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the prep-time hat

 

 

 

Collaborative planning and teaching is the ideal in the teacher librarian’s world – that wonderful state when you can plan the aspects of an investigation that will be your responsibility and then team teach them in the library with the classroom teacher assisting (and learning.)

This approach is so successful because all the investigations into how the brain functions and how people learn suggest that learning in context is most likely to be retained and this is considerably heightened when there is curiosity about, a need and desire for  learning, a connection to it and the expectation of success.

Adapted from “The Whole Story: natural learning and the acquisition of literacy in the classroom” Cambourne, B. (1988)

 

When the brain is confronted with new information, the data goes through a series of ‘filters’ to determine where it fits in with what it already known.  Even without the 21st century science, Piaget called it assimilation and accommodation. while Marion Diamond’s book The Magic Trees of the Mind provides a very readable explanation of the learning process. Essentially when new information is presented to the brain, after being assessed for the fight or flight response, the brain seeks to associate it with something already known. If it finds it, the existing dendrites (the magic trees) assess whether they are being confirmed or challenged by this new information and it is assimilated into what is already known and the dendrites change to accommodate the new learning. If the new information challenges the existing knowledge and beliefs too much, it may be discarded and if no relevant connections are made it will be held in the short term memory but quickly forgotten if there is nothing to consolidate it.

So the argument for collaborative planning and teaching so that students understand the relevance of what they are being taught in the library curriculum within the bigger-picture context of a class investigation is very strong.

However, the reality is that more and more teacher librarians, particularly in the primary/elementary sector are being used to cover teacher preparation and planning time and there is little, if any, connection to what happens in the library and the classroom.  Indeed, it is this coverage of this time as part of the ‘specials team’ that is keeping those TLs employed!! And so instead of the learning being just-in-time it becomes just-in-case and often quickly discarded.

So if this is your situation, how can you make the most of it so the students can maximise what is on offer? This is particularly so when you may only see the students once a week on a fixed timetable and their class investigation moves on in between library visits.

Know the curriculum

As is explained in The Scope and Sequence Hat  having a step-by-step one-size-fits-all curriculum is not only difficult to develop but also ineffective if it has no connection to anything the students are doing. While the days of having students fill out a worksheet of responses after a brief introduction to a topic might seem attractive, their efficacy is very dubious and there is little evidence that what is learned in the library is then transferred to new situations in the classroom.

This was recognised when the Australian Curriculum  was first structured and the elements of information literacy that had been the domain of the teacher librarian were embedded in the curriculum itself rather than being an adjunct as a cross-curriculum perspective.  Now all teachers would be required to teach students how they could identify and information need, and then locate, evaluate, interpret and use what they discovered to satisfy it.

Thus knowing the requirements of the curriculum in relation to information literacy is a critical first step.

Each strand of the curriculum has aspects of information literacy and inquiry that are common to the others even if they are worded differently.  All require the students to

  • pose questions
  • locate information in one form or another that will help answer them
  • determine its relevance, currency and authenticity
  • interpret what it is telling them
  • combine what they discover  to create new information
  • present what they have learned so development and understanding is apparent
  • use their learning as a stepping stone to taking action or even further learning

Of course, each year level requires a different level of sophistication but that is the beauty of a spiral curriculum that focuses on process rather than product and concept rather than content.

While the TL is primarily a teacher – hence our title- the teaching we do is different to that of the classroom teacher because we are trying to enable students to develop skills and understandings that transcend artificial subject borders and can be transferred to one degree or another to any situation throughout their lives.  Whether they need to know the time the next bus will get them into town or whether they have to solve a complex scientific or legal problem, they have the skills to assist them starting with the three basic questions…

  • what do I need to know
  • what do I already know
  • what more do I need to find out

While curricula may specify particular content that students must cover, understand that a topic is just a vehicle on which the deeper concepts and processes travel on and so it is very possible to use any subject matter to embed that which you want the students to know.

Thus the term lifelong learning has particular application for what we do. 

Making the transition between the roles of a classroom teacher and a TL can be one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome but once it is done things become much clearer. So become very familiar with the curriculum for the year levels you are teaching and draw out and write down the information literacy aspects that are applicable using the headings from the Information Literacy Process as a guide.  If your school uses a formal pedagogical model  such as Guided Inquiry then map the elements of the Information Literacy Process on to that so you know where each fits. While this may be time-consuming initially, not only does it deepen your understanding of your teaching role but it only has to be done once because large-scale changes to overarching curricula are infrequent.

