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the sorting hat

hat_sortingThis is not the hat that will decide whether you’re assigned to Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin or Gryffindor.  

It is much more contentious than that.

This is the hat you put on when you decide how you are going to arrange your collection – alphabet or genre – and, currently, one of the hottest topics on discussion lists I belong to. Any question about changing the arrangement from the more traditional author-alphabet base to one based on the perceived genre elicits hot and fierce debate as proponents and opponents put their perspective.

The common arguments are…

  • students find it easier to find the sort of book they want in a collection sorted by genre 
  • collections arranged alphabetically keep all the titles by the same author together
  • if students only select from a preferred genre their reading choices are narrowed
  • students prefer the bookshop look of the library because it is more modern
  • if students learn the traditional method of the first three letters of the author’s name they will be able to transfer those skills to locating titles other libraries
  • one title might fit a number of genres so how will its placement be determined

In my opinion the decision is easy and is based on the belief that

The collection exists to meet the needs, interests and abilities of its users and to meet those needs it must be accessible

Therefore, as the teacher librarian we must know our readers and what their needs are. What might be appropriate for the users in one school library might not work for the users in the school in the neighbouring suburb because each school population is unique.  

Even if we currently classify fiction in alphabetical order by using the first three letters of the author’s name, we have modified Dewey’s original arrangement (because he assigned specific numbers between 800-899 to literature) so that users can find what they want more easily.  Then, to make it even easier, we might shelve all the episodes of a particular series together or pull all the fairytales into one smaller collection. We separate based on format – picture book, novel, information book, DVD – and intended target audience such as junior fiction and senior fiction. In the non fiction collection all the biographies might be shelved in one spot rather than in their specific subject of expertise as Dewey mandates or the puzzle books might have their own space so they are easier to find and shelve. Already we are ‘tampering’ with tradition and accepted practice because we want to make the resources more accessible to those who are using them.  

Arranging the collection to meet the needs of the users

Arranging the collection to meet the needs of the users

So why is the decision to arrange the collection according to genre so controversial?

Firstly, the term ‘genre’ must be clarified because there is a tendency to interchange the word ‘genre’ with ‘text-type’ leading to confusion between format, purpose and content.  Genre itself just means ‘a type or a category’ and it is generally applied to literature, music and the arts.  Within literature it refers to prose, poetry, drama or non fiction, each with its own style, structure, subject matter, and the use of figurative language.  

However, in education realms it is also often used to describe the author’s purpose – to persuade, inform, entertain or reflect. And these categories have been broken up even further …

 

An overview of some of the more common school genres

An overview of some of the more common school genres

Rose (2006) cited in Derewianka, 2015

However, in terms of the arrangement of the collection we are referring to another ‘definition’ of genre – those divisions of fiction based on theme, plot, characters and setting.  It refers to categories such as adventure, romance, fantasy, historical and contemporary fiction although there is a much larger list of possibilities and the sort of arrangement that is proposed has become known as ‘genrefying’.

If we return to the the underlying premise that the collection exists to meet the needs, interests and abilities of its users, then it stands to reason that as a priority we need to identify what those are, particularly in relation to their preferred way of selecting their reading resources for leisure and pleasure. We need to ask questions to identify if genre is their first and primary criterion for selecting a new read and the sorts of stories they like to read.  (Thinking Reading  provides a starting point to survey your readers on a number of issues to enable informed collection development.) My experience and research has shown that, generally, primary age students do NOT use genre as their search criteria. While they may like mystery or adventure or whatever books, their choices are made based on

  • peer or teacher recommendation
  • series
  • popular movie, television or game tie-in
  • author
  • cover
  • blurb
  • serendipity

But my experience is not your experience and all sorts of factors come into play such as

  • the age and maturity of the students
  • their proficiency with English (or the predominant language of your collection)
  • the focus of the curriculum
  • their access to reading materials beyond the school
  • their understanding of the concept of ‘genre’

So it is essential that you delve into the reading habits of those who will be reading to understand what will suit them best.

Should you discover that a collection organised by genre is what is best for your clients, then there are still a number of other questions that need to be asked and answered by the stakeholders before making such a significant change because not only is it a huge job absorbing human, financial and time resources it must also be sustained and sustainable. Those questions include…

  1. Why is the change being considered?
  2. Is this a sound reason for change?
  3. Is the change based on identified user needs or preferences?
  4. Why is what is currently in place not working? What is the evidence that it is not? How can it be changed or modified to work rather than introducing a non-standard ‘fix’?
  5. Is the solution based on sound pedagogical reasons whose efficacy can be measured?
  6. How do the proposals fit mandated curriculum requirements? 
  7. Can the proposed change be defended based on user need, sound pedagogy, curriculum requirements AND established best practice?
  8. What reliable evidence (apart from circulation figures) exists to support the changes and demonstrates increased engagement and improvement to student learning outcomes?
  9. Will the proposed changes lead to students being more independent, effective and efficient users of the library’s resources?
  10. Will the changes impact on the students understanding of how other libraries are arranged and their ability to work independently within those?
  11. Have students had input into the proposal?
  12. How will the change support the Students’ Bill of Rights?
  13. Will the change marginalise or discriminate against any users such as identifying their below-average reading level or sexual preferences?
  14. Will the change broaden or narrow the students access to choices and resources?
  15. 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?
  16. Will the change make it easier to achieve your mission statement and your vision statement?
  17. 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?
  18. Who is responsible for developing the parameters of the change and documenting the new procedures to ensure consistency across time and personnel?
  19. If a change is made, what S.M.A.R.T. goals will be set to measure its impact?
  20. When will the impact of the change be assessed and what evidence of success or otherwise will be acceptable to the stakeholders?
  21. Who will do the measuring and ensure that the conclusion is independent and unbiased?
  22. If those goals show no change or a decline, will the library be willing to reverse the process? Will this be a practical proposition?
  23. How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of the teacher librarian?
  24. How will the proposed change impact on the role and workload of other library staff? 
  25. If the change changes the traditional library arrangement, how is consistency across time guaranteed if personnel change because decisions are  subjective?
  26. Who is responsible for developing and maintaining the criteria for placement and the Procedures Manual to ensure consistency?
  27. Is the change worth the time that is invested in re-classifying every title and the money invested in new labels, staff wages etc?
  28. Could that time and money be better spent?
  29. Would better signage, including more shelf dividers, address the problem?
  30. What role can displays play in highlighting different and unfamiliar resources to broaden access and choices?

