students what it is they most want/need to know so you can prioritise and then have them research, script and film the video or create the slideshow.

With new apps being released every day it is not feasible to suggest a list of what does what best but consider using the following formats to support students learning…

  • YouTube channel 
  • podcast
  • wiki
  • library website
  • pathfinders 
  • slideshows
  • blogs
  • QR codes
  • social networking 
  • mobile technology

As the information service manager we need to provide efficient access to resources that will support learning and the criteria for this should be incorporated in the Collection Policy including critical elements such as copyright compliance and acceptable terms and conditions of use which do not contravene Australian Privacy laws.  (In the Sample Collection Policy there is a list of 25 questions to consider as well as specific selection criteria in Appendix A.) As well as satisfying the overall criteria for accuracy, authority, currency, objectivity and relevance, the following chart could serve as a ready reference tool for selection.

S Suitability 

Does the information meet students’  needs?

Is it in language they  can understand?

Are there images to help their understanding?

M Manageability

Is it easy to navigate?

Is the information in chunks that I can manage?

Is the layout appealing?

A Accessibility

Can it be accessed on a mobile device?

Does it load quickly?

Do links take the user offsite to ‘dangerous waters”?

Are there bells and whistles and advertisements that might distract the user?

R Reliability

Does it meet the AACOR criteria of accuracy, authority, currency, objectivity, and relevance?

Are the publication details such as who is taking responsibility for the information readily apparent?

Is the platform stable so I can access it easily 24/7?

T Trustworthy

 Is the purpose of the website clearly apparent?

What information about me is being collected and what is done with that information?

Is there a third-party presence that I should be concerned about?

 

We can also supply print resources which support the upsurge in interest in coding as well as other other popular online apps such as gaming like Minecraft

Many primary and secondary school libraries are creating room for a makerspace where students learn to pose questions and solve problems through the the manipulation and creation of material objects which may include digital technologies. But that is another broad field for another post. 

As identified in the seer’s hat, the skills of the future will focus on problem posing and solving and digital technologies offer opportunities to do this way beyond what we can imagine.  Remember it is less than 10 years since Apple released its first iphone opening up a world that many can not live without.  Even though the technology hat is a large one with a very broad brim it is one we need to put on, adjust to fit and take ourselves, our colleagues and our students deep into the 21st century.

 

the imagineer’s hat

 

Just over 45 years ago, in 1973, a 21-year-old sat in her first session at Christchurch Teachers’ College in New Zealand, ready to begin to realise her childhood dream of being a teacher. Unlike her peers who were going from the classroom of high school to the classroom of college to their own classrooms in a school, this young woman had a couple of years of life experience under her belt having lived in  Papua New Guinea and Australia, both exotic locations in the still-isolated New Zealand of the early 1970s.

But like them, she had her imagineer’s hat on, constantly thinking about how what she was learning would translate into practice in her classroom. She wanted her students to come in each day full of wonder and curiosity, happy to be there and eager to explore and discover the new pathways into their world that would open up to them that day. She quickly discovered that “language arts” was her thing, that inquiry learning based on the Nuffield model fitted her like a glove and that maths continued to be the mystery it was in high school. But being a teacher in the primary system of both New Zealand and Australia means having to master all areas of the curriculum so she immersed herself in her studies, keeping a journal of how she imagined she would integrate the theory of both child development and subject mastery with the dream of that wonder-filled classroom a few years hence.

Fast forward two decades and that 21-year-old, who had a 21-year-old of her own by then, is back at college ready to study again, albeit with 20 years experience and reality under her belt, a vastly different study situation where everything is done online including lecturer and peer interaction, but still with that imagineer’s hat firmly on.

What is it she wants her students to feel, appreciate, value, learn and understand as a result of visiting the school library?

What does she need to do and put in place to make that happen?

How will the environment, services and attitude she offers enable the students and the staff to feel that the library offers them something, caters to their needs and is a place they want to be?

What would she, as a student, want to see, find and do in this space to feel that she was welcome, my needs were satisfied and it was a place she wanted to spend time in?

Everyone from retailers, restaurateurs and resort owners tell us it is not about the product but “the experience”, so how can the teacher librarian provide an “experience” that enriches and enhances the visitor’s learning?

Luckily for that apprentice TL of the mid-90s, she was in a brand new school with a brand new library and a visionary principal who could see the impact technology would have and who gave her carte blanche to develop the best resource centre ever.  

But as the Australian school year comes to an end, the northern hemisphere one gets under way and a new bunch of apprentice teacher librarians about to graduate and move into their own libraries, starting from scratch is not an option for all.  Nevertheless, it is possible to possible to put that imagineer’s hat on and imagine or re-create that big picture even if we have been bogged down in the daily detail that the endless paperwork burden dictates. 

Here are a few steps to follow…

  1. As the name implies, the imagineer’s hat requires imagination so shut your eyes and dream about the library you would love to  be and work in. Think about the environment, the atmosphere, the collection – content and arrangement, the services, the timetable – every aspect of the perfect library that you can think of.
  2. Make notes about your vision and identify those things you have, those things you can improve and those things you can strive towards. Prioritise them.
  3. Create or revisit your vision statement. Make sure it still encapsulates what it is you want your library to be. Remember its purpose is to succinctly state the future direction of your school library such as A best-practice 21st century library which is integral to the teaching and learning at xxxx Primary School and offers a warm, inclusive, supportive environment for all.
  4. Create or revisit your mission statement to ensure that it still reflects the purpose of the library and its place within the school’s philosophy, ethos and educational programs. It needs to inform the development of strategies for improvement and the goals and objectives so its achievement can be measured.  There have been many changes and advances in the last few years so something you wrote a few years ago may have been accomplished or need tweaking to reflect the current and proposed situation.
  5. Identify those areas that you want to change – environment, procedures, professional knowledge, professional practice – and be explicit about how you want to change them.  Begin with the end in mind and determine what you want things to be like and look like so you can work towards specific S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  6. Identify the particular pathways you need to follow to achieve your vision.  For example, if you want to change the look of your library, check out photos on Pinterest or read The Landscaper’s Hat and Landscape Your Library; if you want to expand your professional knowledge map out your professional learning program; if you want to change procedures then research best practice and get input from stakeholders  – whatever it takes to make the change you want to be and see.
  7. Revisit or revise your strategic plan so that your ideas are formalised and accountable so the library of your imagination can become a reality
  8. Be on the alert for great ideas and activities that others are employing and sharing and which might work for your clientele, save them so you don’t forget and implement them as soon as practical, always working towards that dream.

Schools and school libraries have changed so much since that 21-year-old first sat in that Teachers’ College classroom all those years ago but in fundamental ways the students she teaches have remained the same – they still have to attend school from 5-15 and they still aspire and expect to learn to read, write and calculate. And they still deserve to achieve that in the very best of conditions that she can provide by constantly wearing and adjusting the imagineer’s hat.

 

the long tail hat

Recently there was a request to a network I belong to seeking advice about placing a popular series of books on the shelves, a series that was one of several of its type which started as a successful movie franchise and forty years on remains as popular now as it was when it was first released.  In fact many who enjoyed it as children are now sharing it with their own children. But there was a strong between-the-lines implication that because it was a movie tie-in it didn’t have literary merit and therefore didn’t have a place on the school library’s shelves.

In some respects, this was a view I held years ago when I first started reviewing books for the very young on my blog The Bottom Shelf. I was inundated with books relating to television characters and was reluctant to review them because I couldn’t relate to the characters and I didn’t want to encourage anymore screen-time than children already had.  But then one day in a chain store I saw a little one pounce on a book featuring a well-know show here and the delight she demonstrated and the nagging and pestering she did to own it, with no regard for the other toys on display, changed my mind entirely.  If a familiar character was going to be the “in” to reading for a three year old, then I would review them and let parents know about them. 

In hindsight, I don’t know why I objected so strongly because I certainly had a dedicated space in my school library for “Family Favourites” based on the familiar characters of preschool programs in the belief that seeing them would help with the transition from preschool to ‘big’ school, and my collection and display of the Goosebumps series was definitely the instigator of reading in so many young boys of the time.

Family Favourites

Family Favourites

The Long Tail is used in many fields to describe a statistical phenomenon that is best described with this diagram…

A pictorial example of the "long tail" concept.

A pictorial example of the “long tail” concept.

 

In libraries, the term refers to all those potential patrons that a library has but who don’t use the facility because they don’t believe it has anything to offer them.  Whether they are non-readers or reluctant readers or accomplished readers who prefer a certain subject, they perceive that the library is not somewhere that would cater for their needs and no amount of advertising the general collection (in whatever format) persuades them.  They might even be those who remember an unfriendly librarian, environment or experience from childhood and at that early stage decided there were better places to be.

The term Library 2.0 is also one that has been bandied about over the last decade and it refers to the changing model of the library to one that is user-centred rather than librarian-driven.  It encourages patrons to have a say in what they want and need in regards to both the collection and the services so that what is offered is relevant to those who are using them. 

But, regardless of the efforts made to change what is offered and how we offer it, there will still be the long tail who have the belief or attitude that they and libraries are not compatible.

No matter how hard we try, many of the services we offer are not being used by a majority of our population. It’s never been easy to reach this group with physical services, because libraries are constrained by space and money and cannot carry every item that every user desires. 

Casey, M.E. & Savistinuk, L.C., Library 2.0

I believe that we have a responsibility to reach out to these people, investigate what it is they are interested in  and seek to provide it if possible.  This is much easier in the school setting than the public library because the audience is somewhat “captive and contained” and we, as the person responsible for developing the collection and the services, should be pro-active in discovering needs and interests.  Don’t wait for them to come with requests – they won’t do that if they’ve developed an anti-library attitude.  This is particularly important if we are to satisfy the Students’ Bill of Rights  that underpins our professional practice.

The Australian School Library Association’s School Library Bill of Rights  lays down the basic tenets for collection development including 

 To place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive collection appropriate to the users of the library.