Consult with the teachers

This may seem to be easier said than done particularly if you are covering the only time a teacher has off class to plan.  But there are ways and means.

If the teachers are part of a team that has a team meeting when you are available put yourself on the agenda of that at the beginning of the term.  

If you have their classes while they meet, ask for a meeting before or after school or during a break.  The school day is longer than the 9-3 “performance” time and so they should be willing to meet with you at a mutually acceptable time.

If face-to-face meetings are not possible, then use email.

If their response is that they don’t care because they don’t view the library instruction time as an integral part of their teaching, then they are tacitly giving you the go-ahead to do what you like.

Whichever method you use, armed with your curriculum document ask them which aspects they would like you to focus on, regardless of the content vehicle you hitch it to. It is important to help them understand that information literacy is not a lock-step process – indeed most of the models demonstrate that it is recursive as we switch back and forth between elements as required – and so it is not possible to effectively teach each step in one investigation, particularly with once-a-week visits.  Try to complement their focus so you are linking but not rehashing what is being done in class. For instance, if the teacher is focusing on posing questions, then your focus could be helping the students locate the information and assessing it for relevance.  Stress that with this approach you are able to lessen their workload rather than add to it.

Often new TLs ask how they can increase collaboration in planning if not teaching and sometimes they have an expectation that offering to lessen a teacher’s workload will be a magic wand that will have them clamouring at the door and are disappointed when they aren’t. But there are many reasons that teachers feel unable to collaborate from being protective of their program to not understanding what it is you are offering, so the most common answer is to work with those who are interested.  Apart from the benefits, there is a belief that this will encourage other teachers to want a slice of the pie as though they absorb the increased learning opportunities by osmosis.   But often the result is that the status quo remains, there are those who do and those who don’t.

Spreading the Word

If you are going to do the best for the students in your care then the more teachers you can work with the better. So even if a particular teacher shows no interest in what you do with their students it is important to keep the lines of communication open.  

If full responsibility for planning and teaching rests with you, map out your program for those students for the term, including links to the curriculum outcomes they are addressing, and email this to the non-participating teacher.  At the very least, it helps break down the notion that library time is unrelated to anything that is happening in the classroom and is, in fact, a valid and valuable teaching opportunity. 

After each lesson, send a brief email outlining what was covered and even identifying those who grasped things and those who were struggling.  Again this emphasises the teaching aspect and demonstrates that while your job may be different, as a teacher you are on an equal footing.

Unashamedly eavesdrop on staffroom conversations and if you hear a teacher expressing concern over an aspect of the curriculum or something they are doing or proposing to do that you can assist with, even if it is just resources rather than teaching, then email them with your suggestions.  

Offer to run in-house professional learning sessions that demonstrate what you can offer and do to support what teachers are planning or doing. 

Every little bit helps to educate about and advocate for the role of the teacher librarian and demonstrates that we are much more than keepers of the books.

Walking the walk

Having talked the talk, it is essential to walk the walk.  

Once the focus of your sessions has been identified, use your own inquiry approach to plan your lessons.  Use these two big questions to guide your planning…

What do I want the students to know, do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of my teaching in the short and long-term?

What evidence will I accept that learning has occurred?

Then using your own or an imposed format, plan your lessons as required by your school authority.  

Link to classroom content wherever possible but don’t try to duplicate it – a parallel topic is just as valuable as the classroom investigation as it offers another perspective and shows the transference of knowledge, understandings and skills to new situations.

Use literature as a basis if desired – using open-ended question starters such as what if, how would/could/should, what could can open up lots of avenues for thought and investigation that can then kickstart further learning. My favourite is to read The Great Tasmanian Tiger Hunt by Michael Salmon and ask the children what Colonel Horsfeld-Smythe should have know about the Tasmanian Tiger to make his hunt more successful. Not only did it spark investigations about the life of the Tasmanian Tiger but it also opened up discussions about endangered and extinct species, conservation and even the ethics of hunting and zoos! And all the while the students were learning many of the elements of information literacy!

As accountability and data collection drive teaching more and more, for better or for worse, more and more teacher librarians are being asked to add comments to student reports.  In a climate where it is often hard to remember each student’s name because you see maybe 200 students per day, being asked to write an individual comment that is accurate and defensible can be very difficult but nevertheless it must be done.   Some teachers are happy with a blanket statement of what has been covered while others demand grades and specific comments. so devise ways that work for you that will allow you to keep track of progress and achievement so you can meet your responsibilities. It all adds to that advocacy that we are teachers first and foremost.

