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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
- Joyce Valenza – The Neverending Search
- Buffy Hamilton – The Unquiet Librarian
- Dianne McKenzie – Library Grits
- Judy O’Connell –HeyJude
- Doug Johnson –The Blue Skunk blog
- Mandy Lupton – Inquiry Learning & Information Literacy
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
- Donalyn Miller – The Book Whisperer
- John Schu – Watch. Connect. Read
- Colby Sharp et al – The Nerdy Book Club
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
- Young Adult Readers Reviews- Australia
- Young Adult Books – What We’re Reading Now
- Just So Stories
- The Book Chook
- The Bottom Shelf
- Kirkus Reviews
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.”