Documenting the answers to these questions (and others that will probably arise along the way) not only demonstrates your professionalism and the depth of consideration that has gone into the decision but also provides you with a solid foundation of evidence on which to defend that decision should it be challenged.

Having invested the resources in making the change, a new range of issues arises particularly in relation to how you teach staff and students how to use the new arrangement effectively, efficiently and independently.

  • Do they understand the concept of ‘genre’ in this context and the sorts of criteria that distinguish one from another?
  • How will you teach these?  Will teaching the characteristics of each genre become your predominant teaching focus to the exclusion of other curriculum priorities such as information literacy?
  • What will be the genres that you choose and how will these be decided?
  • Are the genre labels appropriate for the users? For example ‘romance’ might not appeal in an all-boys school but ‘relationships’ could encompass the concept.
  • How will the genres themselves be arranged – alphabetical order, popularity, size of the particular collection?
  • Will individual titles within each genre then be organised in alphabetical order of author or is there another way?
  • How will you deal with titles that span two or more genres?
  • How will the genre of each title be identified both on the book and in the catalog?

The arrangement of the resources in your library has to be based on so much more than the outcomes a retailer might be wanting to achieve.  The school library is not a bookshop on steroids and the sorting hat must be one that is put on with extreme care and consideration.  Of all the hats we wear, this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all.

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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 accountant’s hat

hat_accountant

 

 

 

Of all the hats the teacher librarian has to wear, for many the accountant’s hat may be the most ill-fitting because the management of money matters, particularly the preparation, submission and disbursement of a budget, requires expertise beyond that of our teaching qualifications. And yet it is an essential part of what we do.

From messages to TL networks, it would appear there are three types of budgets…

  • those that are based on the administration’s careful consideration of a properly prepared budget submitted by the TL
  • those that are based on an amount allocated by the administration (often the school’s business manager) with no consultation with the TL with the expectation that the TL will provide all services within that amount
  • those that are non-existent requiring the TL to go to external sources such a parent bodies, book fairs, grants and sponsorship and so on to raise the required funds

Whatever the situation, even it is neither required or considered, it is important that the TL prepare and submit a comprehensive budget each year because

  • it demonstrates our professionalism particularly as the library’s budget is more likely to be bigger and more diverse than those of any other faculty
  • it provides the purse-string holders with evidence of a careful consideration of needs, prioritises these and what is required to fulfil those needs
  • it advocates and educates the purse-string holders about the needs of the library to meet the community’s demands and expectations
  • it focuses our priorities even if there is little or no money to cover them
  • it can be used to show staff that a fair and equitable use has been made of allocated money based on identified and agreed prirorities
  • if necessary, it can be produced to demonstrate to the parent body how funds they have provided have been used within the school

 funding

It is important to understand where the money is coming from because there can be a range of sources and rules regarding how they can be accessed and used…

  • an allocation from the school’s central budget
  • a library fund into which school fees are paid so they become tax deductible
  • philanthropic donations
  • parent body fundraising
  • book fairs and other in-house sources
  • sponsorship

If there is a district or state mandated formula that must be adhered to, know what it is so you have a minimum figure on which to base projections.

Know if your school-based allocation is reduced by the amount you expect to fundraise or get from external sources. 

Make yourself familiar with any regulations regarding money from external sources, such as cash commissions from a book fair, because some education jurisdictions mandate that any money that comes into the school after a certain date must go into consolidated revenue and not spent till the following year.  Even fines for overdue books or the payment for a lost or damaged book can be affected.

Know which services such as subscriptions to library management software, cataloguing services, ebook platforms. databases and so on are paid for by a central authority.

Cover these issues in your Collection Policy.