 

So even if we would prefer all our offerings to have “literary merit” or being relevant to the curriculum or whatever other restraints we impose on it, we need to consider those whose library experiences needs to be a little less highbrow and a lot more enjoyable. 

As the Australian school year draws to a close and plans are being made for 2018, perhaps it is timely to consider how the long tail might be at the forefront of the strategic development plan including how their needs can be determined.  It is not enough to place a suggestions box on the circulation desk or conduct a survey of current library users because that will only lead to offering what we always have, doing what we’ve always done and marginalising those potential users even further.  It means thinking of who our target clientele might be, even if that’s a small, specific group to start with and then talking directly to them to discover how they believe the library could be more relevant to them.  It means looking at new ways of promoting new services and resources well beyond the library walls and demonstrating that we are listening and then acting on what we hear.

With advocacy for maintaining and expanding library services still being such a critical part of our role, explicitly focusing on the long tail and deliberately addressing their needs rather than hoping some sort of osmosis will bring them through the doors may be the key to giving your facility a new lease of life and a promising future.

Contents

This entry was posted on July 28, 2017, in .

the presenter’s hat

hat_presenter

 

 

 

I recently read and reviewed Luke, a wonderful addition to the wonderful Stuff Happens series which is “a contemporary reflected-reality fiction series for young boys aged 7 to 11 years old”. In this episode written by James Valentine, Luke suffers from glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.

At the same time I was reading it, I was preparing a full-day presentation for newbie teacher librarians and I realised that while sharing my thoughts with others, either in person or in writing, is not difficult for me, there are many in the profession who are like Luke.  Thus, when the profession’s leaders call for advocacy and tell us it is our job to speak up to ensure that our learning communities know what it is we do, this can be an anathema for many or at least, something with which they are very uncomfortable.

As well, as the new Australian school term starts and northern hemisphere colleagues are thinking about the new school year, the listservs are again filling with requests for advice for undertaking tasks that ill-informed principals and administrators think we should undertake but which do not make the most of our specialist teaching expertise and experience.

So perhaps it is timely to share a few tips and tricks that might encourage the less bold to start being pro-active and educate those around them about what it is we do in this new age when even the need for the existence of libraries is being questioned.

Know your audience

This is the most critical element because it shapes not only what you will speak about but also how you will say it. 

As discussed in the reporter’s hat the teacher librarian has a number of prospective audiences who need to know what we do and why we do it. including

  • pupils
  • parents
  • peers
  • principals
  • pre-service teachers
  • politicians

Each has different interests and needs and each brings different prior knowledge and preconceptions to the table so our language and presentation methods must reflect this. If we are to engage effectively then we must adjust our perspective to meet their needs.

Each also presents a different dynamic to the relationship – the ‘power-balance’ between teacher librarian and pupil is very different to that between teacher librarian and principal, for example – and this can also affect our level of confidence if not competence. 

By carefully considering the purpose of the presentation and what we want the audience to take away from it, either as knowledge or a commitment to action, we are more likely to pitch our delivery at a level that will strike a chord with our listeners.

Know your topic

Be cognisant of what it is that interests your target audience.

Identify what it is you want them to take away from having attended your presentation.  Are you trying to persuade them, inform them, reassure them, entertain them, challenge them, broaden their understanding or consolidate what they already know?  What do you want them to know, do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of your presentation?

A good speech is like a pencil: it has to have a point.

Choose your topic carefully and address it from a perspective that shows them how you can be a partner in the process not an add-on.  Each audience group probably feels they have enough to do without having more layers added to their workload so present from a perspective which demonstrates how you can lighten their load while value-adding to it rather than making it even heavier. Wherever possible, use in-context, practical examples that can be applied immediately while basing that practice on sound pedagogy and evidence that can be delivered if necessary. Make your point, demonstrate it, provide the evidence (or link to it) and wrap it up.

While it can be tempting to think that this might be your only chance to talk to these people, try to avoid a scattergun approach that becomes an “all-I-know-about…” treatise which leaves them confused and bamboozled.  Much better to speak briefly on a focus topic and be invited (or invite yourself) back again than leave them feeling overwhelmed, ignorant and insignificant. 

Remember, it is about informing them rather than promoting you.  


pupilFor pupils, it may be the curriculum and thus your regular teaching program, drawing on your knowledge of their needs and abilities, sound pedagogy and real-world context should cover that. But they may also want to know about the latest releases, exhibitions, game and movie tie-ins  and so forth.  Ask them or have a suggestion box and schedule a regular session that has a student-directed focus.  If they ask for something about which you have no knowledge, seek out an expert – it may even be a student – and even if all you do is introduce and thank the speaker, your public speaking skills will improve, your confidence will grow and you set a model for students to follow.

 

parentsParents are most interested in what their child is learning and how they can support that.  There are a number of opportunities to talk to them about the role library can play in this – at parent orientation nights,   P & C meetings, or even holding special parent participation programs where you can explore topics in greater depth. But rather than giving them an in-depth course on the elements of information literacy or inquiry learning, think about the aspects that are most likely to crop up in the home.  We MUST acknowledge that regardless of what we might preach and practise at school, Google and Wikipedia are going to be major players in both adult and student information searches so starting with a how-to about determining the most effective keywords or looking at the authority of a website to determine its objectivity and currency will most likely be effective starting points.

If the children of your parent audience are much younger than that, then consider a workshop in how to read aloud well or how to select appropriate bedtime stories that will foster the child’s interest in becoming an independent reader.

peersInformation literacy development and skills are now being embedded into the general curriculum, as they should be, so our peers are now expected to be able to help students master those elements of the process that used to be seen as the sole domain of the teacher librarian. The Australian national curriculum is built on an inquiry model, and Guided Inquiry is becoming the common pedagogy.

So this is when your teach-the-teachers hat is most critical. Investigate what it is that your teachers want support with so that their professional learning is relevant and meaningful to them and they are ready to engage with it.  Depending on the structure of your school, work with groups or faculties or the entire staff use an actual investigation they are about to set to explore the element of Guided Inquiry or the Information Literacy Process that they have identified so they are able to put their learning into practice straight away.   

Introduce them to Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process focusing on the Affective Domain so they understand how their students feel as they move through an investigation or assignment and how they, themselves, are probably feeling. As well as teaching them the mechanics of the processes, also indicate how you are able to support their actual teaching through suggesting appropriate research-based outcomes, offering spotlight lessons or resource provision or input into assessment tasks and their rubrics.  Seek to value-add rather than add on.

If it’s possible structure a series of presentations that can be logged as part of their formal requirements for professional learning.

In my opinion, the teaching-the-teachers hat is the most critical role we have because it is easier to influence 30 teachers than 500+ students and have the entire learning community starting to speak the same language.

principalBecause principals are the primary decision makers when it comes to staffing and funding, presenting to principals, either individually or en masse, is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the preservation and appreciation of the profession.  Wearing my university marker’s hat I’ve assessed hundreds of assignments which specifically focused on the obstacles that stood in the way of having a top-shelf library-based program in place.   When every obstacle identified by each candidate was unpacked, it invariably came back to what the principal knew, understood, appreciated and valued about the role of the teacher librarian.  

Although we might think it is the principal’s job to know the ins and outs of the roles of all the staff, this is a big ask as more and more responsibility is devolved on them from above.  So make it your business to teach your principal and others about how you add to teaching and learning in a way that offers them the data and evidence they need to be able to cite in reports and their own presentations.   

 

preservice

The preservice teacher’s experience with a qualified teacher librarian is often limited to the person who was in charge of the library at their secondary school and that is the role model they are likely to have in mind.  Regardless of that person’s effectiveness, in the intervening time the TL’s role will have changed as technology and other developments and expectations march on so we must be prepared to let them know about what it is we can offer, both while they are on their prac and in their early years of teaching.  

In terms of the longevity of the profession, they might be our most important audience because those who come into the profession with the experience and expectation of a top-shelf TL as a partner will demand the same support as their career progresses.

If you can talk to those at your local university about how to best use our expertise on their next prac or internship, then make yourself available to do so.  If your only audience is those who come to your school, make sure your schedule a time with them to spread the word and the wares.  They will be having conversations with their peers and the word will spread and the demand will grow.

politician

 

Have you noticed that whenever there is a political announcement about education to be made, politicians always choose schools and almost inevitably the school library? They come to us!  So use the opportunities to present what you do and can offer,  particularly in relation to the topic the politician is going to be speaking about, so they  can see there is an immediate application and implication for what they are trying to sell.

If there is an upcoming election at local, state or national level, offer a presentation to all candidates, sitting and wannabes, so they can understand what it is a TL adds to the education of their constituents’ children, particularly as education is such a hot-topic election issue.

Be the TL the politician thinks of when the opinion and voice of an educator is needed.

 

Know how to present

Public speaking that engages the audience is almost an art form so be aware of all those things that we teach students when they have to give a speech, present an argument or participate in a debate.

  • Know about enunciation, pronunciation and articulation.
  • Understand volume, speed and tone.
  • Use language -vocabulary and sentence structure – appropriate to both audience and topic. 
  • Consider body language and eye contact.  
  • Research public speaking tips and watch videos that offer suggestions.
  • Be prepared to put more time into preparing the presentation than it takes to deliver it.
  • Know and practice pre-presentation calming techniques that clear your mind so you have just your presentation on your mind.  
  • Know how to deliver your message with passion and professionalism 
  • Avoid jokes at the beginning which often fall flat and leave the audience turned off and tuned out already.
  • Introduce yourself, but keep within the context of your presentation so your audience know you have authority on the topic and the credentials to present it.
  • Provide contact details so participants know that you’re not just there for the duration of the presentation.
  • Be responsive to your reception.  Yawning and fidgeting, looking at mobiles and so forth are not good signs
  • Be empathetic – acknowledge the difficulties that your audience faces, particularity with time, and suggest ways these might be overcome.
  • Demonstrate that you have trodden their path, that you are on their side and you are there to help them collectively or individually.
  • Be flexible – adjust your presentation if needed to explore an avenue your audience is particularly interested in or consolidate an aspect they are experiencing difficulty with.  
  • Be focused – try not to let a particular participant divert the discussion to their agenda, Let them speak but know how to draw the attention back to the focus of the rest of the audience.
  • Appeal to different learning styles with both vocal and visual presentations and embed activity, interaction, participation, and reflection within them.
  • Use podcasts and videos within your presentation to demonstrate or consolidate but keep them short and ensure there is excellent sound and visual quality. Diverting the focus to a “third-party” can make bringing it back to you difficult.
  • Conclude by setting a task or posing a question that will ensure your audience continue to think about what you’ve offered after they walk out the door.
  • Follow up by establishing an email group, a Facebook group, a blog post, a wiki – whatever suits them and the topic so ideas can be explored, questions answered and new networks built.
  • Above all, be yourself. It’s the easiest way to relax and deliver your message effectively.

Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.

In Valentine’s story Luke doesn’t overcome his fear entirely, but he does find a solution that works for him. That is the aim – find out what works for you.  Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, “There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and the liars.” Hopefully these tips will help you pull on your presenter’s hat with a little less anxiety.

 

 

the transition hat

hat_transition

At the end of 2015 I finally hung up my going-to-school hat after 43 years of being in both the primary classroom and the school library.  Even though I officially “retired” in 2006, I’d still done a lot of casual relief work but for all of 2015 I had been back in a school library with my teacher librarian hat pulled on tightly.  However, I made the decision it was time to move on to new things. With this decision came the need and opportunity to consider what it was about the library I was in that made it unique to its situation and what the new incumbent would need to know to make the transition between us easier.

retirement

As the academic year draws to a close in the USA and elsewhere, and indeed teacher librarians everywhere are moving on to new schools or new lives, I thought it might be timely to consider what it is that we can do to make the transition from us to someone new go as smoothly as possible. What are the things we could and should do that will make for a seamless transition?  While many things are common to all school libraries, each has its own idiosyncrasies that make it unique and knowledge of these makes the new person’s job much less stressful.

However it is essential that the newcomer realises that the purpose of what you leave is not so that you can be the puppet-master from afar but a guide on the side so a welcome note, some flowers, something joyful to accompany what is likely to be a big pile will always be appreciated.

Here are some suggestions drawn from my own experience and that of others who generously contributed ideas to the online forums I belong to.

people

people

People are the key element of a library’s success and knowing who’s who is such a head start. Identifying the essential personnel will be enormously helpful but keep any comments, written or verbal, strictly professional.

  • if it’s possible and practicable, introduce the new TL to the library staff, parent volunteers, student leaders by hosting a morning tea before school starts where they can get to know each other without the busyness of the job to distract them
  • it there are paid library staff members, create a list of their current roles and responsibilities, timetable and other pertinent information
  • provide a thumbnail sketch of each person’s preferences and strengths so your new TL knows who the go-to person is if they want a display mounted, cataloging done, an ICT issue solved and so on
  • provide an outline of the nature of the student population such as whether there are significant indigenous or non-English speaking or LGBTQI groups and so forth who have specific needs that must be catered for
  • if there is a student leadership team for the library, identify those students who are likely to continue in this role and the program/expectations they follow
  • share the names of supportive staff members who are keen to collaborate or who know the collection well – those the new person can go to for advice if required
  • provide an outline of the chain of command so it’s clear who the supervisor is, who to go to for procedural or financial advice, who to go to for technical support and so on
  • make it clear if there are in-house committees or curriculum teams the TL is expected to join or take the leadership role
  • create a list of outside contacts such as frequently-used vendors, book fair co-ordinators, TLs in nearby schools, the local TL network co-ordinator, ICT Help Desk, even the local MP’s secretary and news editor if yours is a school that hosts events where politicians and the press are invited
  • if you are willing or able to be contacted for urgent questions, then provide your contact details

 

paperwork

paperwork

  • a sample teaching timetable is useful because even though it’s likely to change it provides a guide of expectations of the workload and its scope
  • a sample daily timetable indicating current hours the library is open, for whom and for what purposes. Include period and break times and any formal supervisory duties
  • a sample yearly timetable of events that the library has a leadership role in such as National Simultaneous Storytime, Book Week, Premier’s Reading Challenge, book fairs, community celebrations and in-school events including P&C and School Board functions
  • a calendar of requirements such as the submission of the budget; closing date for expenditure; subscription expiry dates; newsletters; student reports; anything already scheduled for the upcoming year such as a book fair
  • if you provide newsletters for faculties, contribute to the annual school report, share professional articles and so on, provide samples of these and the timeline and process you follow as well as a list of recipients
  • a copy of the current budget, annotated where necessary to identify priorities of the current collection policy including those yet to be fulfilled including details of ongoing grant submissions
  • a copy of the mission statement, the current strategic plan and critical policies such as those relating to the running of the library, collection development, collection management and circulation
  • a summary of the short, mid and long-term goals so the new TL can see the direction being taken at a glance (Just because the personnel changes, ratified policy shouldn’t have to.)
  • library procedures manual and diagrams of common workflow tasks especially if they are done by or involve others
  • list of “big picture” tasks recently completed or which need to be done such as inventory of a certain section
  • “cheatsheets” of essential information like logging into the circulation system
  • social media platforms used and how to access these
  • emergency routines such as fire drills and lockdown procedures
  • staff handbook for general school routines and procedures
  • school behaviour management procedures so that  there is consistency and continuity of expectations
  • sample forms used for budget submission; purchase suggestions; library bookings; curriculum planning
  • library-specific curriculum documents if applicable
  • procedures relating to the use of technology, games, makerspaces, access to new books and so forth – students will ALWAYS quote the previous TL’s rules if they perceive any sort of discrepancy
  • a list of above-and-beyond tasks currently undertaken by the library and which are likely to be expected to continue such as textbook management and equipment storage, maintenance and repair
  • an outline of external programs that your school is involved in and for which you have leadership such as Accelerated Reader, the library’s responsibilities in relation to these and any library-specific procedures

 

passwords

password

  • list generic passwords for
    • the circulation system
    • the library management system
    • online subscriptions such as databases, encyclopedia, ebooks
    • accessing the school’s computer network and/or learning management system
    • accessing library booking system
    • student sign-in system
    • social media access including any wikis or websites administered through the library
  • if passwords are not generic then list instructions for how they are generated by individuals

 

practicalities

practicalities

  • the hours the library is open beyond core school hours
  • if you have keys, leave these labelled 
  • if you are required to mark the roll or have some sort of sign-in mechanism leave the details of this
  • if you are required to collect statistics on circulation, library use and so on detail these as well as any software or LMS reports that you use
  • if you are required to supervise students who have ‘free’ periods, leave information about expectations for performance such as whether they are required to undertake formal study or whether it is a time to chat and play games.  Include the hierarchy for behaviour management issues.
  • if you are required to be on duty at each recess or lunch, indicate when you take the mandatory breaks yourself )and where the toilets and staffroom are)
  • clarify whether students are allowed to have food and drink in the library
  • the location of and access to services like photocopying and laminating as well as supplies such as printer paper
  • how the library is impacted by inside duties if the weather is inclement

 

peripherals

peripherals

Many, if not most, teacher librarians wear many hats beyond those of the core business of curriculum leader, information services manager and information specialist and there may be an expectation by administration, executive and colleagues that the newcomer will continue to provide these “extra-curricular” services.  So if you have taken on responsibilities such as co-ordinating pre-service teachers during their internship or the invigilation of exams and so forth, then ensure your successor is aware of these added extras so they can consider their role within them.

Other issues that are worth sharing include 

  • if you open early or close late and this entitles you to time-in-lieu  and when this is generally taken
  • if the library is used regularly for staff meetings and functions whose responsibility it is to set up and restore the environment
  • the care of any plants or wildlife housed in the library
  • the teacher librarian’s responsibility to lead staff  professional learning particularly in ICT hardware and software
  • any parent participation programs that you run
  • your responsibility, if any, for the procurement and maintenance of ICT hardware

However, these suggestions come with a serious caveat.  You leave these guides because YOU have chosen to move on and you are being replaced by a suitably qualified professional.  Sadly, many administrators and principals are looking to cut budgets and think that they can do this by employing a non-school librarian, a paraprofessional, an administrative clerk or even parent volunteers because despite all the advocacy and education about what it is a top-shelf teacher librarian can bring to the table, they still think that it’s just about book circulation. Similarly, as shown through a recent online discussion, others are trying to replace their ‘teacher librarian’ with a ‘digital learning specialist’ or other fancy sounding name because, again, they are still stuck in the notion of the position having remained static since their own childhood school experiences.

I have long advocated that in those circumstances you leave only that which belongs to the school itself and put none of your time and energy into creating lists and notes and so forth,  While this may sound harsh and tough for the person coming into the position, it is my belief that if the decision-makers are driven by counting beans, then beans should be all they get.  We know, ourselves, what it is our tertiary and professional learning in our specialist areas of information literacy, digital citizenship, literature appreciation and so forth bring to the education experiences of our students  and there is plenty of literature and research that is readily available to support this  and, in my opinion, if the hirers and firers choose to ignore this and withdraw this expertise and experience from the staff and students, then they must live with the consequences of that decision.

While that may seem harsh and unfair to the person who is going to fill your shoes and follow your footsteps, nevertheless if we, as a profession, are to continue to make the difference is out students’ education that all the research attests to, then we have to take a stand that will show that the role is much more complex and diverse than many realise and we do so much more than scan the barcodes on books.

Each of us works in a unique situation so although our “big-picture” professional practice will allow us to move into almost any library workplace, it is the detail of the daily duties that make each position unique.  What you leave as a legacy is your decision but by putting on your transition hat and thinking about what you would like to know about your library if you were the one moving into it you will have a foundation for what to leave for the person who follows you.

the seer’s hat

hat_seer

 

 

 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a seer as one who “predicts events or developments” and while I can’t lay claim to having that extraordinary insight that sets such visionaries above the rest of us, in the past few weeks I have had the opportunity and privilege to see what might be in the world of libraries.