Wearing the prep-time hat can be a bonus and a blessing for all parties if we are prepared to make the most of the opportunities given to us. Rather than bemoaning that we have reality rather than ideality, we need to embrace it and make it work for us and the students.

 

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the social media hat

hat_social_media

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Ian Davis

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

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

Lyn Hay & Jake Wallis

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

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

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

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

the role of the teacher librarian

From Library 2.0 comes Librarian 2.0.

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

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

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

librarian_20a librarian_20b
librarian_20c
librarian_20d
The Networked TL

The Networked TL

social media in action

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are several opportunities for TLs to connect via Facebook including

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the procedures hat

hat_proceduresThis post is going to be a work-in-progress.

As I write it, you can follow my journey as a qualified teacher librarian moving into an established library in a primary school at very short notice and find out what I wished I had asked during the short hand-over period but didn’t because I assumed there would be a Procedures Manual available. Because even though I have a wide range of experience and expertise and knew what had to be done, I didn’t know how it was done in this particular context.

 

While there are practices that are common to all libraries, each school and education system has its own requirements that need to be followed and these need to be set out somewhere because you cannot make the assumption that your successor will necessarily be from the same school district as you and therefore know the drill. There are some things you don’t learn at library school but you need to know.  

So join me on my journey as I discover what I don’t know and need to know as I write a manual for the person who will inevitably follow in my footsteps. 

Access to the Library Management System

Providing comprehensive training in the use of the LMS used by the school/district is probably beyond the brief of the incumbent TL particularly if there is a short turnover period, but there needs to be information about…

  • what the LMS is and where training can be obtained, including any manuals, help desks, networks and other support systems that are in place in the short term should they be needed
  • how to access it via username and password and ensuring that the entry level assigned to you is at administrator level so you can access all its functions
  • an overview of the most commonly used modules with brief instructions on how these are used on the surface level so the everyday functions of the library can continue without interruption for the clients such as those governing circulation , adding new borrowers and accessioning new items.

Passwords

While it is clearly acknowledged that usernames and passwords should not be shared. there are occasions where a school as an entity has a login.  These include access to databases, online newspapers and magazines, library support systems such as cataloguing services, vendor accounts and so forth.  So these details need to be made available.  

Documentation

If there is existing documentation such as policies available then state where this is.  If it is online provide the pathway to it; if it is in print format then state where it can be found.  If it is online then it needs to be in a shared folder, not a personal one but having seen what can be done to “paperwork” stored online when uninformed  people decide it is time to clean up shared folders or systems crash and so forth, in my opinion it is worthwhile having both a paper copy of critical documents as well as a back-up digital source.

Essential documentation includes

circulation

As this is a primary function of the library explicit details need to be provided including

  • who may borrow
  • who may undertake circulation – Tl, teacher, students, self-circulation
  • how to access the circulation module of the LMS including any username or password
  • the steps involved in lending, returning, renewing and reserving a resource
  • if ebooks are available, instructions about how these are accessed and downloaded including usernames and passwords if applicable
  • if password-protected online resources are available, instructions about how these are accessed and downloaded including usernames and passwords if applicable
  • authority to override any restrictions placed on borrowers or resources
  • borrower loan categories, resource types and limits, lending periods and renewals for each
  • the generation of borrower barcodes and the maintenance of these
  • availability of class loans and the authority to borrow for these
  • accessing loan histories
  • master due date for returns prior to stocktake and instructions for setting this and other critical dates
  • any other limits or restrictions
  • treatment of overdue resources including the imposition and collection of fines
  • patron responsibilities for lost or damaged resources
  • how new borrowers are added
  • collection of statistics
  • interlibrary loan procedures

Include screenshots where applicable for easier explanation

Acquisition

Acquisition procedures must be clearly stated so that procedures can be followed in alignment with school/district requirements.  Information should include