preparation

There are many factors to consider when preparing a budget

  1. Start early.
  2. Prepare it in alignment with the school’s preferred procedures and timeframe. If there are standards or formulae mandated by your educational authority or local or state government then make yourself aware of these and quote them in your submission because the purse-string holders may not be aware of them.  
  3. If you are uncertain about the number of resources or dollars that should be allocated per student, seek advice from colleagues in similar school situations so you can provide the evidence on which your estimations are based.
  4. There must be a clear understanding of what it is to cover – that which is to be covered by the library and that which is to be covered by the budgets of other departments, faculties, and committees. The origin of funds for such areas as teacher reference, readers, class sets, textbooks, ICT hardware, maintenance and subscriptions must be made clear. Those things acquired by the library from the library’s budget, excluding consumables, can be subject to formal audit and thus must be accounted for in a regular stocktake. 
  5. Know what is already paid for by central funding so it is neither included in your budget or deducted from it. For example in New South Wales government schools subscriptions for the maintenance of the library management system and access to the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) are covered by the NSW DEC. 
  6. Know who your educational authority’s approved/must-use suppliers are so it is their prices that are quoted. Know the rules for purchasing from these suppliers and when you may go beyond them to source what you need. Indicate preferred suppliers in your submission so that the purse-string holders are aware of the necessity to purchase from them.  If quotes are required for particular services or items, attach these to the submission as an appendix.
  7. Ensure your submission is based on facts and figures not wishful thinking.
  8. Use your Collection Policy and strategic plan to identify agreed priorities for acquisition and ensure these are costed and included. The evidence supporting these priorities should be contained in the Policy and the strategic plan, but if necessary provide a brief explanation as an appendix. Draw explicit links between the purchase of items and the support of teaching and learning. The 2014 Softlink Australian School Library Survey report  demonstrates “a positive correlation between annual school library budgets and NAPLAN Reading Literacy results.”
  9. Share those identified and agreed priorities with staff and seek suggestions for purchases from year-level groups and faculties in the form of a wishlist to fulfil them.  If possible, meet at least one request from each submission but if it is not possible meet with the group to explain why. Look to negotiate a compromise – perhaps costs could be shared or a purchase made the following year as a priority.  Engaging staff in budget preparation not only gives them some ownership of and input into the process but helps to educate and advocate, staving off complaints and behind-the-hand comments.
  10. Seek out those teachers with students with particular special needs and discuss the resources, formats and facilities that their students need that the library can provide. so that there is not a one-size fits all collection or environment.  For example, you may have to budget to get lower shelving for wheelchair-bound students or special signage for the visually impaired. Make the library fit the client, not the other way round.
  11. If there is a large, expensive purchase to be made, consider asking the parent body to make this the focus of their fundraising for the year.  These bodies like to see tangible results of their efforts such as an interactive whiteboard or a set of e-readers.
  12. If there is pressure to abandon the print collection in favour of digital, attach the research into the development of traditional literacy skills using traditional formats being a prerequisite for effective and efficient online reading, interrogation and interpretation making the maintenance of a print collection which appeals to and engages readers an essential. Also identify the need to provide a range of resources in a variety of formats to meet individual teaching and learning styles.
  13. Be specific.  Identify where the money will go and calculate what you need for each based on an actual costing or an estimate based on the current year’s expenditure. A clear breakdown of expenditure is more likely to attract some money than just an application for a lump sum.
  14. Distinguish between those expenditures which are recurring and are required for the smooth operation of the library; those that are capital expenditure likely to be made very rarely; and those that are considered consumables
  15. Create and adhere to policies relating to online purchasing; the outsourcing of collection development; free versus paid acquisitions; replacement of lost or damaged resources; selection criteria for suppliers and other budget-related matters. 
  16. Be prepared with evidence to support a claim for a paid commercially-available service rather than a free one such as extra features, greater security and privacy of information, lack of advertising, lack of inappropriate links, validity of content and so forth.
  17. Consider these areas
    • acquisitions
      • purchases of new print, digital and audio-visual resources
      • replacement/renewal of existing resources such as dictionaries or atlases; outdated non fiction; damaged or lost items
      • subscriptions to databases, journals, online resources to support teaching and learning
      • interlibrary loan charges
    • subscriptions
      • recurrent expenditure to manage the library such as a cataloguing service, library management software, video streaming facility
    • hardware
      • items such as an interactive whiteboard, tablets, laptops, cameras and so forth to be used by students
      • maintenance of these including printer cartridges and lease payments
      • scanners, OPAC and circulation computers
      • security systems
      • insurance
      • furniture and shelving
      • personal items, such as a tablet, that are required to do your job as TL effectively
    • consumables
      • stationery relating to the processing of resources
      • stationery relating to the smooth operation of the library such as signage
      • stationery for staff and student use 
      • printing and photocopying costs
      • batteries, printer cartridges, recordable CDs and DVDs
    • promotion
      • author visits and other literary functions such as Book Week
      • catering
      • awards and prizes
      • purchase of items for displays
      • Makerspace resources
      • board games, jigsaws etc
    • professional learning
      • costs of registration, attendance, accommodation and travel for required/desired professional learning
      • costs of cover by a casual during TL absence
      • costs of subscriptions to professional organisations
      • costs of subscriptions to professional journals
    • salaries
      • salaries of casual relief and admin staff to be covered during mandatory stocktake including time for collection appraisal and evaluation and the identification of future development needs
    • miscellaneous
      • compliance with workplace health and safety issues
      • professional assistance in packing, moving and unpacking resources if library is to be painted or recarpeted
  18. Use the figures from previous years as a platform for improvement and gather and include statistics to show the increase in prices to support the required amounts.
  19. Know what you are purchasing by reading the Terms and Conditions of subscription services, particularly in the case of ebook platforms, database access and so forth.  Know the questions to ask the supplier and ask them.
  20. If you are seeking funding for hardware such as e-readers ensure that the terms and conditions of purchase or warranties covers school-based use.  Some paperwork only applies if the device is for personal use.  If there are extra costs to cover multiple uses then these need to be factored into your submission.
  21. While the budget needs to relate directly to supporting teaching and learning, include a contingency fund to take advantage of unexpected opportunities or student-driven trends.
  22. Collect statistics relating to the use of the collection (where it is feasible, break this down into sections such as print, online, ebook, audio, visual, fiction and non fiction) and the library’s spaces as evidence of demand as well as the money being used effectively to support teaching and learning.
  23. Seek advice from the principal, the business manager or colleagues so you can prepare the most informed submission possible backed by knowledge and evidence. This shows professional practice rather than inadequacy.
  24. Be realistic and consider the school’s annual budget and commitments.  Be willing to negotiate rather than being greedy.

disbursement

Know who has authority to access and disburse funds from the library’s budget or who may give authority for this to be done. Establish policy and procedures that ensure that the TL has the ultimate authority so that acquisitions meet the priorities and selection criteria of the Collection Policy.