While no one can accurately predict the future, nevertheless there are those who examine what has been, what is and can make a very good forecast of what will be. They undertake the research, read the reports, study the trends and draw conclusions that the astute amongst us will consider and act on so that what we are offering remains relevant and required.

In a keynote address at the recent SLANZA conference in Christchurch, Mark Osborne identified three distinct phases in the evolution of education.

education1Education 1.0
This is the period prior to the Industrial Revolution when education was based on immediate, localised relationships.  It was limited to those with whom one interacted within the village or farm. It was based on the master and apprentice model where the skills needed to function within the community were handed down from generation to generation.The library consisted of the knowledge and stories in the heads of the village elders which were passed on orally to younger members as they required it.
 education2Education 2.0
This period was predicated on the factory model where items (students) moved along a conveyor belt having pre-determined bits added to them as they progressed in a lock-step fashion until they reached the end where they were tested for quality control. Uniformity of appearance and outcome reigned.  This one-size-fits-all model was seen as an efficient way to achieve a finished product and even the buildings which were single-cell classrooms off long corridors reinforced the notion.   The teacher at the front of the classroom was the sage on the stage, students were passive “empty vessels to be filled” and learning was measured through written products which demonstrated the level of  content and skills acquired. Curriculum was prescribed and delivered in a just-in-case fashion. Learning was confined to the boundaries of the school and the hidden curriculum of obedience, politeness, punctuality, neatness and respect for authority dominated.  (Bowles & Gintis, 1976) The library was often a converted classroom, although later purpose-built structures emerged, and their main function was to be the storehouse of all the resources that staff and students needed. These were predominantly print and presided over by a person who was seen as the gatekeeper and who gave rise to the stereotypical image of a librarian today.
 education3Education 3.0
This phase of education has emerged particularly with the development of and access to technology as well as the research into how the brain functions and how humans learn.
 It is based on the belief that knowledge is a commodity, free to all rather than being the exclusive domain of the privileged few and that progress is based on not what you know but what you can do with what you know.  Students are considered information creators as well as information consumers and so the teacher is now the guide on the side facilitating personal and collaborative knowledge creation based on the needs, abilities and interests of the individual. Learning is based on the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and thus is 365/24/7 with ubiquitous access to and use of technology to go beyond the walls of the school to wherever it leads.Students have a strong sense of ownership of their own education, are involved in the co-creation of both knowledge and resources and have active choice in their learning. While the library continues to be a storehouse of resources because not everything is available online and there is a growing body of research supporting the young learner’s need to build a solid foundation of traditional skills based on print if they are to be an effective and efficient user of the digital environment, the collection is much smaller and the space more flexible.  It is geared to encouraging collaboration as students pose problems and seek solutions to them configuring the space to meet the needs of their activity.

 

If we consider that a simple Google search today embraces all the technology that was employed in the Apollo program to land a man on the moon less than 50 years ago, and our students carry that power in their pockets but have done for only seven years since the release of the first smart phone, how can schools and their libraries change to meet the demands of Education 4.0 which is already on the horizon? The phrase “21st century skills” is bandied around in educational circles to the extent that it is now part of the lexicon of modern education. But what are those skills, what are they based on and what is their implication for the school library of the future and the teacher librarian who steers it?

Gratton (2011) has identified that the forces of technology, globalisation, society, energy resources, demography and longevity will be the major influences on work into the future and these are going to have a significant impact on the relevance of the current education system. The World Economic Forum has also identified 16 skills students need stating, “The gap between the skills people learn and the skills people need is becoming more obvious, as traditional learning falls short of equipping students with the knowledge they need to thrive”.  Students need to be able to collaborate, communicate and solve problems and these are developed through social and emotional learning.

Skills required in the 21st century

Skills required in the 21st century

How to teach all the skills

How to teach all the skills

Other research from a variety of sources indicates that those jobs most likely to disappear to the efficiency of automation are those that are routine cognitive tasks and non-routine manual tasks while those that require human interaction and social intelligence or have a heuristic element that requires novel recombinations and interpretations of existing information to develop new ideas and artefacts are more resistant. Jobs that involve problem solving, teamwork, interpersonal skills rather than academic, and entrepreneurship will be the focus of the future while those that can be easily-structured into a rules-based process will disappear as computers follow rules very well. This is illustrated by computers being able to play chess at the masters level yet they cannot play a simple game of tic-tac-toe.

The New Work Order Report

The New Work Order Report

future_meme

The workforce  landscape that our current kindergarten students will face will be significantly different from that of our current school leavers.  While there are many infographics offering guidance about the nature of what those “21st century skills” are, the common core comprises

  • curiosity
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • connectivity
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • confidence
  • computer competence
  • commitment
  • citizenship

 21st_century

 

Much has also been written about how these concepts can and must be embedded in the design and delivery of the curriculum in the classroom, but how do they shape the school library, its position and potential?

At the SLJ Leadership Summit we have been urged to “teach more and librarian less” and certainly that makes sense if we take on board the evidence that those tasks which are routine, manually-based and do not involve critical human intervention are more likely to be outsourced or automated. Why should a principal pay a teaching salary for a job a volunteer can do?  But what does this look like in a practical sense?  Perhaps it is worthwhile to return to those three key roles of the teacher librarian – curriculum leader, information services manager and information specialist – and examine what they might entail in the immediate future.

curriculum leader

Because the teacher librarian is still likely to be the person within the school with the broadest view of the curriculum as a whole, the role of curriculum leader remains essential, even moreso when we consider how far its boundaries now reach. The core concepts of 21st century pedagogy are also the core of our teaching skillset. 

If the child’s innate curiosity is to be fostered so they can ask and answer their own questions then an inquiry-based approach which builds on what they already know and what they want to find out is essential.  Sitting comfortably within that approach as a scaffold is the information literacy process, a cross-curriculum perspective that encourages critical and creative thinking, the melding of what is known with what is learned to develop new perspectives and the communication of these new ideas with confidence through a variety of channels. Its foundation question of “What do I want to know?” encourages problem solving and solution seeking either by the individual or a group.

However, we can’t lead every inquiry and investigation so our role has to shift from teaching the students to also teaching the teachers so that the language and practice  of inquiry-based learning and information literacy are embedded into all curriculum design and delivery.  It is much easier to have a long-term impact on 30 teachers than 900 students. Rather than being just the teacher of “library skills”, an extension of the English department or value-adding to what  is done within the classroom, we have a specialist teaching role in the development of the reading and research skills, digital citizenship and communications that are at the heart of learning.  At the SLJ Leadership Summit, panellist Tara Jones said she was now her school’s ‘research technology specialist’ as she “collaborates with classroom teachers and co-teaches lessons in the classroom” and is “responsible for embedding technology and research skills within problem-based learning experiences”. Sounds very much what many Australian TLs do already, although the emphasis is on co-teaching rather than just collaborating!

As well as the visible direct instructor’s role that we assume, we must also lead a less visible, more subtle but equally important thrust.  We need to create opportunities that encourage children to question, to explore, to investigate, to collaborate, to persevere, to mentor, to explain, to listen, to discuss, to debate, to decide, to be confident, to have a can-do attitude, to manage their time, to take risks, to cope with pressure, failure and adversity, to be flexible, to be resilient, to be committed, to take responsibility, to be independent- in short, to develop those attributes and interpersonal skills that are going to be the key to their futures. We can do this by

  • developing displays that lead them to new worlds to discover
  • creating challenges which encourage them to solve problems
  • allowing them to wonder and experiment, to follow along paths and down rabbit holes
  • letting them lead their own learning
  • using a variety of groupings that take them out of their immediate friendship circle
  • allowing them a leadership role in the management and running of the library
  • challenging existing ideas by playing devil’s advocate
  • asking questions and setting tasks that are open-ended so there can be a variety of solutions
  • encouraging them to pursue a passion and then enabling them to share it with a live audience
  • encouraging them to teach and mentor each other as well as us
  • flipping the curriculum by using online tools to support 365/24/7 learning
  • creating an online classroom that can be a “ready reference” for students such as The Library Minute
  • providing the ‘river’ but not necessarily the ‘bridge’ which says “cross here”
  • providing flexible spaces for learning that can be arranged and changed to meet the needs of the users and the task including
    • 1:many for direct instruction
    • co-teaching
    • peer tutoring so small groups can work together
    • informal places for relaxation, play and experimentation
    • private spaces where personal learning choices and means can be explored
    • collaborative opportunities
    • outdoor learning
    • reflection
  • providing opportunities for learning to be shared through social networking apps

Similarly, we can be a less-visible support for our teaching colleagues as we share relevant research with them; alert them to opportunities for professional learning; suggest new reads and new resources that fit what they are doing in class right now; go the extra mile to track down that elusive key resource…

With no more powerful advocates for the school library than the parents of its students, we must also be reaching and teaching them, inviting them to be active participants in their child’s learning as the boundaries between home and school, teaching and learning blur and merge into a seamless whole. By reaching out through parent participation programs and social media we can inform parents of what is happening and why as well as forming long-lasting partnerships that can only enhance what the library offers.

And while we are focused on teaching others, we must not forget to keep teaching ourselves through our professional networks, professional reading and action research. We must know that what we do is based on current best-practice and be able to defend and demonstrate this through reference to theory, research and evidence. We need to be the window to the future, not the mirror of the past.

It is the teaching role that we assume in the school that will be the purple cow that Seth Godin encourages us to find -that one remarkable thing that makes us stand out from the herd.

purple_cow

 

information services manager

While some might argue that the provision of resources could be easily outsourced, it is the curriculum leader’s hat that makes that of the information services manager fit more snugly. The responsibility to “develop and implement strategies for evaluating the collection and for determining curriculum and student needs within the context of identified school priorities” is just as critical now as it ever was particularly with the plethora of resources in so many formats available.