  • budget preparation, submission and allocation
  • the timeframe for purchasing
  • purchasing procedures such as
    • the use of purchase orders and responsibility for placing these
    • the need for a supervisor to approve purchases
    • the use of school accounts and/or credit cards
    • online purchasing procedures
    • whose responsibility it is to ensure a vendor is paid
    • the reconciliation of the budget with expenditure to ensure limits are adhered to
  • criteria for selecting vendors including 
    • quality and reliability of service
    • preview practices and returns policies
    • value for money
    • payment options,
    • delivery costs
    • speed of delivery
  • preferred vendors who meet the criteria including
    • the use of those mandated by the school/district
    • the use of local vendors
    • specialist vendors
    • online vendors
    • the ability/restrictions applying to the TL making on-the-spot purchases including reimbursement
    • review of vendors for adherence to the selection criteria
  • the use of free services versus paid or subscription including statements about the need for the resource to adhere to the selection criteria for all resources, particularly considering
    • ownership of the resource
    • copyright compliance
    • advertising and offsite links
  • the outsourcing of collection development such as a service which supplies pre-selected titles and the criteria to be considered such as 
    • cost comparisons
    • previewing of titles for suitability
    • the ability to return unwanted items
  • the outsourcing of the processing of resources so they are shelf-ready
  • donations

To be continued…

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the reporter’s hat

hat_reporterAs Australia’s school year draws to a close, many are thinking about writing reports, summarising in a few lines all that has happened over the school year so parents can see the learning journey their child has undertaken.  This examination and accountability is occurring in school libraries too as more and more teacher librarians are being asked to report on the individual progress of students (my opinion of the validity of this is for another piece) as well as to the school community as a whole as evidence is required to show where all the dollars have been invested and the new budget is submitted.

 

In my opinion, the end of the year is too late.

The reporter’s hat should be one that is worn constantly with every opportunity to share a story from the library taken.

Over the years there have been a number of investigations into and reports about the impact of quality school libraries staffed by qualified teacher librarians and offering targeted teaching programs on student learning particularly since Keith Curry Lance  turned the spotlight on in 1994 and has continued to do so.  But what has been the impact of these studies?  Have they changed the perception of the school library and the teacher librarian’s role within it so that the provision of such a facility, fully staffed and fully funded is a given, a non-negotiable in the learning landscape?  Given the constant queries to TL lists such as LM_NET and OZTL_NET, I think not.  For, despite all this credible, authoritative, well-documented evidence the role of the TL is still misunderstood and under fire.

 

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Old-fashioned and narrow though it may seem, the most effective change comes from the ground up where those who are most directly affected start to own a concept or  a vision and want to move towards it.  Despite their being nearly 400 submissions from the best brains in the business and 12 media releases when an Australian federal government inquiry into school libraries was conducted in 2010, there was very little public notice taken and very little action was recommended or taken when the final report was released in 2011. Therefore, wearing the reporter’s hat, the teacher librarian is in a perfect position to be educating the community about the importance of the school library, the services it offers and the TL’s role within those.

There are six key groups who need to know what we do, how we do it and why…

pupils

Our students are the reason we are there.  We want to help them develop informed, information-literate, well-read adults who can contribute positively to society both now and in the future.  They are the grass-roots users of the library’s services and given there are more of them than any other sector of the community, they have the loudest voice.

parents

Parents can be your strongest allies and your greatest critics.  You start on the common ground of wanting to provide the best education for their child; they volunteer in the library doing a myriad of tasks that free the TL to teach; and they raise many of the funds that are used to build the library’s collection.   They also have a powerful weapon – they vote! 

They vote when

  • they ring the principal to praise or complain
  • they put themselves on P&C and other school-based committees
  • they chat to the parents in the carpark, the most powerful grapevine of information and mischief yet invented
  • they go to the local, state and federal ballot boxes

They have a voice with the most important power-brokers and purse-string holders in your professional lives.  And it’s a loud voice – louder than the whisper of one teacher librarian amongst a staff of 30 or more; louder even than the murmur of all those TLs who wrote submissions and the thousands who didn’t but still backed the Inquiry. 

peers

These are our classroom colleagues whom we know are so swamped with administrative paper work, reporting to parents, curriculum design and delivery, student social work, and extra-curricular activities that they don’t have time to take on board what they perceive to be the extra task of collaborative planning and teaching, and information literacy particularly, as just another subject to try to squeeze into a frantic timetable.

They perceive the teacher librarian to be the provider of the resources and when they want them they want them now.  They may well have had no experience of a teacher librarian who can offer so much more, so we need to show them that we can lessen their load, not add to it.

