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the game-player’s hat

hat_gameplayer

 

 

 

As the cooler days of Australia’s winter encroach, more and more students make their way to the library as a warm haven during recess and lunch breaks. But to expect them all to want to curl up and read for that time may be a bit ambitious so this is a perfect opportunity to introduce them to some of the “old-fashioned” board and card games of yesteryear.

Those of us of a certain vintage may well remember the family nights where televisionwas turned off (if there were a television) and games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Squatter would be set up or a lively game of cards would ensue.  As well as being entertained, we absorbed the social niceties of taking turns, sharing, patience and how to lose gracefully while learning to think strategically, plan ahead, and know enough maths to keep the scorer/banker honest. Like traditional fairytales, the best games always had something to teach us.

While today’s students seem to be entranced with screen-based games, the library can become the place where more traditional formats are introduced and so much learning can take place. Games enable students to

  • collaborate with their peers to set goals, rules, deadlines and make collegial decisions through negotiation
  • develop an understanding of “fair play” and the need for rules to ensure this happens
  • reinforce the concepts of taking turns, sharing and being gracious in success or defeat
  • develop resilience and perseverance as there is an expectation they will play through to the end rather than giving up because they are not winning
  • have a common topic of conversation in which all can be included
  • assume roles that place them in unfamiliar situations and having to make decisions based on different perspectives which may challenge their existing ideas
  • think strategically and plan ahead, posing and answering questions, considering cause and effect both immediate and longer-term
  • think creatively to reach a solution or conclusion
  • deal with a variety of information, often in a diverse range of formats and from a diverse range of sources, and synthesise this to solve problems, make informed decisions and consider how their actions will impinge on another’s as well as how another player’s actions determines theirs  

Many games feed directly into specific curriculum outcomes and priorities justifying their existence in both the library and the classroom as yet another way of meeting the diverse learning styles of our students. Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games by Brian Mayer and Christopher Harris explores the role of games in education in depth offering sound pedagogical evidence for their inclusion in the classroom and library programs.  Even though the curriculum links are US-based, it’s a small jump to the Australian Curriculum.

Games were a popular part of my library’s resources and one of the most popular pastimes that continually drew participants was the jigsaw table. Edged with strips of dowel glued down to minimise the chance of pieces landing on the floor, there was always a jigsaw waiting for a passer-by to stop and add a piece or two. Even the principal couldn’t resist.  The difficulty of the puzzles varied, but given their importance in the development of visual acuity and spatial awareness, eventually I had two tables – one for the K-2 brigade and the other for those older (including adults.) Initially I bought the puzzles new to ensure they were complete, but I also got donations from puzzlers who had completed a puzzle and didn’t want the challenge of doing it again.

Board games were also popular, especially those that could be completed in a short session like Chinese Checkers, Trouble, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Junior Scrabble but there was also the opportunity for students to continue a longer game like Monopoly over a couple of days because I had the luxury of space to keep it set up near the circulation desk. It amazed me how well students respected their friends’ games and did not touch them during the day. To ensure fairness, students could sign on to play the next round which would include the winner of the previous game.  Chess was also popular and we had many chess sets donated after a local club introduced the students to the game at the instigation of a teacher with a passion for it. Two students who had often been seen as trouble-makers in the playground organised a Round Robin competition and one lunchtime a week, all the library tables were set up for this. Suddenly the boys had a purpose and a responsibility and not only did their attitudes changes, but the attitudes of students and teacherstowards them also shifted. They were popular rather than pariahs.  Students were encouraged to bring in their own games too and often the popularity of one of these determined the library’s next purchase. However, parents were also very generous and donated games too, often instead of a book for the Birthday Book Club.

Some of our Asian students also introduced their friends to the mysteries of Mah Jong which soon became as popular as chess and brought community members in as teachers and mentors, strengthening the ties between home and school and amongst the community, which had a broad ethnic base.

Card games also proved popular with Uno an enduring favourite while many learned to play gin rummy, euchre, whist, 500 and Hearts from their peers and teachers who also dropped in to be challenged.  (I have always taught Vingt-et-Un as a way to get students proficient in rapidly counting to 21.) 

As well as the actual games there was a significant collection of books in the Pick-a-Puzzle section that was always popular as students pored over pages to find Wally or travel through mazes or solve clues to progress through an adventure. This lead to the creation of  our own version of Where’s Wally as students created clues about where in Australia he might be for their friends to unravel, as well as The Quizzard of Oz, still going strong as Backpack Bear.

The Pick-a-Puzzle collection was always popular.

The Pick-a-Puzzle collection was always popular.

Some of the enduring memories for me of these games sessions are the camaraderie between the players, the gentleness and patience that experienced students showed as they taught younger or inexperienced children how to play, the willingness to abide by the rules and the acceptance that it is OK to lose, because, after all, it is only a game, even though it might be instilling life lessons.

Computer games were beginning to make an appearance although hand-held devices like Donkey Kong were discouraged at school and mobile phones were not what they are today.  However, there is a growing body of literature that is exploring how popular games can have significant value in the learning process both in the library and in the classroom.  MindShift examines Beyond Grades: Do Games Have a Future As Assessment Tools? and How game-based learning teaches problem solving in context while Russ Pitts examines how video games can change the world, one child at a time.  and Dean Groom asks What’s holding schools back from using games in class? In the Winter 2013 edition of YALSA (Young Adult LibraryServices)– Vol. 11, Number 2, entitled Minecraft Programs in the Library: If you build it they will come by Erica Gauquier and Jessica Schneider, and there have been a number of discussions in the Scootle Community about its use in the school context.  Judy O’Connell has also blogged about it in her Hey Jude blog post Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon In fact there is new literature being published almost daily demonstrating that this is a hot topic that the teacher librarian not only needs to know about but also should be taking the lead in sharing the literature and starting the conversations.