The collection, regardless of its format, must still meet the needs. interests and abilities of its users.  It still needs to be regularly evaluated and assessed, added to or subtracted from as necessary. But it now needs to support information creation as well as information consumption and be available 365/24/7 as learning is no longer confined by walls and clocks.  Collection Development policies need to be updated to reflect the needs of now and the next three years so that decisions are informed by evidence. 

In the past couple of weeks I have personally been contacted by three teacher librarians who have been directed to dispose of their non fiction collections by principals who believe that such collections no longer have a place and that the space could be put to better use. The belief that “everything is available on the internet” is alive and well in the minds of many. As the information services manager we have a responsibility to dispel this myth that everything, everywhere has been digitised and that what is available is authoritative, accurate, current, objective, relevant and intellectually accessible to our students. We need to ensure that the Powers That Be are kept abreast of the research that shows that if students are to be effective and efficient users of digital content they need a foundation of traditional skills built on print; that not everything is available online, not even behind subscriber-based firewalls; that what is online does not necessairly meet the needs of students, particularly younger ones; and that we must acknowledge the different learning styles, needs and preferences of our clients and cater for these.

Collection development should not be an either/or decision.

information specialist

The library may no longer be the vast book repository it once was but the need for an information specialist  – the provider of “access to information resources through efficient and well-guided systems for organising, retrieving and circulating resources”-  can be summed up in these three memes which regularly do the rounds of social networking media.

internet_library fire_hydrant

trained_librarian

 

Providing easy access to appropriate and relevant information is more important now than ever before as the library’s walls are breached and the amount of information grows exponentially each year. Even with tools like Google Advanced Search, students can still spend whole sessions searching for the perfect online resource and then be totally overwhelmed by the choices available.

Where once a working knowledge of the Dewey system and the arrangement of the library was sufficient, today and tomorrow a whole new set of skills are needed. Students expect to be able to access what they want, where they want and from whatever device they are using at the time.  So the curation of resources using tools like LibGuides, Only2Clicks, ScoopIt  Pinterest and Pearltrees and the selection and promotion of databases are essential.

We need to teach both staff and students how to use Wikipedia and Google efficiently because we know these are the go-to tools when an information need becomes apparent, and, at the same time, we need to teach them to be mindful of their digital footprint and protecting their privacy. The ethical use of ideas, information and images is also critical in this copy-and-paste society adding yet another layer of complexity to the role.

And because information management is about creation as well as consumption we must also know the right app for the job so we also have to have things like the padogogy wheel and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy on hand. If anything, the need for an information specialist who knows pedagogy, the curriculum, how teachers teach and students learn is more important than ever. 

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

blooms_digital

 

the learning space

Key to the library meeting the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students is the ability for the space itself to be able to adapt to particular needs at a particular time.  While it will still have a storehouse role as well as that of being a sanctuary, they need to become “awesome incubators” (Osborne) and a ‘temporary autonomous zone’ where users can create the type of space that fits their needs at the time.  The physical space needs to reflect the rapidly changing nature of the intellectual architecture so they add to what is happening within and beyond the school.  Users need to be able to create the space they need for the activity they are going to do.  So as well as mobile technology and moveable furniture they need to have areas that cater for noisy and quiet activities, individual, and collaborative work, formal and informal instruction, vertical and horizontal groupings, showcase and feedback… While there is currently a focus on the library as a makerspace this needs to be interpreted as the creation of new ideas and information as well as objects.  But most critically, because of our innate need for contact with others of our species, we must teach our students to thrive in the digital world and survive in an analog one.

An internet search for ‘library makeover’ will yield many stories and images that can be adapted but Extreme Makeover tracks the changes in the library of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and includes planning and pitfalls and lots of other tips. Diana Rendina identifies six active learning spaces your library should have if it is to meet the needs of its users. Much of this post hs been inspired by the keynote address by Mark Osborne at From the Ground Up, SLANZA 2015 and there is more of his writing in Collected  and the basis for his assertions in an Ed-Talk video.  For me, anyone who starts with the premise that “the first step to considering modern learning environments is to start with learning” is on solid ground.

Contrary to a common belief that libraries will be obsolete by 2025, this glimpse into what can be demonstrates that their place in society is secure.  As the school becomes the centre of the child’s global village, so the library must become the village green -a service centre offering opportunities to teach and learn; the buffer between home and work where schools and their communities can come together; a blended space where tradition meets the future.

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Andrew Carnegie

Pushing Beyond Future-Ready: Creating a Bold Context for K-12 Libraries

the social media hat

hat_social_media

 

 

For decades teacher librarians were isolated in their schools, often being the only one of them on the staff.  While there were sometimes opportunities for those in a cluster of schools to get together face-to-face, on the whole it was a lonely position with most professional instruction coming from handbooks, college notes and the occasionally print publication.

 

However the development of social media tools has changed the landscape entirely and now teacher librarians are amongst the most visible professions, exploring and exploiting social media to connect with each other, their clients and the ‘long tail’- those who don’t believe that a library has anything to offer them. No longer is the library confined to a physical building or its collection to print resources lined up on shelves. Rather than the transfer of information it presumed users wanted, the emphasis is now on the creation of information that users have indicated they need.

In 2009, Matthews claimed that a library’s website was its “most important feature” because it had become the first stop for clients seeking information and was the public face of the library and its presentation can tell the user much about the organisation. Thus the design, content and structure of the library’s website was and remains of paramount importance. But now there are so many more ways to connect with the world beyond the walls that we have to have a multi-faceted face to it.

“Web 1.0 took people to the information; [whereas] Web 2.0 will take the information to the people.”

Ian Davis

The library’s focus has to be centred on its users, delivering information, resources and services that meet their actual, rather than their assumed, needs, guided by client requests, response, participation and feedback.

“Library 2.0 is based on community, conversation, collaboration and content-creation.”

Lyn Hay & Jake Wallis

Although many libraries have had a web presence for some time, there is now a range of tools that can be added to it or used to complement it encouraging communication and collaboration.

facebook_logo twitter_logo instagram_logo pinterest_logo edublogs_logo wikispaces_logo edmodo_logo
oztl_logo shelfari_logo youtube_logo flickr_logo skype_logo goodreads_logo  eduwebinar_logo

The selection of the applications to suit the needs of the institution and its intentions is critical.  The tool’s purpose, features and functionality must  support the purpose, content and design of the library website enabling it to develop a broad online presence. Choices need to be made based on accessibility to the clients with COPPA restricting access for under-13s  to many apps. The common denominator must be that they are interactive, participatory and support both the creation and consumption of information.

The Arizona State University Libraries websites demonstrate how this can be done successfully. Rather being confined to physical buildings, they have moved beyond the walls and into the realm of the students using a range of applications to ensure that current customers are better served and new users targeted.

the role of the teacher librarian

From Library 2.0 comes Librarian 2.0.

Central to the library’s participation in the social networking environment is a librarian who understands its philosophies, practices and potential. 

Librarian 2.0 is a mashup of the old and the new focusing on the users, services, technology, content and context in a collaborative, interactive environment.

While the traditional knowledge, skills and attributes remain an essential core, they are enriched by new Library 2.0-based capabilities enabling a more diverse, richer experience for both librarian and client. Policies, programs and practices reflect the new paradigm and the users’ needs become their driver. Rather than being the sage-on-the-stage dispensing information, Librarian 2.0 becomes the guide-on-the-side facilitating the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

librarian_20a librarian_20b
librarian_20c
librarian_20d
The Networked TL

The Networked TL

social media in action

There are as many social media tools as there are purposes to use them.   Indeed, one of the most difficult decisions is to choose the one that best meets your needs and which is likely to have some stability and longevity if that is important. Just three years ago there was a post on a blog listing an A-Z of social media tools – not only is the blog post now gone but most of the tools have too!

The ‘padagogy wheel’ identifies iPad apps that satisfy various levels of the Bloom’s Digital taxonomy but not everyone chooses an Apple environment and apps come and go as regularly as the tides. Nevertheless, it offers some starting points to begin or continue embedding ICT into learning and creating a collaborative and communal space. 

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

 

 

However, while having students engage in using these apps is a critical part of the 21st century teaching and learning environment, social media is also a necessary tool in the TL’s toolkit if we are to connect and communicate with our communities including students, staff, parents, and colleagues further afield.  It is the ideal way to un-isolate ourselves and build bridges to the broader community as well as continuing to grow our professional knowledge and practices. 

Perhaps the most commonly used tool is also among the oldest – the email-based listserv such as OZTL_NET and LM_NET. Popular because questions can be asked as they arise and responses delivered straight to the subscriber’s inbox, most educational jurisdictions host a local list so the discussion is particular to the issues of that state or territory.

Blogs are widely used to share new knowledge, understandings and practices as well as provide a range of opinions and perspectives on issues affecting the profession. Each is as individual as its writer and they are a valuable source of new ideas and information.  Recently The Edublogger posted a list of 23 library-based blogs hosted on the Edublogs platform but there are many more available including those from professional leaders like 

As well as blogs from those within the profession there are many from the wider education field who write posts that will enrich and enhance our professional practice.  Look for

There are also many sites which regularly review new releases of titles suitable for our clientele and these need to be selected according to their focus and your students’ ages, needs and interests. Some to explore are 

Goodreads and Shelfari are also worth having on your radar as community-powered tools to keep abreast of new releases as well as criticisms of popular reads.

Most education jurisdictions require a certain amount of formal professional learning to be undertaken and logged each year and to overcome distance issues requiring expensive travel and accommodation costs, webinars are now becoming a more popular method of delivery. These can be national or international and institutions like ASLA  offer them on a regular basis. They have the distinct advantage of being able to participate wearing your pyjamas with chocolate and coffee by your side!

For communication purposes Facebook and Twitter seem to be the favourite platforms and they are used for a variety of audiences. open and closed.  However the COPPA restricts use to over- 13s so primary schools tend to use them for parental communication only.  Facebook is used for sharing upcoming events, book reviews, and other news associated with the school library as well as tips and links to assist parents with their child’s learning.