Ensure that any procedures relating to disbursement are in alignment with school and education authority procedures. However, it may be necessary to negotiate some adaptations so that purchases and payments can be made to allow for unforeseen circumstances such as an unexpected fad among students such as the Harry Potter phenomenon, a too-good-to-miss sale or an unscheduled author visit to the district.

Establish the need to be able to buy online and if necessary seek special dispensation for those purchases that can only be paid for with an online payment.

Establish the procedures and authority required to make on-the-spot purchases to take advantage of bargains and special offers if personal funds are used and reimbursement is sought.

documentation

Each school may well have its own pro forma on which budget submissions must be made and therefore this must be followed. However, it is worthwhile establishing a spreadsheet for in-house use which may contain greater detail than that which is submitted formally. While I must stress that I am NOT an accountant and have no formal book-keeping education I found the following headings worked for me.  Apart from showing that I had carefully costed items and estimated usage, it gave me a way to keep track of continued expenditure as well as providing the basis for the budget for the following year.  (It also provided a record of rising prices as evidence for required increases.)

CATEGORY DATE PURCHASE
ORDER
SUPPLIER/
SOURCE
QUANTITY/
DURATION
COST
PER ITEM
ORDER
TOTAL
CUMULATIVE
TOTAL

For statistical and evidential purposes, it may be worth keeping a more detailed record of acquisitions using these headings…

RESOURCE FORMAT SUPPLIER COST FICTION PRIMARY GENRE NON FICTION PRIMARY KLA/
FACULTY

New South Wales teacher librarian Carolyn Mock has written a procedures manual that contains models of a number of forms and what could be included on them that would be useful in the preparation of a budget.  She is willing for people to adapt her work but asks she be credited as the original author. The Library Supplies checklist is very useful.

Keep purchase orders, invoices and other documentation in alignment with school procedures and requirements. If payments are made through the school’s business manager request monthly updates of the overall budget and set aside administrative time to reconcile these.

Keep documentation for the mandated time period and refer to it in future budget preparation to inform you of expenditure, trends, what needs to be acquired and which faculties are receiving boosts and which may need a collection appraisal and attention.

Regardless of how well the hat fits, as the information service manager in the school we have a responsibility to put it on and wear it as well as we can.

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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

 

 

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the paperwork hat

hat_paperwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paperwork can be a pain – so much so, it often gets left at the bottom of the in-tray or filed in the too-hard basket.

However, I believe it is an essential part of our job as we are so often the only one of us in the role in the school and there is much that we do that is a mystery to those who are unfamiliar with the L side of TL. Paperwork allows for continuity and consistency of policy, procedures and practice even when the personnel changes.  It can be used to explain and defend decisions by showing that they are based on accepted best-practice in library circles.

Paperwork also provides possibilities to explore and to reflect.  As we construct policies , procedures and programs and align them to fit the specific situation we are in there is an opportunity to examine why we do what we do and, if necessary,  explore other ways to do it.  For example, many are choosing to switch their shelving arrangements to one driven by genre rather than author and while there are many questions that need to be satisfied before that, or any other major change, is made, nevertheless it provides the motivation to consider different practices. 

But paperwork is so much more than a Collection Policy and a Procedures Manual glanced at occasionally and amended every now and then.

Purpose

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells us to “begin with the end in mind” so all the steps we take are leading in the right direction. Therefore it is critical to explicitly identify the purpose that the library serves within the learning community.  Return to The Visionary’s Hat  for ideas about examining the current place and perception of the library’s role and then construct a mission statement that clearly establishes

  • what this library is about
  • what it stands for
  • how that is demonstrated

The mission statement is the basis for all decisions made regarding policy, procedures and practice and sets the guidelines and parameters for the services you offer.

If the purpose of the library now is different from what it should be, then create a vision statement  and a strategic plan so that your mission statement can be achieved. Because a mission statement should be a brief, broad, big-picture concept, there will always be a gap between what is and what could be.  Having formal paperwork to support what you are doing not only establishes priorities but also provides evidence should your actions and decisions be challenged.

Position

Having established the purpose of the library within the its community, it is then essential to identify the position of the teacher librarian within that so it is clear what it is that we do that makes the role distinct from all others.

Ask yourself,

What is my role within this school?

Revisit the beliefs and manifesto that you developed in The Teacher’s Hat and then try to encapsulate your role in just six words.  Here are some examples…

  • Inspiring students to read and learn
  • Service Information  Reliability Convenience  Vision Strength
  • Share literature and information seeking skills
  • Reading builds success.  We build readers.
  • 21st century transliteracy impacts academic achievement

Learning for the Future, 2nd edition identifies the role as

curriculum leader, information specialist, information services manager

View this presentation by Ned Potter and brand yourself!

Then consider

  • Why are you a teacher-librarian?
    • It is critical that the specialist teaching role of the TL is the predominant one or the perception that the role can be done undertaken by a general librarian, a library assistant or an untrained clerical will continue to grow, particularly as “everything is on the internet” and “librarians are all about books” remain the perspectives of many
    • It is critical that you demonstrate how you value-add to the teaching and learning in the school and support this with evidence-based practice, formal or informal.
    • Understand that your most important clients are the staff, not only because it is easier to influence 30 staff members than 300 students but also because the greatest influence on students’ use of the library is that made of it be their teachers.
    • Research shows that for pedagogies and scaffolds such as inquiry learning and information literacy to be most effective, they need to be embedded in meaningful contexts and because the teacher librarian does not have the time nor the opportunity to teach everything that needs to be taught, it is essential to form partnerships – 1:1, team, faculy and whole-school- to offer professional learning so that these approaches are across-school and across-curriculum practices.
    • As  the curriculum leader it is essential to know the scope of the curriculum -national, state and school-based- so it can be resourced in collaboration with teaching staff so the needs of students, staff and curriculum are met
    • It is also our role to introduce new services such as access to the online resources of the National Digital Learning Resources Network through Scootle, and programs such as Improve, Spatial Genie, Mathletics and so forth.  We are also often considered the experts in the identification and use of Web 2 tools so teachers can use these with their students, so it is essential we know what these are.