If, like me, you feel you don’t know enough about the online gaming learning environment, then Games MOOC offers an open course designed for educators who want to learn more about games, simulations and game-like environments for education. It is designed for all levels of participation and a new course will start in July 2014.  You can look at what has been offered previously to determine whether this would be of benefit.

In the meantime, Blake J Harris has traced the development of the videogame and he has identified 10 Video Games that Book Lovers will enjoy Some of them go way back to console systems like Atari so might not be easy to access, but if you read the comments at the bottome there are other suggestions to explore too. There is also the NMC On the Horison video to view, while the School Library Association New South Wales is holding a gamification conference in August 2014 but if you can’t get to , the page offers some names of people to follow in this field.

Putting on the game-player’s hat offers the TL a number of opportunities…

  • It enables students to see that the library is about more than the circulation of books and it might offer something of interest for them
  • Creating a display of resources that include instructions for playing popular games, the history of games and even unusual, historic or rare games may encourage a shift from player to reader
  • Students may well take their knowledge and enthusiasm for a particular game home to their families, opening up new conversations and entertainment options
  • Providing students with opportunities to play games not only gives them social and gaming skills they can take beyond the school walls, but also provides experience to create their own game, a common end-product of a classroom-based study
  • Providing teachers with professional articles about the relevance of games within the curriculum not only expands their professional knowledge, but also offers them another tool with which to connect to students, as well as demonstrating the TL’s leadership and being at the cutting edge of new initiatives
  • Providing the powers-that-be with professional articles may influence their thinking about the use of mobile devices within the school and loosen some of the tight restrictions that have been imposed
  • Drawing families into the library for a Family Games Night like the more traditional Family Reading Night offers another avenue to promote the library and its services to parents, including those who share their child’s perspective that a library has nothing to offer them.

Because Games and Gamification has been identified as one of the 18 top trends in the 2014 NMC Horizon Report K-12 edition,  the game-player’s hat might become a game-changing one!

 

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the builder’s hat

hat_builder

 

 

 

This hat is based on creating a strategic plan for building an Information Literate School Community. While the school at its focus is hypothetical, the plan’s purpose is to provide a model for how this might be done but it needs to be adapted to suit each particular set of circumstances.

 

 

 Towards an Information Literate School Community

A strategic plan for Alpine Waters Primary School

 

Preamble

This sets the scene and provides the reasons for change.

Alpine Waters is a government K-6 primary school committed to enabling each student to become an independent lifelong learner through excellence in teaching based on the principles of high expectations, social justice, community participation, future orientation and accountability. However, a formal school review and external measures such as NAPLAN results suggest that it is not meeting its goals.  Preparation for the introduction of the national curriculum in 2014 provides a timely opportunity to examine philosophies, policies, programs, practices and priorities to shape the school’s future.

Purpose

Identifying the purpose for the plan informs those stakeholders of its parameters so all decisions are based on achieving the outcomes.

The purpose of the plan is to provide the blueprint for developing an information literate school community which

  • is dedicated to mastering information literacy so staff and students can
    • identify their need for information
    • locate appropriate information and evaluate, interpret and use it to satisfy the particular needs of the situation
    • understand what forms of information are valid, valuable and valued within a particular context
    • interpret and align those sources which confirm, challenge or change what is already known to reach a new understanding and construct new information
    • use and communicate what has been learned so it can be implemented, and, in turn, built on
    • is based on constructivism, constructionism, collaboration and communication
    • has information literacy and the use of digital technologies and resources embedded as across-curriculum perspectives
    • provides authentic tasks and assessment to enable the development of information literacy within meaningful contexts
    • understands and values the role of the teacher librarian
    • has policies and practices addressing
      • access to and use of information including intellectual freedom, intellectual property and ethical use
      • access to and use of digital technologies
      • school library resource development and managemen
    • acknowledges that each community member is a teacher and learner at the same time
    • supports the professional learning of staff

People

Identifying the stakeholders and their roles sets the tone for the language of the plan and the sphere in which it is to be used.

The target group is the staff, teaching and non-teaching, of Alpine Waters School and, through them, the students and the wider community. Initial leadership will be provided by the principal and teacher librarian but this will devolve to interested parties as their expertise develops.

Positives

Examining the current situation identifies the benchmarks from which growth will occur as well as the platform on which changes can be set.

  • The principal is anxious for change and will commit staffing, money and time to enable it, providing overt support to the teacher librarian.
  • The teacher librarian has the experience and expertise to guide the development of an ILSC.
  • Two teachers have indicated they are looking for alternative pedagogies to improve student outcomes.
  • Access to some digital technologies has improved and the Internet is now accessible, reliable and affordable.
  • The introduction of the national curriculum provides a solid reason for change.
  • Staffing is stable so change is likely to be sustained.

Problems

Examining the current situation identifies issues which need to be addressed and helps establish priorities.

