Archive | February 2014

the builder’s hat





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



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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


the information literacy hat






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


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.


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.

the supervisor’s hat




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.