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the safe harbour hat

 

 

 

 

 

As children of the 50s my brother and I knew what a safe harbour meant, literally.

Growing up in a small port town, we would roam the beaches, the rocks and the wharves until the tide or the weather turned or it got dark. The chances of us getting into strife were minimal as all the while we were supervised by invisible eyes all of which knew us and our parents and grandparents.

I was Queen of all I could see....

I was Queen of all I could see….

But times have moved on and not all children have that same carefree childhood.  Too many students have so many impediments in their lives that the routine of going to school is their one security, although sadly for a number it is school itself that is the impediment.

Across the globe and the generations libraries have been a safe haven for those in need, and the school library is no different,  How many stories do we hear in which the teller refers to seeking sanctuary in the library during breaks in the school day?  How many times does a teacher librarian state that the library’s role as a safe harbour is one of its key functions?

However, is it enough to offer just a safe physical environment for those seeking refuge, or is there more we can do to reach out to these students?

the invisibility cloak

Many students try to be invisible at school.  If they blend into the background then perhaps the tormentors and the demons won’t find them and they can be safe for a little while.

But being invisible is not a natural part of the human condition. In a recent hospital stay, as sick as I was, I still found a natural need to be more than someone’s case study, more than the patient in Bed 2, more than another face on a pillow, or body in a bed. Even though I had something rare and life-threatening, I needed to be Barbara, a unique individual who had something to say and something to offer. So I found myself telling people that I had been a teacher for 50 years; that I lived in the peace of the bush and the noise and busyness of the city hospital was overwhelming; that my mum was a pioneer for female journalists… anything that might strike up a conversation and a relationship that took me beyond invisibility and anonymity.

And so it needs to be with those who choose the library as their safe place, because our self-esteem and self-worth are inextricably entwined with our sense of belonging, the belief that we matter to others and their perception of us (or what we believe it to be.) So, even some thing as simple as saying, “Good morning, Jemima” (where knowing and using the student’s name is critical) has a sub-text that tells Jemima that

  • she is worthy enough for you to acknowledge her presence
  • she matters enough to you that you have made an effort to recognise her, know her name and use it
  • her struggles are recognised and you have acknowledged her courage in coming to school today even though that might have been very difficult for her

That, in itself, might be the reason she comes to school again tomorrow.

going further

Being the teacher librarian can be an isolated role making it tricky to form the essential relationships that are necessary for optimum learning, and often we are not included when the stories of students are shared around the conference table with teachers and counsellors.  But I maintain we should step forward and put ourselves in the stories of those who are the regulars seeking that lunchtime bolthole because we might just have the key that unlocks a whole lot of potential.

First stop is the student’s primary teacher, the one who has the pastoral care because they are most likely to know the back story and be able to give you an insight into the child’s likes, interests, and preferences.  For example, some students can’t cope with public praise but may respond to a quiet word; some may have a specific talent such as art that you could draw on for improving the library landscape; some may have a specific interest in a field that  you expand and explore together; some may be computer wizards that you can capitalise on; some may like to help the younger ones find what they are looking for; some may be craving a bit of responsibility and respect… each of us has something to offer if only someone would take the time to discover it and draw it from us.                 

Armed with this knowledge  and that of your own observations, consider how you can subtly include the student in the running of the library or helping others or meeting new friends. Perhaps the computer person could be responsible for ensuring the computers are back to the login screen at the end of the session; the fantasy fan could make a list of “If you liked…then try…”; the artist could revamp signs and displays; the budding archaeologist could develop a display; the music fan might develop a playlist of background music; the Minecraft expert might help up-and-comers; the OCD student might keep the shelves in order and neat – whatever might acknowledge their talents and interests and put them to positive use.  Apart from reinforcing their knowledge that you have taken the time to find out about them as an individual and taken the first steps in building a connection, often the distraction might be that day’s circuit breaker that puts a happy memory in the bank for the day.

It could even be a turning point, as it was for two lads in Year 5 who did not have the most positive reputation among staff or students until I put them in charge of a project for charity.  We were collecting  gifts for children whose families were so badly affected by drought there was little likelihood of Christmas that year. The change in the boys when they were entrusted  with some responsibility was remarkable and not only within themselves, but also in the eyes of the other students.  What had been shaping up to be a tricky Year 6 turned into being the best year for them and their peers as the goodwill was carried over.

Similarly for Ava, a student struggling with literacy and forming relationships. We talked about how she could cover an ugly, empty space with a display of her choice and her choice so excited her that her grandmother and I had many conversations about how she was driven at home to make it better and better and suddenly literacy wasn’t a problem any more.  Her teacher was astonished that somehow we had found the hook and she was off. 

As teacher librarians we are not psychologists or counsellors and we should  not expect that we will solve the student’s issues.  But if we accept Glasser’s Choice Theory   that the choices we make are in response to satisfying one of the five basic needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun – using what we have at that point in time with the information available to us, then through observation and conversation we might just make the connection that means the student will come to school tomorrow feeling better than they did today. They will know they are neither invisible or anonymous, they belong and can contribute, they have unique knowledge and skills that can help others, and there is hope that things will move forward.

From little things…

Even little ports can harbour big ships.