  • Current teaching practices are ingrained despite evidence that they lack effectiveness, so staff may be resistant to change and defensive.
  • Need to convince staff of the value of the new approach so that it is not seen as another new fad adding to their workload.
  • Collaborative planning between teachers and teacher librarian is rare.
  • Lack of understanding of the role of the teacher librarian in the 21st century.
  • Resistance to embedding ICT in pedagogy because of inexperience and no critical mass of hardware available at the point of need.

 

Period

Setting a time period based on identifiable markers ensures that progress is sustained and measured.

It is acknowledged that sustainable change will take time.  However NSW is committed to implementing the national curriculum in 2014 and so the plan will be implemented over 2012-2014. In Term 4, 2011, the teacher librarian and a committee comprising the principal and interested staff members will be formed to initiate the change so it can be introduced on the first Staff Development Day (SDD), 2012.

Plan

Preparation of a plan means goals, performance indicators, responsibilities and timeframes are clearly identified and therefore change is likely to be achieved.

A detailed plan has been prepared encompassing

  • a timeline of development
  • the key strategies for development employing a variety of design and delivery methods which model those strategies in practice
  • scheduled review and reflection
  • a range of groupings including whole staff, small groups and 1:1 mentoring relationships
  • opportunities for leadership
  • indicators of success.

It is designed to enable participants to understand the theoretical and pedagogical foundations of the changes and encouraging them to take ownership of these through their own planning, programs and practices.

Although it is a map to the destination of an ILSC, it is acknowledged that this concept changes according to the circumstances of its community and therefore the map should also be seen as just a guideline able to be changed to meet change.

Performance Indicators

Providing milestones ensures that goals can be achieved in incremental steps  and their efficacy measured and adjusted as necessary. Including the anticipated outcomes of the plan provides a specific, measurable goal on which all decisions should  be based.

By 2014, the staff of Alpine Waters should be in a position to implement the national curriculum on a solid foundation of the known and accepted philosophy, pedagogy, programming and practices of an information literate school community.  Students will be engaged with their learning and demonstrating their confidence and competence with information literacy at an appropriate level. Internal and external benchmarking will show improvement.  The teacher librarian will be an integral part of the teaching and learning culture working on a flexible schedule in a collaborative planning and teaching environment and the library will be the valued hub of the learning community.

Towards an Information Literate School Community at Alpine Waters School – Strategic Plan
Timeframe Strategy Responsibility Performance Indicators
Term 4, 2011 Development of draft plan Teacher Librarian, Principal Draft plan available for discussion
Establishment of committee to consider draft plan Teacher Librarian, Principal, Interested staff Draft plan edited and approvedSDD planned and resources prepared
Familiarisation with new concepts through professional learning Teacher Librarian Committee familiar with Information Literacy Process (ILP) and Guided Inquiry (GI)
SDD, Term 1, 2012 Introduction to Australian Curriculum and its implications for pedagogy Principal Staff made aware of the key changes imposed by theAustralian Curriculum and their responsibilities to address these.
Staff engage in practical exercise to plan a perfect holiday Committee Members Staff understand that learning is constructed on personal experience and perception and need for more individualised approach
Overview and explanation of ILP using slideshow, Eisenberg podcast and handout Teacher Librarian Staff introduced to common strategic structure to scaffold student learning – discussion of Eisenberg’s contention that “information literacy is the most basic of basics”
Staff engage in chocolate-sharing exercise Committee Members Staff employ ILP and understand its application as an across-curriculum perspective
Using current school-wide unit based on values, staff brainstorm outcomes Teacher Librarian, Staff Identification of desired knowledge, understandings, attitudes and skills as a result of a School Values unit and evidence of achievement
In year level groups, staff plan Values unit using ILP scaffold Staff, Teacher Librarian Ready-to-use unit based on information literacy and GI principles
 Term 1, 2012 Teacher Librarian works with year-level groups to collaboratively plan and implement first COGS unit based on ILP and GI in scheduled planning sessions Staff, Teacher Librarian Collaborative planning between teachers and teacher librarianUnits of work demonstrate understanding of ILP and GI”Library lessons” closely connected to class program
Appraisal of current collection to ensure it supports current and intended curriculum Teacher Librarian Collection weeded and new resources identified and acquired
Relevant professional readings distributed and discussed and support materials developed during staff meetings Teacher Librariam, principal, committee members, staff Professional learning expanded
Review of progress and identification of needs and directions All stakeholders Preparation of units and support materials and review of progress encourage staff to take ownership of changes
SDD, Term 2, 2013 Introduction to Guided Inquiry Guest speaker Staff provided with pedadogy and practical strategies for planning and implementing units
Planning of T2 units based on GI Speaker, staff, Teacher Librarian Units reflect constructivist apporach based on GI
Term 2, 2012 Continued collaborative planning between teams and Teacher Librarian during scheduled sessions Teacher Librarian, Staff GI principles and ILP evidenct in COGs unit planning
Development of repository of digital resources to support curriculum Teacher Librarian Resources added to OPAC; development of hotlists, learning paths; email alerts to staff etc
Review of progress and identification of needs and directions All stakeholders Evidence of commitment to philosophy and pedagogy by teachers
SDD, Term 3, 2012 Exploration of how ICT can be embedded in curriuclum beyond “typing stories” District ICT co-ordinatior, Teacher Librarian, competent staff Exploration of a range of tools including OPAC, wikis, blogs, and resources available through the National Learning Digital Resources Network
Identification of needs/strengths and establishment of mentor partnerships All stakeholders Partnerships established to encourage exploration and embedding of ICT into the curriculum
Term 3, 2012 Continued collaboration between teams and techer librarian in scheduled planning sessions with emphasis on embeddingICt Teacher Librarian, staff GI and ILP strategies consolidated
Scheduled, rostered “show-and-share” sessions at staff meetings Staff Staff demonstrate their adoption of and competence with ICT in a particular context and share and discuss ideas
Review of the use of ICT in school-based administrative duties and communications Principal, admin staff, teachers Identification of professional learning needs, hardware, software and so forth to support the embedding of ICT into school administration, including the use of social networking to communicate with parents
Review of progress and identification of needs and directions All stakeholders Identification of professional learning needs, hardware, software and so forth to support the embedding of ICT into the classroom program and class-based administrative tasks
SDD, Term 4, 2012 Development of a formal policy embedding GI and the ILP as the foundation principles for planning and pedagogy at Alpine Waters School All stakeholders Policy development and implementation
Term 4, 2012 Continued collaboration between teacher librarian and staff Teacher Librarian , staff Use of GI and ILP consolidated
Review of progress and identification of needs including the restructuring of the teacher librarian’s role to a flexible schedule to be available at the point of need. All staff Reflection of changes to pedagogy; discussion of issues and possible solutions; identification of targets and performance indicators for 2013 based on identified needs and priorities
 2013 The program for 2013 will depend on the progress made in 2012.  However it is anticpated it will encompass

