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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

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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.

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the visionary’s hat

hat_visionary

Libraries have been part of society’s culture since man first began to convey information by etching images on the walls of caves. School libraries have been part of the Australian education system since well-meaning people in London sent religious texts to recently-established Sydney so the children of the convicts would learn to read the scriptures, learn from them and become better people than their parents. But libraries, like society, change so they can meet the needs of their users and remain relevant in the context in which they sit. Digital technoliges have replaced markings on cave walls, and school libraries have evolved to be much more than a repository of religious readings.

These changes have not happened because Tinkerbell sprinkled fairy dust.  They’ve been inspired by visionaries in the profession – those who have the ability to see around corners and over hills; who see obstacles as opportunites; who aspire and inspire and lead change which others are compelled to emulate.

With the introduction and implementation of a national curriculum in Australian schools, and the rollout of the Common Core Standards in US schools, and other significant changes being made as the developments in technology roll inexorably on, this is a time for great change and great opportunities in school libraries – change that can be directly linked to mandated requirements and supported by evidence that makes its acceptance and resourcing more likely.

But for change to be successful and sustainable, it needs to be planned and supported. In my very first post on this blog I explained my adherence to Covey’s mantra of “Begin with the end in mind”, and this is essential to the change process. 

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction … how different our lives are when we really know what is important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.

Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Melbourne: Information Australia

To have a vision of the destination so your journey continually leads towards that is essential. Encapsulating the dream in a precise and succinct statement provides the focus and foundation on which to develop a strategic plan  incorporating goals, policies, strategies, performance indicators, and a timeframe that will lead to its achievement.

the vision statement

Creating a vision statement is a complex task.

Firstly, you need to know what you want to achieve so you need to know

  • What does a best-practice library look like?
  • What does a best-practice teacher librarian do?

There are many models on which you can base your ideas – my favourite is the Springfield Township High School Library developed under the guidance of Joyce Valenza – and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians statement developed by ASLA is an essential guide to the sort of professional knowledge, practice and commitment a top-shelf TL has.

Regardless of the model (or combinations of models) you use, your vision must be in alignment with your own beliefs or it will never sit well or be a good fit.  Go back to The Teacher’s Hat  and revisit your beliefs about being both a teacher and a teacher librarian and create a new manifesto based on what you believe a top-shelf library should look like including the elements which drive your

  • literacy and literature programs and collections
  • research and information literacy programs and collections
  • services you offer your clients
  • environment in which you and they work

Articulating your beliefs in such a way takes them out of the world of the airy-fairy and into a tangible document that can be used to shape goals and defend decisions.

However, you need to keep in mind the practicalities of your particular situation. Consideration must be given to any requirements, restrictions or expectations put on your vision by your school and only you can decide if these are important enough to embrace as an enhancement of your beliefs, adapt so they fit with your beliefs or try to change through evidence of better practice   To set impossible goals based on someone else’s ideality rather than your reality only leads to despair and despondency as it looks like failure.  

The first step is to craft a mission statement so the purpose of the library and its place within the school’s philosophy, ethos and educational programs are explicit.  It is based on those beliefs, values and principles that are at your inner core, be they personal or corporate.  It needs to be clear and concise and should answer the questions

  • What is this library about?
  • What does it stand for?
  • How do we demonstrate these?

It is  the basis for all decisions made regarding policy, procedures and practice and sets the guidelines and parameters for the services you offer

A sample mission statement can be found here

However, it is essential to understand the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement – the former defines your purpose, your reason for being; whereas a vision statement identifies your future direction.

The second step involves several key elements

  • reading and research identifying what is, what needs to be and what could be for the three key hats that the teacher librarian wears – curriculum specialist, information specialist and information services manager
  • identifying specific areas of focus to develop policies, programs, procedures, practices and priorities
  • drawing on the perceptions and needs of the stakeholders so that the vision is shared and they feel they have ownership of it and can make a contribution towards its success.

identifying what is

Establishing the current state of the library’s programs, services and environment is essential because it identifies its strengths and its needs, as well as establishing a benchmark against which future progress can be measured. It identifies whether what is currently on offer is valid, valued and valuable.

There are several ways that this can be done – the most common being a SWOT analysis. Rather than trying to assess everything in one analysis, it may be more practical to identify the key factors that make up what you offer and on both the educational and resourcing sides of the coin and analyse them individually, then combining them into a summary.