 

  • What is your current position in the school?
    • Do you collaboratively plan and teach across the curriculum?
    • Do you cover classroom-based teachers’ planning and preparation time?
    • Are you viewed as a specialist teacher with skills that span the curriculum or are you viewed as an English teacher on steroids whose  primary purpose is to enhance reading and the love of “literature”?
    • Are you everyone’s dogsbody or doormat with no defined teaching role? 

 

  • What do you want your position to be?
    • Use  the domains, standards and performance indicators of the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians (or the appropriate professional role statements for your location) to clearly understand the scope of the teacher librarian’s role.  Even though the AITSL professional teaching standards govern our professional knowledge, practice and commitment for accrediation and registration purposes,  these specific statements developed and promulgated by ASLA explain just what an excellent teacher librarian is expected to know, do and provide, giving us not only heights to strive for but also a succinct role description for our colleagues.  ASLA have also produced the Evidence guide for teacher librarians in the highly accomplished career stage and are working on guides for the other AITSL levels which provide more detailed advice about the role of the TL but these are available only to members.
    • Know the difference between a dream and a goal is an action plan and a timeline and in the same way as you have created a strategic plan, develop a plan to get you where you want to be.  Use The Bridge-builder’s Hat for suggestions for strategic connections and consider
      • what you want your primary position to be
      • what you need to do to achieve your goal
      • what you already know, do and have that you can use
      • what you need to know, do and have to move forward
      • what resources – personnel, physical, financial and time – do you need to achieve your goal’
      • what would be a reasonable timeframe in which to achieve your goal
      • what would be significant milestones on the journey
      • what will be the indicators that your goal has been achieved

The most important factor is to be visible – recess, staff meetings, faculty meetings, online.  Even though it is a university site there is much we can learn about visibility  from the Arizona State Uni libraries  and adapt it to our situations.

However, as well as being visible, put your position in writing.  Develop a role statement for yourself and the other members of the library’s staff that can be used to introduced the staff and what they do for the learning community.  Use statements from

to provide a generic statement on the role of the teacher librarian and then develop this to demonstrate what this means for you in your school. Use the duty statement to explain and educate so you become your own best advocate. Make it a fluid document so that what you do this year, you can build on next year and so the duties change to meet the changing needs and expectations.

Begin with a brief rationale based on creating an information literate school community just to set the context of the library within the school for both your supervisor and those who follow in your footsteps.. Set clear S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals and demonstrate, ensure and check that each duty you perform is helping you achieve them.  Think of a Duty Statement as a self-management policy as opposed to a collection management policy. But ensure your goals are in alignment with the schools’ philosophies and policies. use the Learning for the Future headings of curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager and adapt their descriptors to demonstrate how this will be interpreted in your situation-what it will look like in your school.

Use the  Standards of Professional Excellence to set personal performance targets. be canvassing the staff to see what their expectations of you are so you can set priorities on the results of an Information Needs Audit.. They may have needs that the previous teacher librarian didn’t meet, or they may not be aware of the range of services you can offer. Draw on your Collection Policy to determine goals and priorities for purchasing, assessing, weeding and so forth.  Write these up as specific duties so that the annual inventory becomes a collection evaluation exercise not just “counting the books”. Avoid quantitative performance targets such as “increase circulation by x%” because you are providing a measure whose achievement is beyond your control. But, under a sub-heading such as Curriculum Renewal you could write something like “Assess and map the resources supporting the current _____ curriculum to determine if they are current and relevant to staff and student needs. Discuss with ________ faculty how their resource needs (in digital and print format) can be met.  Research cost and availability of new resources.  Advocate for appropriate budget funds and allocate these to acquire these resources.”  That still gives a measurable target but also includes a structure for you to follow and your supervisor to understand what is involved. 

Create a balance of duties that demonstrate that you are an integral part of both the teaching and exec teams and that you also have unique skills in librarianship and those times not filled with direct contact with staff and students are filled with administration roles, such as supervising and teaching your administrative staff.) Include references to specific documents so the hierarchy can see that your duties are being guided by authoritative sources.  Use this document for professional performance appraisal, both personal and formal. Impress with your professionalism.

Develop similar statements to cover the roles of any other library staff members and volunteers so it is clear that each has a distinct and different contribution to make to the efficient and effective functioning of the library.

Policies

Having policies in place about the what and why means there is agreement of knowledge, consistency in application, and accountability regardless of personnel changes.

Library policies are broad statements based on research and best practice. They

    • provide an important reference for library staff, administrators and teachers
    • provide a ratified document that can be used to defend a decision which is challenged
    • guide decisions about the necessary staffing, funding and facilities to implement the policy
    • offer assistance to new staff about what is done and how it is done and why

They  need to be developed within the context of the philosophy, policies, guidelines and directives of the school and the educational authority to which the school belongs and reflect their ethos and goals so they demonstrate the professionalism and ‘librarian’ side of ‘teacher librarian’.