  • departmental requirements for professional learning based on the implentation of the new NSW syllabi based on the Australian Curriculum at regional and school levels
  • continued collaborative practice based on the principles of GI and the ILP
  • establishement of leadership groups based on expertise, experience and interest to extend planning to all areas of the curriculum
  • a financial commitment to ensure the current collection meets and supports the teaching and learning of the school according to the Collection Policy priorities
  • the establishment of a digital repository of resources which support the curriculum and 24/7 access to these through the provision of apporpriate hardware and an online presence
  • the restructuring of both staffing and timetabling to enable the teacher librarian’s role to become one which enables and supports collaborative planning and teaching to ensure GI and ILP are embedded across the curriculum
  • support for any new staff members to develop their professinal knowledge and practice of GI and the ILP
  • a practice of greater use of social networking tools for communicating with all stakeholders
  • a movement towards embedding ICT into all facets of the school’s administrative practices
  • monitoring student progress to identify evidence of improvement in knowledge, understanding, and skills
  • continued review and reflection to identify needs, priorities and directions for the future

 

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the information literacy hat

hat_infolit

 

 

 

 

Information Literacy is the teacher librarian’s specialist subject, but it is a whole school responsibility.

 

In the K-12 education sector, information literacy is a double-edged concept. There is the workplace culture that Henri (1995) calls the ‘information literate school community’ (ILSC) and which he describes as “a philosophy as well as a place; it is a way of being as well as a working model.  It is a mindset as well as a map,” (Henri, 2005, p11). There is also the pedagogical platform of a skillset based on the definition that to be information literate means “being able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” (American Library Association, 1989, para 3).

Many, such as Eisenberg (2009), argue information literacy underpins all other literacies and is the foundation of lifelong learning defined as “the systematic acquisition, renewal, upgrading and completion of knowledge, skills and attitudes made necessary by the constantly changing conditions in which people now live.” (Candy, cited in O’Sullivan, 2002). While the ability to locate, evaluate, interpret, select, organise and use information has always been a skill required of students – indeed, the population generally- it was the development of the Internet that has had the most significant impact.  Internet usage is now so widespread that over 34% of the world’s population has access, an increase of more than 566.4%  since 2000 (World Internet Usage Statistics, 2012). It is estimated that by 2015, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Indonesia alone will add 610 million users (Boston Consulting Group, 2010).

While it took 1850 years for all that was known in the time of Jesus Christ to double, in 2002 and prior to Web 2.0 technologies, it was estimated that, spanning the four storage systems of print, film, magnetic and optical and the information conduits of telephone, television, radio, and the Internet, five exabytes (1018) of information) were produced that year – about 800MB per person on the planet. (Lyman & Varian, 2003). In addition, researchers suggest that, in 2008, Americans alone consumed “information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totalled 3.6 zettabytes [1021] and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day.” (Global Information Industry Center, 2009).

From this burgeoning, incessant production has arisen a new paradigm – information literacy, a term first coined by Zurkowski (1974) who used it to refer to workers who had mastered using information tools as well as their primary materials to solve work-based issues and which, by 2005, was identified as “a basic human right in the digital world” enabling individuals “in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals”  by the Alexandria Proclamation

alexandria_procolamation

The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the 21st Century acknowledged this right when it stated,

Australia’s future depends upon each citizen having the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and values for a productive and rewarding life in an educated, just and open society … when students leave schools they should have the capacity for, and skills in analysis and problem solving and the ability to communicate ideas and information, to plan and organise activities and to collaborate with others.