Research demonstrates that the greatest influence on a student’s use of the school library is that made of it by their teacher. But they won’t use it if they don’t know what it can offer.

principals

The most common theme in  messages to teacher librarian lists is that “the principal doesn’t understand the role of the teacher librarian” and there is a belief that as principal, he/she should make it their job to find out what it involves.

But, just as we acknowledge the workload of our peers, we must also acknowledge the workload of the principal, particularly as new policies and programs are thrust on their shoulders and they are required to do more with less.

More and more, principals  have the say over the configuration of their staffing and every position will be up for review.  If your principal’s perspective is that the teacher librarian is the “keeper of the books” and “who needs a library when you have the Internet” and the whole job can be done more cheaply with a clerical, then your job will be on the line.

pre-service teachers

As far as can be ascertained, there is no requirement for Australian  pre-service teachers on prac or their internship to have to demonstrate they have even visited the school library let alone collaborated with the teacher librarian.

 However, these are the teachers who will take education forward and be teaching our children and grandchildren.  They are the decision-makers and the teachers of the decision-makers of the future and given it’s our future they are making decisions about, we need them to be as informed as possible.

If a pre-service teacher understands the particular, specialist professional knowledge, expertise and experience that the teacher librarian has then they are going to be looking for and demanding it when they are in their own classrooms.

Nurture them!

politicians

Politicians hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, new curricula and so forth.  They tie their demands to funding to ensure they get their way. In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson mandated that every school would fly the national flag and have two hours of PE each week or they would miss their share of a $31 billion federal schools package.  

They are driven by power, economics and votes (and remember the parents have the voting power) but despite public appearances, most are genuine and busy.  The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was.  In the US, the Federal Communications Committee is thinking of spending $200 000 000 to train  a “digital literacy corps” so there is someone in every school and leisure organisation who can show the students how to use computers properly so they are not ‘time-wasting’ on games and entertainment, even in their leisure time. 

While that federal inquiry did raise awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians , governments and their members come and go and policies, programs and funding put in place by one are just as quickly overturned by another as is evidenced by the Gonski reforms in Australia 

But if local politicians, actual and would-be, who are the local decision-makers or opponents of them, are kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents and they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies. 

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McKenzie’s interpretation of the role of the TL

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Buchanan’s interpretation of the role of the TL

In her blog Library Grits Dianne McKenzie has examined the role of the teacher librarian by using Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto to create a pictorial representation of the TL’s role. In the same post she has also included Ruth Buchanan’s interpretation which has a different set of words which reflect the human side of what we do.

How can we tell others about what is obviously such a complex role?

  1. Know your audience, their interests and needs.
  2. Use social media

Each audience has different interests and needs which shape what you will tell them about, while social networking tools  make it easier for you to tell them about it.

pupils

Pupils have three key requirements…

  • resources which support their current ares of study
  • suggestions for leisure-time reading
  • information about events in both the school and the community

How to create an awareness of these depends on the age of the students, particularly the use of public social media where those under 13 are not permitted to have accounts.  But teaching them how to use the OPAC; how to access Learning Paths or hotlists that are available via the school library’s website; creating and displaying posters of events; creating displays of new resources are all ways that you can spread the message to young students.  Older students may access and contribute to a blog for reviews of the latest releases; access and contribute to a wiki that supports their current curriculum; create and access online posters for events and so forth.

Involving students in the selection process and having them review their choices or involving them in the hosting of an event and then being the Junior Journalists who report it for the school newsletter not only spreads the workload but also helps them develop a sense of ownership of the library.  It becomes an integral part of their school experience.

parents

Parents want to know

  • what their child is learning
  • how they can support that

So

  • Have a prominent presence through your newsletter, website or social networking and keep them regularly informed of what each class is undertaking while in your care; events; new releases of books or movies and their suitability.  Parents are particularly subjected to pester-power and may not realise that something while popular, might be unsuitable.  Make yourself or your presence their go-to place for information. 
  • Provide homework support with links to curriculum-related websites, YourTutor, safe game sites for each age group; interesting sites that will engage them like Kid’s National Geographic
  • Provide a parent information lounge both on your website and in your library with information about the school, child development, supporting their child’s literacy and numeracy development, cybersafety, local services and entertainment for children (collect brochures or link to sites), help lines such as the Poisons Information Centre or Lifeline, even appropriate authors, titles or series for each age group for birthday or Christmas lists.
  • Support parent participation programs with literature and practical advice such as how to read with their child; the art of reading aloud; the information literacy process or any other initiative that is happening. Interpret the professional literature so parents understand new pedagogies or programs.  Be the pivot on which the relationship between the home and school balances.
  • Review new titles and old favourites (or find them) and share these through your social networking outlets.
  • Encourage students to be Junior Journalists and report on library events, new displays, new releases and so forth
  • Open the library during all school events so parents can wander in and see what’s happening.  Consider offering it as a child-care space during concerts and so forth.
  • Speak at P&C meetings about what you do so the word spreads that the school library is a very different place from that which they might remember.
  • If you are required to write on the reports of individual students make sure your comment is defensible if a parent want to seek an interview.
  • Keep a diary of notes,quotes and anecdotes so you can prepare an annual report that shows them how their child’s learning has been enhanced and enriched and the value they have had for the money invested in the library, its resources and its staff. That is the focus, not stats about circulation and loss rate and so forth.