A policy provides a concise formal statement of principles which underpin how the library will act in a particular area of its operation.  It needs to be developed within the parameters of system and school requirements and philosophies and demonstrate how it will contribute to those big-picture goals during its life. A policy should identify

    • a definition of its focus
    • its purpose
    • the goals to be achieved during the life of the policy
    • the broad principles which are to be followed to achieve these
    • key personnel responsible for authorship and implementation
    • its review cycle

A policy is a public document available to the school community and often written in consultation with them. It should be brief and broad stating what happens and why. A change in personnel or procedure should not require a change in policy.

Key library-based policies include

  • mission statement (what the library stands for)
  • vision statement (how the library’s services will grow and change over the next three years)
  • collection policy (how the collection is developed including its purpose, selection, acquisition, evaluation and a Challenged Materials Policy)
  • collection management policy (what happens to the resources once acquired, although much of this will be in the Procedures Manual)
  • collection access policy (who may access the resources, when and how and consequences for those who show a lack of responsibility) 
  • textbook policy (for those schools where circulation of textbooks becomes the library’s responsibility)

However, there is a host of other policies  that may be developed under the auspices of the library including those relating to

  • intellectual property and ethical use of ideas, information and images
  • information literacy
  • inquiry learning
  • technology planning
  • internet access
  • computer network usage
  • privacy
  • administration

These policies should be school-wide documents rather than library-specific.  However, as the person with the speciailist knowledge, the TL is in a position to take a leadership role in their development.

Procedures

Procedures differ from policy because they explain how something is done, rather than why. They reflect the information services manager aspect of the TL’s role. A Procedures Manual is an internal document which details specific practices that implement the policy and ensures consistency and continuity of practice and equity so the library’s practices are not the subject of one person’s or faculty’s agenda. They are based on research and best practice, and thus are  more easily adapted to new situations than a policy.  A change in personnel or practice should be identified in the Procedures Manual not the policy. For example, while the policy might state that “acquisitions will be made in accordance with identified school requirements”, procedures identify exactly what those procedures are. If the Procedures Manual provides a step-by-step description of how new resources will be entered into the library management system, then if the LMS is changed, it is the Procedures Manual which will be changed rather than the Collection Policy.

Procedures, particularly those relating to acquisition , must be in alignment with the education authority’s requirements and therefore it may be necessary to continually maintain and manage your budget,  invoices and receipts. Keeping track of expenditure is an essential element of the TL’s role.

As well as providing step-by-step guidance for those undertaking particular tasks associated with the smooth running of the facility, there are some procedures which impact directly on the library’s users such as stocktake or inventory.  Therefore it is worthwhile producing documentation which explains why the interruptions are necessary and how they will lead to an improved collection and services.  Some jurisdictions also require a formal report of the state of the collection for auditing purposes so it is essential that this be completed and submitted.  Check how long such reports need to be kept – in NSW, it is seven years.

Similarly, if there are procedures you require users to follow, such as requesting  resources or booking a library timeslot, then these need to be explicitly documented (with links to the software if that is used) and distributed to those who require them. Make sure your form, print or electronic, provides you with all the information you need to provide the most comprehensive service possible so the user is inclined to return.

Documentation of how to access online databases, other subscription services and the use of Scootle to access the NDLRN (Australia only) is also essential so that these services can be used independently. Acknowledge that there are those who do not like to seek help so the provision of such information through pamphlets or posters can be very liberating for them and it’s another way to reach that long tail of potential users who think that the library is not for them.

Clear, attractive and accurate signage is also critical. Made using an app such as MS Publisher using a consistent format, font and colourway, signs can be tailored to the needs of your collection allowing even the youngest users to be independent in their searching and selection.  Hanging signs using appropriate models connected with fishing line over the areas most often used by your clientele also enable users to feel empowerment over the environment. 

Explicit, clear signage allows for independent selection.

Explicit, clear signage allows for independent selection.

Hanging signs made from cheap, lightweight models strung together with fishing line mean even the youngest user can find the section they want

Hanging signs made from cheap, lightweight models strung together with fishing line mean even the youngest user can find the section they want.

 

The teacher librarian is often regarded as the copyright manager and thus it is worthwhile developing documentation that details what is allowed to be copied and under what conditions.  While staff and students may have access to official copyright sites such as Smartcopying in Australia, providing a ready reference for the most common situations will empower clients to make their own decisions.

Programs

Because we are teacher librarians our teaching programs have to be as explicit and professional as those required of our classroom-based colleagues. We need to identify what we want students to know, do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of our teaching and this has to be explicitly identified in the preamble and rationale of our programs.  Not only does it emphasise the teaching aspect of the position, it demonstrates why the TL must hold dual qualifications.  Programs must

  • be based on current best-practice pedagogy
  • reflect our knowledge of the curriculum
  • demonstrate the AITSL professional teaching standards
  • embrace education authority-based initiatives like Quality Teaching
  • support identified school-based priorities
  • focus on inquiry-based learning and information literacy
  • promote cyber safety and digital citizenship
  • develop online competency

The American Association of School Libraries has identified a set of standards for the 21st Century Learner that could well underpin the programs of all of us, regardless of location or sector.  They cover four broad categories

inquire, think critically and gain knowledge
draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations and create new knowledge
share knowledge and participate ethically and productively in our democratic society
pursue personal and aesthetic growth

Within each category, there are skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities and self-assessment strategies that permeate every level and strand of the curriculum.  The document provides an authoritative base on which to build any teaching platform but also highlight the specialist nature of the TL’s role.

promotion

As well as those teaching-based programs, there are also promotion programs such as the Premier’s Reading Challenge, Children’s Book Week, World Read-Aloud Day, National Poetry Month and so forth that can help put the library at the hub of what happens in the school. However, because it is possible to have something new every week, it is essential that as the TL we pick and choose judiciously those events which will receive a heightened focus.  Once an event has been selected, it is worthwhile creating a file that explicitly links the event to the teaching and learning outcomes within the school and promoting this to teaching staff so they immediately identify how it will add value to the curriculum.  Including information about resources used or activities undertaken means there is a ready-reference if the same event is chosen in subsequent years.