Students will need to be able to survive and thrive in an information-saturated and technology-rich environment, and be independent, creative thinkers, making informed decisions based on careful evaluation and interpretation of available information, developing expertise through experience, and be lifelong learners. They need to be information literate. And as the ability to be able to access whatever, whenever, wherever becomes the norm, we, as teacher librarians, need to change our thinking so that rather than being the source or the gatekeepers of the information (as we were in a print-dominated society) we need to see ourselves as the filter. While the front end of the information literacy process involving location, selection and organisation remains important, it is the back end such as validation, synthesis, leverage, communication, collaboration and problem-solving with information that are the critical elements of information literacy in the 21st century. The what and the why are summarised in this clip which was created as a summary of the ASB Unplugged Conference in Mumbai, India 2010. It compiles thoughts from leaders in technology education and explores the big topics of conversation around what the 21st century classroom looks like. It demonstrates that these skills need to be an across-curriculum perspective, spear-headed by the teacher librarian but not limited by artificial boundaries such as physical location, job description and so forth.

Therefore, even though information literacy is the specialist subject of the teacher librarian, the creation of an information literate school community cannot rest on one pair of shoulders.

An ILSC is one that “places a high priority (policy, benchmarking, funding and  evaluation) on the pursuit of teacher and student mastery of the processes of being informed,”   (Henri, 2005, p12).  The community (which comprises all stakeholders including the principal, the teacher librarian, teachers and ancillary staff, students and parents) is built on collaboration, constructivism and constructionism with each member having a clear focus and responsibility so the synergy of the parts ensures the success of the whole. 

Rather than being an individual experience, learning becomes a collaborative and co-operative interaction dependent on its particular context to give it value and determine its application and communication. Learners are “engaged, enabled, enriched and embodied by social, procedural and physical information” (Lloyd, 2010, p30). A successful ILSC is driven by the staff led by the principal and teacher librarian, who, as the information specialist in the school, can enable classroom-based teachers to shape their teaching so it sits on a solid information literacy platform.  It requires a sustained commitment by willing partners who are prepared to evaluate, initiate and change philosophies, policies, programs, practices and priorities and invest time, money and effort in achieving the goal.

However, despite the demonstrated need for information literacy beyond the formal education period, and the evidence from numerous studies (summarised in Kachel, 2011) that “quality school library programs impact student achievement” (Kachel, 2011, p4) information literacy is still seen by many practitioners as “library skills” focusing on and confined to students’ use of print materials in the library and taught while they have their preparation and planning time. There is no broader vision that values and validates information literacy as an across-curriculum perspective with purpose and application in all spheres of life.

Thus, it becomes the TL’s job to drive the change towards an ILSC.

But if change is to be successful, it will have to explicitly demonstrate that it will improve quantitative student outcomes, rather than just making a more meaningful learning experience, as regular external testing is now used to measure a school’s ‘success’. It will require a clear blueprint that demonstrates the transition to an ILSC is not just a fad that will add to teachers’ workload.  Critical elements of that blueprint are

    • The principal’s support is imperative for success and there must be an expectation that the TL will take a leadership role and that staff will be required to make the requisite changes
    • Staff will need to understand the concept of and the need for an ILSC, and be actively involved in the changes to policies, programs, practices and priorities enabling them to invest in and take ownership of the new philosophy
    • If learning is to be successful it must engage students by meeting their needs and interests based on a constructivist, problem-solving approach
    • The depth and breadth of the TL’s role in the 21st century needs to be clear and accepted and thus the  TL must be part of a collaborative team involved in planning, preparation and assessment practices so that information skills are taught in context not isolation.
    • The library, its programs and its collection need to be viewed as the hub of the teaching and learning in the school community.
    • Parents need to be informed of and active participants in changes of philosophy, pedagogy and practice.
    • The transition to an ILSC will need to be gradual as such significant change needs to be planned and supported so concepts become culture as community members embrace and take ownership of a new era in education for the students at this school.

Thus there needs to be a plan in place and for that the TL will have to put on the planner’s hat.

Links

Information skills in the school: engaging learners in constructing knowledge (NSW Department of Education)

School Libraries & Information Literacy  (NSW Department of Education)

Beacons of the Information Society: The Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning, 2005

Information Literacy: the most basic of basics (Mike Eisenberg)

Information Literacy models (a summary of some of the models as well as a graphic)

ILSC rubric Adapted from Henri, J., Hay, L. and Oberg, D. (2002). The School Library-Principal Relationship: Guidelines for Research and Practice. [International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Professional Report]. The Hague, Netherlands: IFLA Headquarters, p.90.

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything

Pinterest boards

Unlinked References

Henri, J. (1995). The information literate school community: exploring a fuzzy concept. Scan (14)3: 25-28

Henri, J. (2005). Understanding the information literate school community. In J. Henri & M. Asselin. (Eds.). The information literate school community 2: Issues of leadership. (pp. 11-26) Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia: Centre for Information Studies

Lloyd, A. (2010) Learning from the workplace: Theorizing an architecture for understanding information literacy as practice. In Lloyd, A & Talja, S (Eds.) Practising information literacy: Bringing together theories and information literacy practice  (p29-49) Wagga Wagga, NSW Australia: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University

O’Sullivan, C. (2002). Is information literacy relevant for the real world. Reference Services Review, 30(1): 7-14.

Zurkowski, P. (1974). The information service environment: Relationships and Priorities. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, Washington DC, ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources, ED 100391.

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the supervisor’s hat

hat_supervisor

 

 

As with any job, there are parts of the multi-faceted role of the teacher librarian which do not require a tertiary qualification to do them well.  (Unfortunately, some of those jobs such as circulaton, shelving, data entry, and resource preparation are the most visible and are the tasks by which the role is defined by those who choose to look no deeper – but that’s another post for another time.)