There are several opportunities for TLs to connect via Facebook including

as well as pages to follow such as the Australian School Library Association which regularly post links to relevant articles.

Twitter is not necessarily used by students (some research suggests they see it as the world of the ‘oldies’) but many parents use it and it’s a way of spreading important messages quickly. Many of the profession’s leaders tweet interesting tidbits daily and the back channels of conferences can be a worthwhile source of new information and perspectives.

Wikis are also an opportunity to connect and learn from our peers although we must consider the 1-9-90 rule – 90% of participants don’t contribute although they value what they read and observe; 9% add to existing discussions and 1% create the content and the commentary. Two wikis worth looking at are Book Week for Beginners and Guided Inquiry both of which support the TL’s professional practice.

Curation tools such as Pinterest, Only 2 Clicks, and Pearltrees are already an integral part of the TL’s sharing hat, and as the concept of flipped classrooms begins to grow, more and more tools like YouTube, Vimeo, Photopeach and Slideshare will become as important to teachers sharing their teaching as they are to learners sharing their learning.

Whatever your social media need is, there is an app for it.  But for the TL of the 21st century, the social media hat is one we must put on every day if we are to remain relevant and inhabit the world where we will find our students. For those who would like the hat to fit a little more snugly you might like to investigate Social Networking for Information Professionals available through Charles Sturt University.

Need more ideas?  Have a look at Library Media Tech Talk “A blog about school library collaborations, new technology, and apps. We share about how we are working with our school learning community.”

the professional learning hat

hat_prof_lrng

 

At the core of our mandate as teacher librarians is enabling our students to become lifelong learners.

Through teaching them about the information literacy process we give them a scaffold they can use in any area that allows them to know how to find out what they want or need to know whether it’s solving a complex mathematical problem or learning how to start a motor mower. As teacher librarians, we pride ourselves on being lifelong learners – but are we?

 

How many of us walk across the stage at graduation, accept that piece of paper that states we are now qualified to teach in this specialist area, and think, “That’s it.  No more study for me”? Or believe that the only way to grow our learning is through TL-specific courses and conferences? Or look at the requirements for progressing our careers and think that they are all focused on the sphere of the classroom-based teacher and therefore irrelevant?  From the messages I read on the various TL networks I belong to, it would seem that all too often this is the case.

Over the last few years, education in Australia  has changed significantly with the establishment of AITSL – Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership – and all teachers are now required to be formally accredited and to log a minimum of 20 hours professional learning each year (100 hours over five years in NSW).  This is because AITSL believes that a great education system is based on its teachers, that the best educators are the best learners and

the best systems make sure that teachers and school leaders can become great as they progress through their profession because people naturally want to grow, develop, and be successful

And for this to be achieved there need to be opportunities and commitment for learning with diverse forms of support that meet the needs, abilities and preferences of the teachers.  In other words, we do for ourselves that which we do for our students. 

 

 

Most education jurisdictions now require the annual logging and formal evaluation of professional learning based on a formal professional learning plan that has stated personal and corporate goals that identify the why, when, where and how of achievement.

For some reason, this seems to pose problems for many TLs who can’t seem to move themselves beyond TL-focused professional learning and nebulous statements such as having children loving reading (which cannot be measured) or improving circulation stats (which prove nothing beyond the number of times a resource is checked out).  Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – and the best way to formulate is to consult any formal documentation you can such as the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identify the areas where you personally need to improve your knowledge, practice and/or commitment.  For Australian TLs, ALIA Schools Group have mapped the AITSL standards to TL professional practice in Teacher Librarian Practice for the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

Examine your library’s vision statement, mission statement and strategic plan to identify what you want the library to be like in three years and from that identify what professional learning you need to be able to get it there.   If it is not readily available then approach your professional network to see if there is a demand for it and whether they can supply it.  Don’t limit yourself to face-to-face delivery at conferences and meetings but look for webinars and other online opportunities, reading books and articles and so forth.

Even if you have been in the position for many years there is always something new to learn but it may be worthwhile to stop, draw breath, and reflect on what you believe and value and develop manifestos to encapsulate this to help you draw together all you have learned and achieved already and provide a benchmark from which to go forward.  Such an exercise will ensure your plans are true to your beliefs, will help you take them to a higher level and ensure you are invested in the outcomes.  Your plan will be more than a tick-a-box-for-authority document.

If a plan is to be achieved successfully it cannot be overwhelming so three goals relating to the domains of professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment should be sufficient but carefully chosen. Ask yourself…

  • How will achieving this goal contribute to
    • my personal professional growth?
    • the design and delivery of the curriculum for teachers and students?
    • the achievement of the library’s vision and mission statements and strategic plan?
    • the school’s plan for progress?
    • the perception of the role of the TL within this learning community?

Explicitly identify the elements for each goal so success is even more likely.  So a PLP could look like 

PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
Identify each strategy to be undertaken to achieve the goal  What you need to do to satisfy the strategy  Short.medium.long term human, financial, physical, time 

Performance indicators

Include milestones for long term goals  

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENT
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement

 

By explicitly articulating the goal, the reason you are focusing on it, and the professional standard it is addressing you are demonstrating your understanding of your need for professional growth and your commitment to it. You are showing that you are taking the process seriously and professionally and not only does this underline the TL’s role in the teaching and learning process but it is more likely to get you the resources – human, financial, physical and time – you need to achieve it. Even if you are required to use a common pro forma, knowing why you have chosen a particular goal and so forth can be added as an extra and addressed in your formal conversation with your line manager. 

In her presentation Revisioning the School Library Program Anne Weaver states, “Teacher librarians must provide cutting edge library programs, using evidence based practice, that focus on goals directly connected to school leadership priorities…” She argues that if we do not do deliver programs that keep the school leadership satisfied that their investment in our salaries is justified then we put our positions at risk. 

In its publication Global trends in professional learning and performance & development AITSL examined the features of innovative professional learning and performance & development…

Features of innovative professional learning and performance & development

Features of innovative
professional learning
and performance &
development

From: Global trends in professional learning and performance & development

 

Their analysis showed that while there is a trend for individuals undertaking professional learning that is based online, collaborative, self-directed and informal and that this has value for the individual participant, it is not the best way for the organisation to leverage the results and grow as a whole.  The most effective combinations for both the individual and the organisation were opportunities that were

  • individual – participants take part alone
  • self-directed – participants choose the focus, pace and outcomes…and monitor and evaluate their own progress and achievement
  • personalised – learning focuses on the needs of the participant
  • situated – learning is within and geared to the goals of the organisation
  • offered – opportunities are made available to the participants
  • incentivised – learning is highly valued by the organisation and participants are given incentives to take part

If one of the purposes of the professional learning is to build the knowledge capital within the school, then specialist teachers like TLs need to be part of the big picture. Sometimes it is difficult to see how matches can be made between the specialist role and the school generally.  How do school goals about a greater focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fit with the TL role that is traditionally associated with English and possibly History?

Such an apparent ‘mis-match’ just needs some new thinking, the putting on of a new hat and some homework using that information literacy scaffold.  

  • Ask yourself…
    • How can I view this goal with a TL lens? What leadership and/or support can I give teachers and students? What resources are required?
    • What do I already know, do, and have that can provide that support or offer leadership?
    • What do I, as an individual need to learn or do so I can provide what is required to the school as a whole?
    • How can I shape that learning into a personal goal using both the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians?
    • Where can I get the learning/training that I need to achieve that goal and deliver what is expected? What resources will I need to access it?
    • How can I demonstrate my learning as an individual and its contribution to the school’s growth?
    • How can I build on what I have learned to strengthen the school’s position in this area and to take it even further forward?
  • Develop a detailed plan to share with your school’s executive which not only demonstrates how your professional learning is in alignment with theirs but will also show that the TL’s role is integral to their success.
  • Put the plan into practice, document it, seek evidence that it is having an impact and share this as part of your formal PL discussions with your executive.

While the focus of the professional learning in a school can be driven from the top-down and for many, remains a passive process of attendance, listening and note-taking, by taking the opportunity to make it a personal action plan that we are committed to, it can have meaning and momentum that really contributes to the big picture.  

If we are to encourage and enable lifelong learning, then we must be lifelong learners ourselves. Putting on our professional learning hat and ensuring it is a snug fit is one way of doing that.

the landscaper’s hat

hat_landscaper

 

 

 

 

The landscaper’s hat is a much more important hat than many realise.   The environment we provide is a critical element in a student’s perception about whether the library is for them and their choice to use it.

In 1999, eminent management researcher, Peter Drucker predicted that in the Information Age workforce of the 21st century the most successful person will be a knowledge worker – one who

    • has had a strong formal education
    • is able to apply theory to a practical world
    • can continually update their knowledge and upgrade their skills.  
    • is able to access, evaluate, interpret and use information
    • is committed to lifelong learning.

Their greatest assets will be what is between their ears and their ability to continually learn.

The library is the information center of the school and its staff are the information specialists.  We know how to provide “[the] services that make specific suggestions about how to use the information, [how to] ask specific questions regarding the user’s business and practices, and perhaps provide interactive consultation” that Drucker (2001) says are necessary for the knowledge worker to be able to make meaning from the information.

It is in the library, and through the programs and products that we offer, that the knowledge workers of the future will be nurtured.

But to be nurtured, they need to be in the library and so it needs to be a place that invites them in.

Does your library look like the one ruled over by Madam Pince at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in J. K. Rowling’s series about Harry Potter –  “tens of thousands of books, thousands of shelves, hundreds of narrow rows”?

Is this your library?

Is this your library?

Are those books standing shoulder-to-shoulder like soldiers in mufti, in strict alphabetical or numerical order, ranks only broken when some clever student breaks the code and finds what she is looking for?  Is it quieter than troops being inspected by the general, a place only for reference and research, serious study, and no nonsense?

Or is it a place that invites and excites?