Most schools are required to produce an annual report each year do parents are informed about what has been achieved and accomplished.  Contributing a section about the achievements of the library to this is formal way of alerting  administrators, executive, staff and parents to the doings of the library and how funds, including the salaries of the library staff have been invested in teaching and learning outcomes.  An even more extensive report such as this one by Joyce Valenza for the Springfield Township High School Library can be produced and made available through the school library’s website. As well as encapsulating data, it could also be an outlet for your Junior Journalists as they report on the key activities that have taken place throughout the year. Take photographs and videos of special events so they can be included.

It is also worthwhile to regularly gather statistics such as patron usage, resource acquisition and circulation and other relevant data several times throughout the year so a snapshot can be provided and analysed.  User satisfaction reports from staff, students, school leavers and parents can also provide valuable evaluative information, as well as demonstrating growth and change. Creating a well-rounded, well-balanced annual report not only demonstrates professionalsim but can also demonstrate how well you are adhering to and working towards your strategic plan as well as giving pointers for improvement.

Less formal promotions such as supporting parent participation programs or producing a pamphlet to assist parents with reading with their child at home are all part of the paperwork but all contribute to that evidence-based practice that is so critical.

propaganda

There are many ways to advertise the library’s services that involve informal paperwork and these will be examined in The Promoter’s Hat.

Putting on your paperwork hat, as ill-fitting as it might feel, goes a long way to declaring and demonstrating your professionalism.

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the planner’s hat

hat_planner

 

A vision statement is just the beginning.

If it is to come to fruition then it needs to be teased out in and supported with a formal strategic plan which becomes the road map to the destination of your vision. Such a plan shows the pathway forward, guides decisions, helps negotiate obstacles and avoid detours, has markers and milestones which prove your progress and ensures that your steps are leading in the right direction.

 

It includes identifying

  • purpose
  • priorities
  • goals
  • timeframes
  • performance indicators
  • stakeholders
  • roles and responsibilities
  • financial, human, time and physical resources
  • external support
  • documentation
  • review periods

It needs to answer these sorts of questions…

  • What have we already got?
  • Is this still valid, valued and valuable?
  • What more do we need to have?
  • What more would we like to have?
  • How can we make the tasks manageable?
  • What will be the roles and responsibilities of each person?
  • How should the map to our destination  be constructed?
  • What are the priorities along the way?
  • What resources are needed so we arrive at the destination safely?
  • How will we know we are making progress?     
  • How will we know that our destination  has been reached?
  • Is the destination as far as we can travel or is there somewhere beyond the rainbow’s end?

Purpose

All that is done within the library, whether it is wearing your teacher’s hat or your librarian’s hat must contribute positively to the teaching and learning in the school. Whether overt or covert, it needs to support the staff and students in some way.  Therefore, any changes need to be underpinned by an articulation of how they do this. Making changes based on sound pedagogical practice which is supported by evidence of its efficacy and efficiency demonstrates why we are teacher librarians with dual qualifications.

For a list of the questions which need to be considered to demonstrate that your changes are based on best practice,  read The Information Specialist’s Hat

All that is done also needs to meet the needs of the library’s users, both staff and students, and these cannot be assumed. Undertaking an Information Needs Audit will provide you with insight into those services which staff and students believe to be the most useful for them. It can also serve as an advocacy tool to alert them to the range of services you provide. Clicking on information_needs_audit will take you to a pdf version.

 

Priorities

Not everything needs to be done at once.  In fact, it cannot be as one thing is often the foundation for the next. Establishing priorities  not only identifies the sequence of the plan but also provides a defence if your professional practice is challenged.

Areas of priority to be considered include

  • the development of an information literate school community
  • curriculum development, design and delivery
  • collaborative planning and teaching
  • recreational reading programs
  • collection development, management and appraisal
  • simple circulation systems of resources for all users
  • an understanding of intellectual property and copyright issues
  • the introduction and integration of digital technologies
  • the development, design and delivery of online services
  • the establishment of an attractive and supportive library environment
  • management of archives and school memorabilia
  • the development of clear, identified, safe and fair workflow and work practices
  • an understanding of the services and support a qualified teacher librarian can offer
  • the professional learning for yourself and your colleagues
  • other areas of responsibility specific to your situation

While all areas are important, priorities should be established based on

  • your professional knowledge of the needs of the staff and students
  • identified in-school priorities so the library’s goals are aligned to those of  the school
  • external factors such as the implementation of new strands of the Australian Curriculum
  • practical concerns such as available or proposed infrastructure

 

Goals

Goals are  concise, specific statements of what will be achieved within a certain time period.  They should be SMART.

 

SMART Goals
S specific significant stretching sustainable succinct
M measurable meaningful motivational manageable
A achievable agreed acceptable action-oriented authoritative
R relevant realistic responsible rewarding results-oriented
T timely tangible trackable

To ensure that the goals are achieved, it is necessary to

  • allow key stakeholders to have input and ownership
  • display them prominently
  • identify the starting point, strengths, and weaknesses of each
  • identify the obstacles and opportunities that exist
  • identify the cost, time and sacrifices or trade-offs that each demands
  • develop a plan for achieving each one so the task is manageable

Timeframes

The usual timeframe for a strategic plan is three years as that enables time to identify, implement, expand and review.  However, within the overall timeframe, specific smaller periods need to be identified so that the overall plan remains on track.  These are based on the identified priorities of what is, what should be and what could be.