Nevertheless, there is a significant number of daily chores that need to be done to ensure the smooth running of the library so our clients get the best service, and many of us find ourselves in the role of supervising clerical assistants. These people may be full-time or part-time, have some sort of library qualification or just their knowledge based on their own school experience, be willing to be in the library or not, be expected to be the library leader when you are not there or seen as a general dogsbody. You might not even have the same person each day. Regardless, there is an expectation that you will provide leadership and supervision so their work, like yours, leads to better teaching and learning outcomes within your school community.

From time to time, on the library listsevs I belong to there are queries about how these relationships can be managed successfully – usually inspired by a relationship which is not working out – and there are a plethora of answers of what might work and what doesn’t and usually both sides have a say and often the only outcome is a wedge driven even deeper between the parties.

When I was in a school-based library, for ten years I had the most amazing sidekick a person could wish to have and who was expected and able to run the library after I retired and wasn’t replaced (until a new principal with a different agenda changed everything). The founding principal of the school had the philosophy that my primary role was that of teacher – hence teacher librarian – and he couldn’t see why he should pay me $50 000 a year to do what someone paid $30 000 a year could do, so he made the clerical position a full-time one. (We had 20 classes and about 450 students). Thus, Jenny could take care of all the administrative stuff,  freeing me up to do the maximum amount of teaching I was allowed to do while still getting my mandated prep and admin time. This actually enabled me to do more teaching because I chose to schedule the preschool children twice a week for storytime during my admin time, providing a significant flow-on effect when they came to “big school”. The rest of that time was then taken up with such things as curriculum mapping, collection development and all those other things which required my professional knowledge of pedagogy, curriculum and child development. 

Because our relationship was so successful,  I’ve reflected on what it was that made our time together so memorable and so productive that our library was regarded as leading-edge, even in international forums. Much of it was learned from my being “on the wrong side of the law” many times and being “managed” in ways that only built a feeling of resentment, a lack of respect for the “manager” and an unwillingness to co-operate in the future.

Jenny, ready for our Book Week parade. She made my yellow brick road so easy to travel.

Jenny, ready for our Book Week parade. She made my yellow brick road so easy to travel.

respect each other as people

Regardless of any age gaps, or experience and expertise gaps, you are first and foremost adults and therefore need to treat each other as such. Know that supervising adults is different to supervising students – there is no hierarchy, perceived or real, of power, authority, control, responsibility or whatever the word is that makes you or your role any more important than them or theirs.

Take time to get to know each other’s lives outside of the school situation.  You are going to be working side-by-side for up to eight hours a day so share as much as you’re comfortable with so on those occasions where home circumstances might interfere with the job, both of you have understanding and empathy and can step up for the other without rancour. As Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

Knowing your staff means that if there is a problem and you need to put on your supervisor’s hat you should know them well enough to understand how they would like it to be addressed. Ask yourself , “If I were in this position, how would I like it to be sorted?” “What insight do I have into my colleague’s way of being that will help me address the issue without insult or injury?” It fosters a degree of empathy and builds an atmosphere of trust and recognition that enables issues to be dealt with professionally.

 

know your roles and responsibilities

While both of you have a particular role, you each have a common goal.  Each of you is critical to achieving that. Some positions have formal duty statements attached to them clearly delineating who does what, but to assume that one role is more important than another can be a pathway to problems.  They are of equal value, just different.

The first thing we did was to designate Jenny’s job as Library Manager, and whenever there was a formal communication from the library both her name as Library Manager and mine as Teacher Librarian appeared on it, side by side. This reinforced the concept of dual equal roles to everyone, and identified that there was a need for both positions if the library’s services were to meet expectations. Jenny was also the “face of the library” – she was the first person that students, staff and visitors usually encountered and the one who made the greatest impression on people’s perceptions about what to expect.  The school was so lucky to have such an affable, calm and competent person, made moreso because she loved her job. If your assistant seems to be spending time chatting with staff or students, then it’s likely she is also building up positive relationships which will encourage greater use of the library.

If there is no clear duty statement, have a discussion about what each of you perceive your own and the other’s role to be, what you want it to be, clarify any discrepancies and build your working relationship on that. Examine your mission statement and your vision statement so you both know your purpose and your goals and work out how your roles and responsibilities will complement each other to achieve these. Knowing how your role fits into the big picture fosters a sense of belonging.

From this, prioritise tasks so there is a plan to ensure efficient and effective use of time which ensures priorities are addressed and longer-term tasks can be achieved but which also avoids continued monotonous routine that does not enthuse or stimulate thinking.

Explore and exploit each other’s strengths and build on these.  Both Jenny and I had a passion for creating inviting and engaging environments so we were able to combine that into some amazing displays and activities. I was a “big-picture” person, one who could have weird ideas that usually began with “What if…?” or “How can…?”; she was a “details” person who helped put them into practice.

Know each other’s jobs so, as far as possible and allowable, you can step into them when necessary.  Busy days saw me shelving alongside her so that students could access the returned resources as quickly as possible; she was able to tell me if a particular author, series or topic was in continued high demand so we could look at collection development. While she couldn’t teach for legal reasons, I knew that I could send a child needing a break to sit near her desk with confidence, or a student could ask her for guidance in resource selection and get quality advice.

If you introduce something new, ensure that the changes have been considered according to the identified criteria,  your assistant knows what is underpinning the change, and how it will be most efficiently achieved.  If the change requires new learning or extra time to set up and maintain, ensure these are made available. Acknowledge the time and effort made, both privately and publicly when the changes are announced.

