Just over 45 years ago, in 1973, a 21-year-old sat in her first session at Christchurch Teachers’ College in New Zealand, ready to begin to realise her childhood dream of being a teacher. Unlike her peers who were going from the classroom of high school to the classroom of college to their own classrooms in a school, this young woman had a couple of years of life experience under her belt having lived in Papua New Guinea and Australia, both exotic locations in the still-isolated New Zealand of the early 1970s.
But like them, she had her imagineer’s hat on, constantly thinking about how what she was learning would translate into practice in her classroom. She wanted her students to come in each day full of wonder and curiosity, happy to be there and eager to explore and discover the new pathways into their world that would open up to them that day. She quickly discovered that “language arts” was her thing, that inquiry learning based on the Nuffield model fitted her like a glove and that maths continued to be the mystery it was in high school. But being a teacher in the primary system of both New Zealand and Australia means having to master all areas of the curriculum so she immersed herself in her studies, keeping a journal of how she imagined she would integrate the theory of both child development and subject mastery with the dream of that wonder-filled classroom a few years hence.
Fast forward two decades and that 21-year-old, who had a 21-year-old of her own by then, is back at college ready to study again, albeit with 20 years experience and reality under her belt, a vastly different study situation where everything is done online including lecturer and peer interaction, but still with that imagineer’s hat firmly on.
What is it she wants her students to feel, appreciate, value, learn and understand as a result of visiting the school library?
What does she need to do and put in place to make that happen?
How will the environment, services and attitude she offers enable the students and the staff to feel that the library offers them something, caters to their needs and is a place they want to be?
What would she, as a student, want to see, find and do in this space to feel that she was welcome, my needs were satisfied and it was a place she wanted to spend time in?
Everyone from retailers, restaurateurs and resort owners tell us it is not about the product but “the experience”, so how can the teacher librarian provide an “experience” that enriches and enhances the visitor’s learning?
Luckily for that apprentice TL of the mid-90s, she was in a brand new school with a brand new library and a visionary principal who could see the impact technology would have and who gave her carte blanche to develop the best resource centre ever.
But as the Australian school year comes to an end, the northern hemisphere one gets under way and a new bunch of apprentice teacher librarians about to graduate and move into their own libraries, starting from scratch is not an option for all. Nevertheless, it is possible to possible to put that imagineer’s hat on and imagine or re-create that big picture even if we have been bogged down in the daily detail that the endless paperwork burden dictates.
Here are a few steps to follow…
- As the name implies, the imagineer’s hat requires imagination so shut your eyes and dream about the library you would love to be and work in. Think about the environment, the atmosphere, the collection – content and arrangement, the services, the timetable – every aspect of the perfect library that you can think of.
- Make notes about your vision and identify those things you have, those things you can improve and those things you can strive towards. Prioritise them.
- Create or revisit your vision statement. Make sure it still encapsulates what it is you want your library to be. Remember its purpose is to succinctly state the future direction of your school library such as A best-practice 21st century library which is integral to the teaching and learning at xxxx Primary School and offers a warm, inclusive, supportive environment for all.
- Create or revisit your mission statement to ensure that it still reflects the purpose of the library and its place within the school’s philosophy, ethos and educational programs. It needs to inform the development of strategies for improvement and the goals and objectives so its achievement can be measured. There have been many changes and advances in the last few years so something you wrote a few years ago may have been accomplished or need tweaking to reflect the current and proposed situation.
- Identify those areas that you want to change – environment, procedures, professional knowledge, professional practice – and be explicit about how you want to change them. Begin with the end in mind and determine what you want things to be like and look like so you can work towards specific S.M.A.R.T. goals.
- Identify the particular pathways you need to follow to achieve your vision. For example, if you want to change the look of your library, check out photos on Pinterest or read The Landscaper’s Hat and Landscape Your Library; if you want to expand your professional knowledge map out your professional learning program; if you want to change procedures then research best practice and get input from stakeholders – whatever it takes to make the change you want to be and see.
- Revisit or revise your strategic plan so that your ideas are formalised and accountable so the library of your imagination can become a reality
- Be on the alert for great ideas and activities that others are employing and sharing and which might work for your clientele, save them so you don’t forget and implement them as soon as practical, always working towards that dream.
Schools and school libraries have changed so much since that 21-year-old first sat in that Teachers’ College classroom all those years ago but in fundamental ways the students she teaches have remained the same – they still have to attend school from 5-15 and they still aspire and expect to learn to read, write and calculate. And they still deserve to achieve that in the very best of conditions that she can provide by constantly wearing and adjusting the imagineer’s hat.