peers

Classroom-based teachers want

  • resources to support their teaching
  • ideas for integrating information literacy and ICT
  • suggestions for class read-alouds
  • information about professional courses and events

So

  • Conduct an Information Needs Audit and find out what their priorities are and how they would like them delivered.
  • Provide them with a booklet that outlines the key services of the library and how these can be accessed and utilised
  • Be pro-active and take every opportunity to find out what’s coming up in their program that you can support this with physical and online resources – develop learning paths, pathfinders and hotlists, and give them catalogs to browse for suggestions for collection development. Let them know what you have gathered and how these can be accessed. Offer to write a statement about how the library has contributed to students’ learning for reports.
  • Be their professional learning scout. Co-ordinate a program of professional learning opportunities to develop information literacy and ICT skills, such as how to use the databases. Provide a summary of instructions or a list of Web 2.0 tools that support a particular strategy or Bloom’s Taxonomy  Help them understand the SAMR model so they can prepare more effective lessons.  Introduce them to tools such as online scheduling apps that will make their administrative tasks easier. Share teaching tools that will assist their planning such as this Teacher Planning Kit for Bloom’s Taxonomy or this new take on the KWH chart.
  • Monitor listservs and other professional services for information about upcoming events, conferences, professional learning opportunities, programs and competitions their students could be involved in and so on and email these details to individuals directly.  
  • Use your non-teaching time to go into the classroom and booktalk the bulk loan, new releases, the PRC titles, the upcoming Book Fair or Scholastic BookClub titles, authors, series or themes.  Watch the interest grow and the teacher’s problems with sustained silent reading diminish
  • Offer the library as the venue for displaying the class’s work on a theme or invite classes to develop a display on a mutually agreed theme. Look for ways that student work can be seamlessly integrated into what is happening in the library.  Whenever the media or politicians go to a school, they always go to the library – have it loaded up with student work.

principals

Principals need to know the big picture of what is happening and how money is being spent so keep them informed by

  • preparing a detailed budget in advance of the preparation of the school’s budget identifying the priorities and how these have been determined.  Apart from demonstrating your professionalism, it enables the principal and those allocating the money to be aware of your needs so they can make informed decisions.
  • organising events like Literary Luncheons, author visits, Book Week celebrations and so forth.  As protocol ask permission and keep the principal in the loop.  Invite the media to such events -it always makes the principal look good.
  • sending a weekly email which keeps them in the loop of
    • the events happening in the library
    • collaborative planning and teaching opportunities;
    • comments about individual learners – you know who;
    • individual achievements like who has reached their PRC goals so he/she can congratulate them;
    • significant new purchases;
    • anything that shows the range of duties you undertake that is not a load of meaningless statistics.
  • becoming their personal information specialist and send information aboutsetting up a professional Facebook account and subscribing to the pages of  library-based organisations such as ASLA, ALIA, iCentre, Children’s Book Council of Australia and a host of others which are continually sharing interesting articles about libraries, reading and learning that principals should know about and may choose to share with staff
    • research they should know about
    • publications and articles they should read
    • events (school and local) they should attend
    • promotions and programs the school might be involved in
  • submitting policies, plans, proposals and so forth for approval and ratification so he/she is aware of your professionalism, the scope of your role and the seriousness you devote to it.  Act with integrity, dignity and respect and it will be reciprocated
  • offering to co-ordinate a Principal’s Reading Challenge that allows students to set and meet their own targets and be acknowledged for their efforts with a certificate from the principal. If you use a prescribed list of must-reads, ensure that the books are available from the library, that the students have input into the list, and that they are not restricted within it by arbitrary levels or lexiles
  • co-ordinating a school-wide professional reading program that meets the requirements for inclusion in teachers’ professional learning documentation

pre-service teachers

Because pre-service teachers are in the school for such a short time we really need to get in early, but they are often on information overload with their head moving like Noddy’s. So greet them on their tour of the school and give them an information pack that has the essential information about what you offer, how they borrow and so forth.