Work together to implement procedural and/or physical changes and preparing the documentation to ensure consistency across time and personnel. Listen to opinions and advice about work practices and work flow- yours might not be the only way to do things. However, if you have a specific way you want something done because it is best-practice, then make your expectations and requirements and the reasons for them clear. If someone understands why a particular procedure is in place they are more likely to follow it. If there is resistance, suggest a trial period and an evaluation. If it appears improvements or changes are necessary, be open to them.  Be prepared to modify the theory to suit the circumstances.

Ensure your assistant has the resources – physical, human, knowledge, financial and time – to be able to successfully undertake their duties.

Never leave school at the end of the day without thanking them for what they have contributed to making the day better for everyone and highlight something you’ve noticed so they know you see what they do.

acknowledge and support aspirations

We each have professional goals so learn those of your assistant and look for ways that will enable these to be achieved.  Seek or create professional learning opportunities that will enable them not only to develop and enhance their skills but also keep abreast of changes that will impact on the design and delivery of the library’s services.

Ensure that there is adequate training provided for new initiatives, particularly ICT-related, so your assistant not only feels competent and competent to use them but also knows where to go for help or advanced training.

protect them

Because they are the “face of the library”, they are also the first port of call for disgruntled teachers and unhappy parents. However, it’s not their responsibility to cop the flak, so be ready to step into the fray if needs be.  Discuss this with your assistant before it happens, though, in case they feel your interference overrides what they are capable of handling and undermines their position in the face of the staff member or parent.  Let them know that you have their back so if they feel they need your help, they can always suggest the parent/staff member makes a time when the issue can be calmly discussed amongst the three of you.

be proactive

If either of you see a situation that could be improved through changes to the routine or method, discuss it and trial it.

If either of you see a situation developing that is impinging of the other’s self-esteem or work patterns, discuss it before it becomes insurmountable. Use the mutual respect you have to tackle the difficult.  It’s very difficult to counter the question, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

If school events or requirements are going to deprive you of your assistant for a period of time, let those who decide know that this is acknowledged but you would like to know in advance so you and your assistant can prepare for the change and make alternative arrangements.

Be flexible.  If your assistant is not replaced when she is absent, have a back up plan.  If she is replaced, then have a plan for what the substitute might do, remembering that he/she might not have library experience. Perhaps hold some sessions for those likely to be substitutes so they know the basics of circulation and so forth before they are called on.  Seek these people first when you need a substitute.

Look for opportunities when you and your assistant can work together and be acknowledged as a team.

People like Jenny are more precious than gold. Working with our assistants in a collaborative, collegial manner enriches everyone’s lives.

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the leader’s hat

The leader's hat

Many teacher librarians associate leadership with hierarchy and believe that it is the domain of the principal and the school’s executive.

But anyone with specialist knowledge and skills acan be a leader, even students, and particularly the TL because their position within the school is often unique.  In many cases, there is only one of us in a school, perhaps several schools, and staff and students look to us as being the leaders in literature and information access and management.

Teacher librarians are ideally suited to lead from the middle.

 

Much has been written in many forums about leadership types and there are almost as many types as there are articles about them. Examples are

  • Transactional Leadership
  • Situational Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Servant Leadership, and
  • Instructional Leadership

A good place to start for a basic understanding of the sorts of leadership that are applicable to schools would be Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: from research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria,Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (If you cannot access this title, a review of the key factors is available  here.)

As well as there being a multitude of articles about leadership theory there are any number of video clips including Leadership Theory and Critical Skills and Ten Leadership Theories in Five Minutes.

However, the most effective form of leadership in the school situation would seem to be transformational, in which change is effected through

  • having a clear vision that is articulated well,
  • a passion for the change and involvement in what needs to be done
  • a desire to ensure that all those involved succeed through encouragement and empowerment to explore new ways and new opportunities

Nelson Mandela is widely regarded as being an exceptional example of a transformational leader.

Check out your natural leadership style by taking this quiz developed by my leadership hero, Stephen Covey and assess your leadership skills using this one. Even if you don’t view yourself as a leader, perhaps even shy away from the mantle, as the TL you ARE a leader so it’s worthwhile knowing and learning about the critical elements essential for success of your vision and the design and delivery of effective programs and services which will enrich and enhance the teaching and learning in your school.

Whatever the style, effective leadership has some critical skills, common to any situation – business, school, library, whatever.

 

Chapter 4 of School leadership that works: from research to results is entitled The 21 Responsibilities of the School Leader and the authors set out a set of characteristics which, according to their research, are essential for the successful school leader if there is to be a significant impact on student academic achievement. Substitute “teacher librarian’ for “principal” and it’s possible to understand what the TL needs to know, understand, appreciate, value and do to ensure the achievement of the vision and the successful implementation of the plan.

Let’s look at some of these characteristics and how they might be applied to your vision and strategic plan.

Change Agent

The change agent is not satisfied with the status quo just because it is the way things have always been done. They willingly and actively challenge it if there is a proven better way of doing things that is relevant to the situation.  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is an anathema to them because they are constantly striving for the best, operating at the leading edge of a school’s competence and are prepared to take risks, encourage and protect those who take them with them and live with uncertain outcomes.