Or does it invite and excite?

Or does it invite and excite?

As well as Drucker’s research, research into learning tells us

  • the brain functions at many levels simultaneously as thoughts, emotions, imagination,  predispositions and physiology  interact and exchange information with the environment
  • the brain absorbs information both directly and indirectly,  continually aware of  what is beyond the immediate focus of attention, to the extent that 70% of what is learned is not directly taught.
  • learning involves conscious and unconscious processes, including experience, emotion and sensory input, and that much of our learning  occurs and is processed below the level of immediate awareness so that understanding may not happen until much later after there has been time for reflection and assimilation
  • the brain is “plastic” because its structure is changed (or ‘rewired’) by exposure to new experiences so the more we use it, the better it gets.
  • the brain is stimulated by challenge and inhibited by threat, so students in safe, secure environments, both mental and physical, can allow their cognitive brains to dominate their emotional brains and will explore, investigate, take risks and learn.
  • that 30%-60% of the brain’s wiring comes from our genetic makeup (nature) and 40%-70% comes from environmental influences and impact (nurture)
  • the two critical factors in learning are novelty and interactive specific feedback

In addition, in What Do I Do on Monday? eminent educator John Holt talks to us about the four worlds of learning.

 

The Four Worlds of Learning

The Four Worlds of Learning

The first world is that intense, personal world of our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, values, and preferences based on our experiences and how they have all merged to give us our perception of the world.  It is a changing world, but the common core of beliefs strengthens as we age as we tend to take from experiences that which confirms those beliefs.

The second world is that of the memory of what we have actually seen and done.  It is the world of direct experience, the things we have seen, felt, smelt, touched, heard, tasted by ourselves and with others.  These interactions with the world around us shape our World 1.

The third world is the world we know because we have learned that it exists.  It is the world of books, television, movies, plays, pictures, the internet – it is the world of words and pictures that others create for us to learn about.

The fourth world is the world we don’t know about yet.  It has no boundaries.  It is a world of possibilities because we don’t know what is in it simply because we don’t know what we don’t know.

As we learn each world influences the other. Learning is how we integrate our experiences into our knowing.

 

gateway

The library is the gateway to World 3.  Through the world of words and pictures we can introduce our students to worlds that they don’t yet know, or explore the worlds they have visited via television, the movies or the internet.  

peek_inside

 

The library allows them to revisit their experiences in World 2, to shape their World 1 and have a peek into World 4.

The astute teacher-librarian will understand the impact these research findings can have on the services we offer and how we offer them.

With a little imagination, it is easy to compromise between the austerity of Hogwarts and the flamboyance of the bookstore that thinks it is a coffee shop. Your library can be a place where the students choose to be even when they don’t have to, as well as a must-see on the principal’s itinerary when prospective parents are shown through the school. And you can have confidence that the environment is built around sound pedagogical principles which provide sound evidence for the time you spend creating it. 

Giving your library the WOW factor does not mean having to change any of your core business practices.  It just means examining what you do and considering how you could do it with a bit more flair.

peek_inside2

 

Place your Space 

Whether you are planning a brand new library or renovating an established one it is important to go back to basics and identify

  • what is the purpose of your school library now and envisaged
  • who are its target users
  • what are their interests, needs, abilities, demands and priorities
  • what essential services must be provided to meet those needs and priorities
  • what resources will meet those needs and in what formats and how these will impact on layout
  • which parts of the library are best suited to providing those services
  • what is the library’s role in helping students develop an awareness for and appreciation of aesthetics
  • how the users tend/want to use the library’s spaces
  • how the library can be future-proofed by being able to respond to significant changes without significant investment 

Answering those questions means you can develop a plan that organizes your space and provides you with a priority list of projects. 

  • Create a scale floorplan of your space and mark in the fixed furniture and fittings, windows and power points.
Floorplans help place the space

Floorplans help place the space

 

  • Check your building or district fire safety regulations so you can comply with their entry/exit requirements, what can be put on walls, hung from ceilings and any other constraints. Make sure that nothing interferes with the line-of-sight of your security cameras, scanners and sensors
  • Using your priority list place spaces that are dependent on those non-negotiables, such as the quiet reading corner near natural light and computers near power sources.
  • Top priority must go to being able to see as much of the space as possible from the place you spend the majority of your time. Under duty-of-care legislation we are required to do “everything reasonably practical” to ensure the safety and well-being of those in our care. We are also charged with being in loco parentis (in place of the parent) so there is an extra layer of supervision imposed on us.
  • Consider the needs of the disabled so they are able to operate as independently as possible – some authorities impose regulations about minimum width access aisles and so forth.
  • Apart from those considerations, design the space for flexibility so it can be reconfigured to meet various and changing needs. Support motivation, collaboration and personalisation. Diana Rendina identifies six active spaces that all libraries should have.
  • Plan for learning that is both mobile and connected; interactive and supported; large group, small group and individual; as well as remote and face-to-face. Think about these verbs… choose, read, listen, connect, think, reflect, write, collaborate, co-operate, discuss, debate, share, plan, prepare, present, design, deliver, inform, entertain, inspire, delight, integrate, display, store, perform, circulate, meet, organise, select, play, challenge, manipulate, demonstrate, change, access, involve, engage, inquire, investigate, dream … 

Above all the space should be a place where staff and students want to be, where there is mental and physical comfort, safety and security. 

Consider the unique aspects of being a child, especially if you are working with younger students.  You need to bring the kids into the world of words before you can put the world of words into the world of kids.

What to us seems to be a regular space and regular proportions, especially if we are familiar with it because it is our daily environment, can be very overwhelming for a small child.  So we need to consider bringing the space down to their size and make it as friendly as possible so they feel that this is a place for them and they are welcome in it. High ceilings that seem to soar almost to heaven, can be “brought down” by hanging things like kites, or signs or swathes of fabric.  Connect the floor and the ceiling with Jack and the Beanstalk or other displays, or build semi-permanent displays on top of shelves.  All fool the eye into thinking that this is a manageable, comfortable space to operate in.

Use displays to bring the space to the scale of the child

Use displays to bring the space to the scale of the child

Rooms or Rows?

After making the space student-friendly, the most important consideration is access to the resources by the students. They need to be able to find either what they specifically want, or something that appeals to them, very quickly – that is the instant-gratification nature of the 21st century child.  The days of taking time and pleasure in reading reviews, browsing titles, reading blurbs, flicking through pages and looking at pictures have slipped away, particularly as a library visit is likely to be squeezed in between changes in classes or shared with 30 other class members.  Even using the OPAC for leisure reading selections comes second-place to an eye-catching display, a quirky title or a colourful cover.

Even though the need for orderly, organized access is imperative for staff and important for students, rows and rows of shelves can be daunting.

rows

So think about how you can create or rearrange sections that make the popular titles easy to find by even the youngest patron or the most reluctant reader.  Put yourself in the shoes of the new entrant who can confidently and independently find the books about dinosaurs.  How do you feel? Put yourself in the shoes of the 6th grade student who would love to learn more about Tyrannosaurus Rex but does not want to publicise his ignorance about numbers by having to ask for help.  How do you feel? If our students are to be regular users of the school library, or any other, then they must be able to access what they want easily and efficiently without any stigma or feeling of being marginalised. It is our job to make this place one where everyone can operate at their own level regardless of ability, gender, race, ethnicity, religious and cultural beliefs or sexual orientation.

Many school libraries are reinventing themselves into a learning commons.

The learning commons, sometimes called an “information commons,” has evolved from a combination library and computer lab into a full-service learning, research, and project space.

 

rooms

 

School libraries shelve tradition to create new learning spaces provides lots of examples, ideas and photographs of how to look at the space with new eyes. Many school libraries are including a makerspace and there is a gallery of these on Pinterest. If you don’t have space for a full makerspace consider devoting a table to a community jigsaw puzzle.  Attaching thin dowel around the edges prevents the pieces falling off and it’s amazing how many stop to place a piece.

Come in!

Making your library say welcome is essential. 

First impressions are critical so what happens at the front door is really important.

Have the children create a Welcome sign and surround it with the word in all the languages spoken in your school.  This display is a constant talking point even though it has been up for several years.  Children traveling overseas often bring us a doll to add to the collection!

On either side of the front door there is a water feature offering some movement and sound (the library is a talking place) that was our contribution to the ISLD Growing the Future project that was initiated after September 11, 2001.  The poem above is the students’ version of John Marsden’s  Prayer for the 21st Century.

There is also an imposing RETURNS box.  As well as making for easier administration, it serves as a constant reminder for those who are forgetful.  This one is made from cardboard boxes and accessories from El Cheapos and it works for our little people but a more sophisticated one could easily be an opportunity for collaboration between you and the staff and students of the technology department.

First impressions are critical...

First impressions are critical…

If you can, create a large eye-catching display to catch the eye as people enter the library. This can be seasonal, topical, whimsical or fanciful.  The best 

  • are big, bright, bold and beautiful
  • incorporate the students’ world
  • offer them something to interact with
  • include books, both fiction and non-fiction, displayed with the topic and these are able to be borrowed while the interest is piqued.
  • involve the children’s work.

It all helps to create the perception that the library is an exciting and interesting place to be, somewhere where it is worthwhile to spend their time because there are always new things to discover. 

Students are engaged in this display based on a popular TV series and 'The Eleventh Hour" by Graeme Base

Students are engaged in this display based on a popular TV series and ‘The Eleventh Hour” by Graeme Base

Santa's Book Shop heralded our Christmas book fair
Santa’s Book Shop heralded our Christmas book fair

If you’re stuck for an idea here are 30 Quirky QuickiesIf you want inspiration for your displays then there are ideas aplenty at Library Displays and School Library Displays or you can search Pinterest or even Google images for either general designs or your particular theme.

Being comfortable is part of being welcome. Create special spaces in your library.  If you regularly read aloud to your students have a special story-tellers space with a unique chair, a rug for students to sit on and a space to put all your props. Ideas for establishing a read-aloud space are included in The Art of Reading Aloud and the importance of this activity in the read-aloud hat

Tusitala's Chair - named after Robert Louis Stevenson who took the native Samoan name meaning "teller of tales".