Include anything that will help them understand what you do, how they do things, things they might use on this prac or at a later date

  • a formal invitation to discuss their prac assignments with you,
  • any forms for booking the library
  • access to the school’s computer network and the significant folders and files they need
  • a diagram of the information literacy process that you use
  • a library map
  • a summary of what the spine labels cover (eg if you have your PRC books colour-coded for stages explain this)
  • pro-formas for book reviews that they might be able to use
  • a list of titles, authors and series that are appropriate for each age group within your school
  • a form they need to fill out to get borrowing privileges (so they are responsible for what they borrow not their associate teacher) which includes contact details for after prac is finished.  You might also want to make it clear that their prac report won’t be signed until all loans have been returned.
  • a link to  Doug Johnson’s 10 Things a Baby Teacher Should Know which has become a seminal article that helps during those few weeks
  • include a bookmark or some other freebie (even a chocolate frog), to add to the atmosphere of friendliness.

Set aside a time (even if it’s a recess) early in the prac when they can show you what they need to achieve and how you can help them do this, either with resources, ideas or collaborative planning and teaching.  Make sure they know that the resources are not limited to print and that services are not limited to circulation. This may be their first experience of working alongside a teacher librarian and if you do it well, they will be looking for the same support in their next school and when they have their own class for the first time – knowing that there is a colleague whose core business is to collaborate and support can be the rock on which they base that first year on.

If you live near a university which offers a B.Ed program, get to know the staff and offer yourself as a guest lecturer to explain and demonstrate information literacy.  Given that the new Australian Curriculum has its inquiry aspects built into each strand, teachers are going to need to know the language we are speaking to the students so that there is uniformity and conformity not confusion.

politicians

Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents.  They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative.  Be apolitical and put your personal preferences aside.  Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House.  Build up a positive relationship so when the politician needs a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.  But first, make yourself aware of any school or education-authority protocols that need to be observed and adhered to.

  • Invite them to any library-based function you have but look for unusual celebrations – the Unique Selling Point that will make your event stand out – such as a student-organised Literary Luncheon, a poetry reading by a local poet, a book launch by a new author or illustrator – anything that is also likely to attract the media so they can have a photo opportunity
  • Invite them to be guest readers, bloggers, speakers, artists or presenters, especially celebrating students achievements based on library challenges. Do a lot of the legwork for them such as
    • booking well ahead, including information about the importance of the event with the invitation, sending a reminder with a background brief and an indication of what they are expected to do – it’s about getting them to value the library not necessarily save them work.  They will come again if you are PROFESSIONAL 
    • selecting the book and getting it to them in advance to practice
    • suggesting the focus of the blog post such as their opinion of a particular hot topic relating to education
    • have them be a focal point of your citizenship studies so they talk about what they do
    • if you know they have a passion for poetry, drawing, music or whatever invite them to perform as part of a school-based event.  It doesn’t matter if it’s not library-related, it’s about reinforcing the connection
  • Email, write or phone them  to let them know how decisions affecting the employment and deployment of teacher librarians affects the teaching and learning in the schools in their electorates – let them know that the parents are the voters who will keep them or not
  • If there is a particular policy or program that is really going to impact on the teaching and learning at the school, make an appointment and visit them. Be prepared and demonstrate how the issue will affect the families in the electorate rather than your employment.  Keep in mind that votes talk and there are more parents than teacher librarians.
Australia's Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister of Education at a local primary school

Australia’s Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister of Education at a local primary school

 

Putting on your reporter’s hat is not an added extra – it’s about taking yourself and the things you do in the course of your day beyond the library walls.  Many teacher librarians seem to have covered themselves with Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak and when you say you’re a teacher librarian even those who should know look blankly and move on because they’re not really sure of just what it is you do.  Be subtle but be VISIBLE and be seen to be promoting teaching and learning rather than your own employment barrow and you will be acknowledged. It is YOUR responsibility

Be PRO ACTIVE

Be PREPARED

Be PROUD

Be part of your own future

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