The TL who is a change agent examines two key elements…

  1. What is happening at the leading edge of education generally and considers how the library’s services can be shaped to accommodate and reflect this. ( A great example is the early adoption of ICT and its embedding into the curriculum by TLs which is why they are often viewed as the ICT specialist.)
  2. What is happening in leading edge libraries, school , tertiary and public, and considers how these practices can be embedded into their situation.  (A great example of this is the way that the Arizona State University libraries have embraced social media to connect with students.)

There has been much discussion and debate about the need for libraries let alone librarians and teacher librarians in this ‘digital age’  where “everything is available on the Internet.  To help crystallise your responses when challenged this way have a look at this range of infographics that show that while our direction may have changed, our destination has not.  Use those that encapsulate your circumstances best to create your own to reflect  your role, purpose, goals and influence and display it prominently.

Ideals and Beliefs

Well articulated beliefs are at the core of effective leadership.  The leader knows and understands what is best policy and practice in teaching and learning and is driven to provide these within the school.  This knowledge and understanding is based on an intimacy with

  • the ethos of the school
  • the school community’s desires and expectations
  • who the students and staff are-
    • their needs, interests and abilties
    • their ethical, cultural and social make-up
    • their aspirations and challenges
    • their rights, responsibilities and roles
  • pedagogy
  • curriculum requirements, design, delivery and assessment

For the TL, this means identifying and articulating your beliefs about teaching and being a TL as demonstrated in The teacher’s hat and understanding the rights of the students as articulated in The Students’ Bill of Rights and marrying these to both current best practices in teaching and library services – hence our dual title- and the school’s vision and goals. From this comes the vision statement

Culture

Fostering a positive culture of community, communication and co-operation based on shared beliefs is essential if the library is to be seen as a place that belongs to all in the learning community. The TL should be seen as a custodian not the owner.

A community-based culture is the most effective way to achieve change and building your library committee is the first step in this.  Sharing the sense of ownership amongst all the stakeholders, including the students, is much more likely to achieve the vision.

Seek ways that staff and students can have input into the design and delivery of the library’s services and programs and into the decision-making process.  Acknowledge this through the policies you write and the procedures you develop.

Communication

The library is not an ivory tower.  It needs to be receptive and responsive to the needs of its users. Communication is essential! Establish strong lines of communication to and from the library using a range of traditional and social networking tools so that you can not only reach the visible users but also that invisible long tail who believe that the library has nothing to offer them.

Effective and frequent communication also keeps the library’s purpose and goals in focus and ensures accountability.  If you say you’re going to do something, then you need to deliver!  Publicise the goals of your strategic plan so they are clear and visible to all, adhere to the timeframe and performance indicators, and celebrate the milestones.

Affirmation, Acknowledgement and Rewards

Everyone wants to have what they have contributed or achieved recognised so be aware of what your team and your clients are doing and seek appropriate ways to acknowledge these.  It can be a simple thank you, a thumbs-up, a private note, a team-based reward or a full-blown celebration. 

Build relationships. The best leaders are aware of the individual and the effort they put in and take the time to let the person know that they know. Even if it is dissent or criticism, acknowledge the courage that the person had in raising the issue, thank them for their new insight and consider what has been offered.  If you take the suggestion on board, attribute it to its source; if you don’t then take the time to explain to the person why their idea is not a good fit at this time.

Collaboration

John Donne wrote “No man is an island.” No matter how skilled, no single TL can provide the best of the best from the library without collaboration and if progress, achievement and success are to be sustained it is essential.  It is very easy for a specialist such as a TL to believe they are the key-holder and gate-keeper to the knowledge but if that is not shared, what’s the point of having it?

Using a team approach to achieve the vision is the most likely road to success but there are bound to be road-blocks. View these videos for some insight into problem-solving and group decision-making to turn those obstacles into opportunities.

Professional Knowledge, Practice and Commitment

Effective leaders are seen to talk the talk and walk the walk.  Obvious and demonstrated sound professional knowledge, practice and commitment inspire confidence in the team, but you need to to empower your team so they have the wherewithal to accomplish what they have undertaken. Remember:

  • Your team (and the broader learning community) do not have the TL’s specialist knowledge so where it is appropriate explain why things are so, and back it by sharing relevant research and professional reading.
  • Your team members may need personal professional learning so they can accomplish what they need to do so look for the most appropriate way to share this whether it is 1:1 with you in an incidental situation such as learning to access a database; a mentor relationship in which the one who has empowers the one without; a school-wide initiative such as building inquiry-learning as the basic pedagogy in alignment with the Australian Curriculum; or seeking sources further afield for either yourself or your colleagues.  Teachers, as well as students, are learners!
  • You need to enable access to the resources – human, financial, physical and time – that are essential for the team members to achieve their commitments.

If the library’s services driven by a knowledgeable qualified teacher librarian are to be seen to be as essential, non-negotiable elements of the school’s core business then each of us has to step into the limelight, find our inner leader and let it shine.

It is impossible to address the whole issue of the TL as a leader in one blog post, so if you want to follow this path in greater detail you are urged to undertake Teacher Librarian as Leader through Charles Sturt University to whom I am indebted for much of my knowledge and the content of this blog post. 

You might also like to read 4 Ways to Lead from the School Library

In December 2016, School Library Connection posted the results of their one-question-survey about who were considered to be “school library rockstars” in a Wordle.

leaderr_wordle

No surprises about the names in the biggest print but what is interesting and important is what it is that makes these leaders stand out and influence our professional thinking, learning and practice in the way they do.  As the article says, “Aspiring school librarian leaders can use the descriptor headings as action statements.”

 

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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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