Tusitala’s Chair – named after Robert Louis Stevenson who took the native Samoan name meaning “teller of tales”.

Strive to provide areas where clients can just curl up and read – either to themselves, to others or even a friendly teddy.

Comfortable seating encourages lingering

Comfortable seating encourages lingering

 

Create child-friendly spaces with permanent displays that encourage and enable independent choice and selection.

Investigate the sorts of books that your students, especially the reluctant readers, consistently borrow and then group these books together.  Consider grouping favourite fiction titles, series, characters and authors together so

  • the students can find all the works by their favourite authors quickly because they are all in one place
  • all the books in a series are collected together
  • shelves are not so tightly packed or left scattered and shattered after a class has been in
  • shelving is easy and quick

 

An array of authors...plastic tubs are cheap.

An array of authors…plastic tubs are cheap.

Booksellers' dumpbins create interest and a natural display space

Booksellers’ dumpbins create interest and a natural display space

 

Consider putting

  • all the fairy tales (usually at 398.2) under the banner of Timeless Tales – experience shows that these are the first choice of the new students making the transition from pre-school and being able to find such familiar favourites gives them a feeling of confidence and independence
  • all the perennial favourite characters such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Franklin, Spot, Arthur, and Elmer under the banner of Family Favourites – again, the children feel very grown up being able to find these for themselves and show their parents who often come in after to school to borrow together. 
  • all the series in their own tubs under the banner Select-a-Series –ice cream containers, lunch boxes and planter boxes are sturdy, cheap and easy to obtain
  • all the works by popular and prolific authors together. 

If you see a display stand in a shop, don’t be shy about asking if you can have it when their display is over for your library.  Often they will be grateful that they don’t have to worry about disposing of it.  Cover any unwanted advertising with colorful, self-adhesive paper, turn the header board inside out and create your own, and for the time it took you to collect it, you have a personalized yet professional stand. Ask for the posters and any other paraphernalia that accompanies the display and then re-create the display in your library. 

fiction3

Even though it make take some time to arrange your collection like this, the increase in circulation and students’ discussions and recommendations  will make it more than worthwhile.

Uncover the Covers

Let’s return to one of those principles of learning that underpin the need to landscape the library

  • the brain functions at many levels simultaneously as thoughts, emotions, imagination,  predispositions and physiology  interact and exchange information with the environment

Many researchers have proven that the key factor in book selection is the book’s cover, so it makes sense to display as many books with their covers showing as you can. Think of some of the more successful bookstores that you have visited.  Do you spend ages getting a crick in your neck because it is turned sideways to read titles on spines? Or are you attracted to those books whose covers you can see? Did you know that, just as in supermarkets, publishers pay bookstores for a book to be displayed with the cover facing out, because they know that the cover sells the product?

Like us, children don’t choose books that look like they have “don’t touch me” signs on them, that are lined up with just a sliver of spine bravely trying to sell themselves and packed so tightly that little fingers cannot prize them apart, creating a barrier rather than a gateway.

Make mini-displays wherever you can that allow covers to be displayed and to give the students greater access to new authors, genres and topics.  These can be about anything that takes your or the students’ fancy, be as large or as small as space allows, and be as temporary or permanent as you want, but the aim is to get the covers of the books to catch the eye.

Mini-displays can fit into small spaces and invite exploration

Mini-displays can fit into small spaces and invite exploration

Encourage the students to have input to and ownership of the space by inviting them to create displays; asking class teachers to contribute the students’ work to accompany collaborative research projects and inviting them to read, reflect and review their reading and share it with others.

Encourage students to have ownership of the space by seeking their input.

Encourage students to have ownership of the space by seeking their input.

 

Facing Facts

In the 1870s, Melville Dewey spent a lot of time organizing subject areas to create a classification system that is now used in more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries in more than 30 languages.  According to the Online Library Computer Center (OCLC), the official owners of the Dewey system, 95 percent of all public and K-12 school libraries use the system.

While it is very important that our students know how to use this system to be able to find specific titles, and there is a strong argument that understanding how to locate a resource is a transferable lifelong skill, it is not much use to them if the students cannot and do not want to read.  So, in the elementary system at least, there is an equally strong argument for manipulating the arrangement so that students are encouraged to choose to read. Time enough for them to learn the difference between 994.04 and 994.4.

The nature of non-fiction means that more-or-less adhering to the Dewey Decimal Classification system in the non fiction sector of the library makes sense. Even if you use a simpler adaptation to meet the needs of your students, staying within the basic concept encourages independence and helps them build lifelong skills. Nevertheless, it is still possible to make certain subjects easier to access and circulate.  Again, do some in-house investigations to identify the subjects most often borrowed by the students, particularly for leisure reading.  Books about topics such as space, pets, dinosaurs and cars are usually borrowed before they are shelved, so consider giving these a space of their own in your non-fiction section.

Consider putting

  • all the picture puzzle books (usually at 793.73) under the banner Pick-a-Puzzle
  • all the joke and riddle books (usually at 808.88) under the banner of Side-Splitters
  • all the Horrible Histories, Horrible Science and their cousins on a stand
  • all those skinny beginner information series in baskets or a stand so that even the kindergarten children can find something of interest
  • all the books about your country together

non_fiction

Despite their not being in strict Dewey order, students very quickly learn to locate their favourite sections so they can make their selections independently.

Circulation data shows that non-fiction displayed in a similar way to fiction is much more likely to be borrowed, and that even if the reader is just looking at the pictures, there is a lot of information being absorbed, including the format and structure of this type of text. 

Be very aware of what is being studied in classrooms, is on the news, or is topical with students and be pro-active by displaying resources about those subjects while they are of such interest.  

Sign on

Whether you landscape your library strictly according to the principles of the Dewey system, or whether you are more flexible, the key to unlocking the space for the user is signage.  Everything must be clearly labeled so that even the very youngest student, or one with specific special needs, can find what they are looking for with a minimum of help.  Being able to find what you want for yourself is very empowering and being able to show someone else, particularly a parent, is the icing on the cake.

Signage is critical.

Signage is critical.

The best signage

  • uses large letters
  • backs up words with pictures
  • has  dark lettering on light backgrounds and the opposite for special effects
  • uses plain sans serif fonts
  • uses capitals and fancy fonts for short captions only
  • has a consistent colour schemes for similar signs
  • includes hanging signs using lightweight objects from El Cheapos strung together with fishing line hung over the appropriate section
  • has correct spelling
  • uses child friendly language

Near the non-fiction section display posters that summarize the DDC system and also a ready reference so that the student wanting a book about the moon can see at a glance that there will be something at 523.3.  

In your non-fiction section label the shelves so the student can see just which numbers are housed there, but make sure they know that 500-510 also includes the numbers in between. If you have space, list the main topic areas covered.  Sub-divide the books into practical breaks using index blocks available from your library-supply store, or recycle plastic video boxes.  Assign numbers that make sense rather than just an arbitrary number of digits.  The more divisions, the easier it is to find (and shelve) what you are looking for and reinforces the belief that this is a space where the child can operate independently.

In your fiction section, label every ”room”, shelf, container and display, particularly if you have diverged from the standard DDC layout.  Such clear signage means that students soon learn where to look for those out-of-order books and shelving them after they have been returned also becomes much easier, especially for student and parent volunteers.

signage2

 

The world of words

Returning to yet another principle of learning …

  • learning involves conscious and unconscious processes, including experience, emotion and sensory input, and that much of our learning  occurs and is processed below the level of immediate awareness so that understanding may not happen until much later after there has been time for reflection and assimilation

we can do much to support our students’ reading by ensuring displays have captions or even provocative questions that lead to further investigations.  Bare walls can be covered with children’s work samples or charts that support their learning. It will all be absorbed at an unconscious level.

Wherever you can have the students contribute to the wording, design and construction of the charts. Ownership is a powerful motivator. Charts can include behaviour guidelines, borrowing instructions, instructions for using the OPAC or caring for books.  It gives them ownership of the space and is one more way to put the world of words into their world. 

Captions and instructions encourage students to read.

Captions and instructions encourage students to read.

Retailers spend millions of dollars on market research to identify what entices customers to buy and what turns them off

Reuse, recycle, rethink

So you don’t have to be an interior designer (frustrated or otherwise) to landscape your library.  Every time you go shopping, look at displays and how they are constructed and then take the ideas and elements and reproduce them.

Think of it as recycling – their research and its output into your environment – two displays for the cost of one!

There are many subtle ways that they get us to part with our money.  Consider how you might employ some of these tempters in your library.

 

With just a little knowledge and lots of imagination you can make your library a model of the very best in student learning environments and know that you are putting the world of words into the world of kids.

 

And, if you want to read further try

Divine Design: How to create the 21st-century school library of your dreams

Learning Commons Transformation – Ten Steps

Ideas for Inspiring Contemporary School Library Design

Power Up! / The New School Library

School Library Journal’s Buildings/Design page

Can the physical environment have an impact on the learning environment?

Designing Spaces for Learning 

Designing Spaces for Effective Learning

Spaces for Knowledge Generation – Seven Principles

Learning Spaces

Contemporary Library Checklist

50 of the Most Majestic Libraries in the World

Designed for Learning: School Libraries

 

References

Caine R. and Caine, G. 1994 Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley

Drucker, P. F. 1999 Management Challenges for the 21st Century New York: Harper Business

Drucker, P. F. 2001 The Essential Drucker  New York: HarperCollins

Industry Commission, Work, Health and Safety, Report No. 47, Sept 1995, National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Australia

Jensen, E. 1998 Teaching with the brain in mind Alexandra, VA: ASCD

Oliver, M. & Christenson, J. 2001 The Rain Gutter Literacy Revolution

Rippel, C. 2003 What libraries can learn from bookstores : applying the bookstore model to public libraries