SWOT Analysis diagram

SWOT Analysis

A STEEP analysis is another option or you might consider purchasing Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook, 2nd Edition which has a whole section on assessing the current situation including

  • preparing a history and descriptive profile of operations
  • articulating previous and current strategies
  • gathering information from internal and external stakeholders
  • gathering information from documents and other sources
  • summarising the information into a situational assessment

identifying what needs to be

School library programs and services and the environment in which they sit are subject to outside influences such as mandated curriculum, identified school priorities and the needs, interests and abilities of their clientele so establishing and articulating what these are and how they shape what is delivered is essential.  As well as pinpointing what the essential elements are, they also provide evidence to support any proposed changes enhancing the likelihood of the vision being accepted and resourced.

identifying what could be

Start by examining the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identifying some personal professional goals that will guide your professional learning and practice and may lead to innovation and initiatives that have not been considered.

Identify leaders in the field such as Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Judy O’Connell, Doug Johnson and Lyn Hay and follow their blogs and other social media communications to see what’s happening at the leading edges and how you might be able to adapt it to your situation.  Look for Facebook groups such as iCentre and Evidence-based Practice for School Libraries and for Pinterest boards and so forth which share photos and links that can provide inspiration.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is a great way to become a giant yourself and instead of following the pack, you become a leader of it.

Create surveys for your clients that give them input into what they would like the library to provide and go out of your way to find out the needs of the long tail -those whose needs and interests are not met by the common, the popular or the overtly-on-offer and who do not use the library’s services becasue of this.

 

Writing the vision statement

The final step in this process is writing the vision statement. Visions statements need to be precise and concise stating what the library and its services (educational, resourcing and environemntal) will be like at the end of the time period (usually three years or in line with the school’s development plan.) They are aspirational using superlative language that inspires others to want to be part of the process. 

The vision statement for my current school library is

An excellent 21st century library which supports the teaching and learning at xxxx Primary School.

 

Having identified where you are going and where you want to be it is time to put on your leader’s hat but that is another post for another day.

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the information service manager’s hat

hat_ismFitting as snugly as the first two, the third hat is that of the information services manager, perhaps the most complex of the three because it is the one that combines both the T and side of Teacher Librarian and is the one that most clearly demonstrates why we have those post-grad qualifications. Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001) describes this hat as the one which requires the TL to 

develop and implement strategies for evaluating the collection and for determining curriculum and student needs within the context of identified school priorities

 

The TL needs to put on a teacher’s hat and know

  • the learning needs, styles, interests and abilities of the students who will access the collection, including any special needs relating to cultural, ethnic, social, religious, and language issues as well as specific requirements relating to individual children
  • the teaching needs of the staff so they have access to the resources that will support the design and delivery of the curriculum
  • the philosophy and ethos of the school and the expectations of the parents who send their children there so that, on the whole, the collection is aligned to this
  • the philosophies, pedagogies and programs on which the curriculum is built and delivered so that challenges can be met and decisions defended
  • the breadth of the curriculum across all key learning areas and across-curriculum perspectives, as well as new initiatives including national requirements such as the Australian National Curriculum or the US Common Core Standards,  as well as those areas that the school has identified as areas for development

Then the librarian’s hat needs to be worn so the TL can

  • identify and negotiate priorities for collection development so that this is fair, equitable and meets needs, and decisions and expenditure are defensible
  • prepare, submit and disburse a budget that enables the collection to move forward 
  • locate potential resources
  • evaluate them according to the selection criteria identified in the Collection Policy, juggling general and specific criteria and making an informed judgement about their suitability and likely use
  • acquire them according to the school’s policies and procedures
  • put in motion the process that will get them from the delivery van or online source to the hands and eyes of the users now and in the future, a series of steps that can be complex and time-consuming
  • account for the disbursement of monies and resources through formal process such as stocktake and an annual report

Finally, both hats have to be worn at the same time as the newly-acquired resources are promoted and displayed so that their existence is widely known and they are used.