Ensure that the timetable for action is published and readily available and establish a communication mechanism so team members are aware of dates and deadlines.

Also create an at-a-glance management plan so progress can be easily seen.

At-a-glance management plan

At-a-glance management plan

Performance Indicators

Performance indicators are the markers and milestones which demonstrate achievement and ensure that the goals are being met in a timely fashion over the course of the plan. They identify

  • how a goal will be measured, either in increments or overall
  • what has been achieved
  • what needs to be done
  • how what has been achieved can be built on

Where possible, identify the benchmark or starting point, and, like the goals, make the performance indicators SMART. While keeping priorities in mind, capitalise on initial enthusiasm and have a cluster at the start of the plan so initial success is achieved quickly, is clearly visible and the foundations for future development are laid.

Set up a public document that clearly shows the progress that is being made so that success can be seen and annotate it to identify the contribution to teaching and learning.

Stakeholders

Because the library belongs to the whole school community and everyone has a part to play, this raises many questions …

  • Who should lead the expedition towards achieving the vision?
  • Who else should be on the journey?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are their vested interests?
  • What will they need to know to enable the destination to be reached?

Building your vision with a team offers many advantages including…

  1. It makes the whole task much more manageable
  2. It enables a broad range of stakeholders to be involved thus giving them ownership and a greater commitment to ensuring the success of the plan
  3. It brings a greater range of expertise, experience and viewpoints to the table so best practice is more likely to be achieved
  4. It enables a greater understanding of what is on offer through the library’s services and why things are done the way they are
  5. It puts the library at the educational centre of the school for staff, students and parents
  6. It is a great advocacy tool

Roles and responsibilities

In an address to a conference in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2003, leadership expert Tom Sergiovanni suggested that each team member makes five promises that will help the whole group work together to achieve the vision.

As the teacher librarian, what promises should you make?

Become familiar with the research about the impact of a well-funded, well-resourced school library program under the guidance of a qualified teacher librarian so you know there is well-founded evidence to support your beliefs about your role.  Summarise the research into a list of key findings to distribute to team members.

Use the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians  to examine your professional knowledge, practice and commitment to identify the areas for personal improvement in relation to achieving the goals of your plan.

Use the descriptions from  Learning for the Future, review those roles you have as

    • curriculum leader
    • information specialist
    • information services manager

Identify not only what you do when you wear each hat, but how much time you spend on each.

    • Is there a balance or a predominance of one over another?
    • What is your key role?
    • What are the unique areas of knowledge and expertise that you provide the staff and students as a result of your training that a librarian or administration officer can not?
    • What should your priorities be?
    • What can you delegate?

Compare the answers to the goals of your plan and identify the priorities that you need to focus on so it can be achieved.

Use what you have learned to develop a personal professional pathway which includes five promises which will enable the achievement of the vision. Use a format such as this…

 
Promise What do I intend to do?
Purpose Why am I doing this?How will it contribute to the achievement of the vision?
Strategies What are the steps that will help me achieve it?
Timeframe When do I plan to start and finish?
Support What do I need – time, people, resources, finance, learning – to achieve this promise?
Success  How will I measure and share my success?

 Have each member of the team

  • read the research summary
  • consider the vision statement and the contribution they can make towards its achievement
  • identify the five promises they will make on behalf of the group they represent and how these might be achieved.
  • complete a similar document based on their experience, expertise and commitment to the vision.

Publish and display these promises so that everyone in the team in whatever capacity is continually reminded that they are part of a connected community and have a responsibility to it.

Resources

It is essential to identify the resources that will be needed so these can be planned for.

Human – As well as the experience and expertise of the team members, there may be others whose expertise can be co-opted for a particular project.  Their availablitiy may influence the priorities of your plan. Human resources may also include obtaining or providing essential professional learning so a target can be achieved successfully.

Finance Many of the components may require financing either within or beyond the library’s normal budget so clear and complete costings are an essential part of the plan so these can be budgeted for by the prinicpal, the teacher librarian or external sources.

Time As the plan’s co-ordinator, the teacher librarian may well need extra time beyond their normal allocated administrative time so this needs to be negotiated with the timeclock holders within the school. Regular team meetings will also need to be held and appropriate times for these need to be negotiated.

Physical Achievement of the vision may require the provision of physical resources such as the reconfiguration of a space or the provision of ICT infrastructure, so these also need to be identified and costed, and their provision worked into the priorities.

External support

Identify the sort of external support that will be required, such as tradesmen to upgrade the ICT infrastructure; experts who can provide appropriate professional learning; collaboration with other staffmembers; or outside funding and integrate these into both the priorities and the budget. 

Documentation

Often with a new vision,  there is a new focus and direction which brings with it changes or updates of policies and procedures. It is essential that these are done so that the plan can continue regardless of who is sitting in the teacher librarian’s chair. 

It is also important for the strategic plan to be formally constructed, published and displayed so that all stakeholders and those in the school community can see that there is purpose supported by identified prioriites and so forth.  It also enables progress to be mapped.

As parts of the plan are achieved, document these for future reference, including the pitfalls so there is a clear account of and accounting for all the time and effort that has been expended.  Share progress and success with the school community so they are kept informed of the changes and how these are impacting on the teaching and the learning within the school.

Review

A vision and a strategic plan can only ever be guides, not set in concrete.  Circumstances change over three years and so there always has to be the flexibility of reviewing the priorities and programs, and changing direction as necessary.

As well, as things are put into place, new opportunities and possibilities open up.  But instead of following these detours, perhaps at the expense of your ultimate destination, write them down so they can be new pathways to be explored in your next vision statement. Ensure your steps continue to lead you towards that destination.

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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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