In the past, this wasn’t such a complex task because the format focus of the collection was print, with some audio-visual resources to add variety.  But with technological developments, there are a multitude of other formats and factors to consider and what we provide access to is as important as what we acquire.  So the TL also has to know

  • the access to ICT devices and delivery that staff and students have both within and beyond the school so that if online resources are acquired, they can be easily used
  • the individual preferences for a particular format and whether this is the best for the teaching purpose
  • the research underpinning current pedagogy and how this impacts on format selection, such as that relating to onscreen reading and the need for a foundation of skills built on print
  • how to map and evaluate the collection so that it meets the needs of all its users and ensure that it remains relevant and current
  • how to create and maintain a library landscape that is inviting and appealing to users as well as showcasing their learning

On top of all that, the TL also has to be able to write the  policies and procedures that encapsulate the decisions and the thinking that underpins and justifies them so that collection development remains constant and consistent regardless of who is at the helm.

 

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the information specialist’s hat

hat_isp

 

The second hat that the teacher librarian wears is that of information specialist.

According to Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001), this means we provide

access to information resources through efficient and well-guided systems for organising, retrieving and circulating resources and training and assistance to students and staff in the effective use of these systems

In the past, that was a relatively simple assignment – fiction resources were split into two sections, either picture books or novels, and given a classification based on the author’s name; non fiction was classified and shelved according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system.  Students were taught now to use the catalog, how the Dewey system worked so they could make sense of the numbers and then expected to locate the required resources on the shelves.

But the rapid development of technology has changed the goalposts and now, instead of staff and students coming to the information, in many situations the TL takes the information to the students.  Thus, as well as having an efficient, up-to-date catalog we need to know how to create and use hotlists, databases, social media, content management systems, virtual learning environments and a host of other tools so we can provide efficient and equitable access to the resources 365/24/7.  No longer is the library confined by walls and clocks.

There is also a push to abandon the traditional arrangements of the library so they become more like bookstores – the titles arranged by genre rather than author or subject.  From time to time, this issue is discussed on the TL networks around the world, and Jan Radford has collated a range of articles hereOther changes include arrangement by reading level particularly those assigned by commercial programs, or making special collections such as those for the LGBTI students.

However, before any such change is considered, there is a range of questions that need to be asked and answered with acceptable, independent evidence.  

Given that the definition of being the information specialist is based on providing efficient and effective access to resources, then we must demonstrate that any changes will do this better than what is offered now.  So we need to consider…

    • Why is the change being considered?
    • Is this a sound reason for change?
    • Why is what is currently in place not working? What is the evidence that it is not? How can it be changed/ modified to work rather than introducing a non-standard ‘fix’?
    • Is the solution based on sound pedagogical reasons whose efficacy can be measured?
    • What reliable evidence (apart from circulation figures) exists to support the changes and demonstrates improvement to student learning outcomes?
    • How will the change support the Students’ Bill of Rights?
    • Have students had input into the proposal?
    • Will the proposed changes lead to students being more independent, effective and efficient users of the library’s resources?
    • Will the change marginalise or discriminate against any users such as identifying their below-average reading level or sexual preferences?
    • Will the change broaden or narrow the students access to choices and resources?
    • Is it based on school-library best practice? Are there successful models (measured through action research and benchmarks and published in reliable authoritative literature) that demonstrate that this is a sustainable, effective and efficient model to emulate?
    • Will the change make it easier to achieve your mission statement and your vision statement?
    • How do the changes fit within your library policy, which, presumably, has been ratified by the school’s executive and council? Will the change in procedure require a change in policy?
    • Who is responsible for developing the parameters of the change and documenting the new procedures to ensure consistency across time and personnel?
    • If a change is made, what S.M.A.R.T. goals will be set to measure its impact?
    • Who will do the measuring and ensure that the conclusion is independent and unbiased?
    • If those goals show no change or a decline, will the library be willing to reverse the process? Will this be a practical proposition?
    • How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of the teacher librarian?
    • How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of other library staff?
    • If the change changes the traditional library arrangement, how is consistency across time guaranteed if personnel change because decisions are  subjective?
    • Who is responsible for developing and maintaining the criteria for placement and the Procedures Manual to ensure consistency?
    • Is the change worth the time that is invested in re-classifying every title and the money invested in new labels, staff wages etc?
    • Could that time and money be better spent?
    • Would better signage, including more shelf dividers, address the problem?
    • What role can displays play in highlighting different and unfamiliar resources to broaden access and choices?

Library 2.0 means that Librarian 2.0 keeps changing and we need to continually monitor and modify the shape and the fit of this hat.  

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