              

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the first week hat

What does your first week of “library lessons” look like?

Have you programmed the usual round of sessions where students are reminded of where to find things, how to borrow them, how to look after them and how to behave? Another barrage of I-talk-you-listen  Another barrage of white noise that confirms their belief that the library is a place for downtime for them?

Or have you planned something to stimulate their thinking and reflecting on what they know, where they talk and you listen and together you build an anticipation and excitement for the year ahead?

Thirty years ago, in Mathematics Education for a Changing World,, Stephen S. Willoughby identified that by Year 6 what was taught to students was 38% new and 62% was revision of what was already known and it was not until Year 9  that the “new” outweighed the known. This raises serious issues about motivation, attention levels and zest for learning. So if for six years or more, students come to the library in that first week and hear what they have always heard, then they will do what they always do – tune out, see little value in the library and what it offers, and join the majority of students who, Miller discovered,  saw reading anything as just an imposed means to an end.

Yet those first sessions could be so much more.  They could be an opportunity to build the platform for the rest of the year so that library time, particularly if it covers teacher preparation time, becomes meaningful, dynamic, productive and anticipated.

In the series All You Need to Teach Information Literacy that Macmillan Education commissioned me to write some years ago, I started each year level’s units with one that focused on the students reflecting on what they already knew about libraries to encourage both students and the teacher librarian to consider what still needed to be learned and to build their programs on that.

By using opened-ended questions and whatever format suits the age group (class discussion; think, pair share; individual written responses) students can identify and share their knowledge and understandings so the TL can ensure that their forthcoming learning was new, challenging and productive.

For ease of organisation, I’ve sorted the focus questions into year levels but they are designed to be mixed and matched according to circumstances (and avoid repetition)..

Kindergarten

  • What is a library?
  • Who can use the library?
  • What sorts of things can you find there?
  • What sorts of things can you do there?
  • Who is there to help you?

Year 1

  • What is your favourite part of the library?
  • Can you usually find what you are looking for?
  • If you wanted a book about … where would you find it?
  • Do you understand why some things are found here and others there?
  • How do you borrow something you want to take home?
  • How do you look after it when it is at home?
  • Is borrowing a book the only thing you can do in this library?

Year 2

  • What do you know about our school library?
  • What do you think new students would need to know about it?
  • How could you help them learn about this library?

Year 3

  • Why is the library the hub of the school community?
  • How do you use the library for learning? For recreation?
  • Once you have selected a fiction title, how do you find others by the same author or others in the series?
  • Once you have selected a non fiction title, are you able to navigate it so you find the information you want easily and quickly?
  • What could you do to make the library a better place?

Year 4

  • Why do we have libraries?
  • How are libraries organised so you can find what you want efficiently and effectively?
  • Why are they organised this way?
  • What services, apart from the circulation of resources, does this library offer?
  • Which do you use?
  • What else would you like to see offered?

Year 5

  • How can you use what you know about this library to help others use it?
  • How can you use what you know about this library to enable you to use other libraries?
  • If you have a need for information, do you have a sequence of steps you can follow to solve it?
  • Which ones are you comfortable with; which ones do you need support with?

Year 6

  • If your teacher sets you a research assignment, do you feel that you can undertake it successfully, even if you feel a bit nervous at the beginning?
  • What sequence of steps would you take?
  • Why is being able to do research important?
  • Why is being able to use a library efficiently and effectively important?
  • How could you help another student use the library and its resources to complete a research assignment?

An analysis of students’ responses, including examining what is NOT said as much as what is, can help you shape the focus of your program with lessons only limited by your imagination.

For example, little ones respond to stories in which toys, teddies and animals are placed in situations with which they are familiar so why not introduce a teddy or two to be the ‘new student” that they have to teach. It puts them in the teaching role which is always powerful, the teddy in the role of the learner, and enables those who may be new or unsure to avoid the direct spotlight, often one which marginalises them. Even Kindy Kids can be authors with the tried-and-true strategy of experience, photograph and caption growing to a class book to share. (The pride in taking it home and showing parents their page was tangible!)

Brinda and Bella, dressed in school uniform, were used to introduce and review library places and procedures.

Brinda and Bella, dressed in school uniform, were used to introduce and review library places and procedures. Each year a new teddy joined the Kindergarten class and accompanied them through to Year 6!

At the other end of the scale, senior students were appointed Junior Journalists. Each trio chose a role of reporter, photographer or editor (which rotated with new assignments) and were assigned a school-based event, person or  location to investigate and prepare a report for the school website so visitors to the site could get a deeper feel for the school. As well as gathering and preparing the information, they were required to document both their steps and feelings from beginning to end and many were reassured to discover that they were not the only ones who initially felt daunted and nervous at the start but liked the feeling of success and pride of the finished result. Being published in such an open forum also meant they had to be accurate and write carefully, and they could share their work beyond the family, a subtle way to showcase the work done in the library.

The Building Services Officer had a new-fangled GPS device so as part of a unit investigating the histroy and geography of the local area, he taught Year 6 how to use it! They learned a lot about latitude, longitude, maps and how to use them in a meaningful context.

The Building Services Officer had a new-fangled GPS device so as part of a unit investigating the history and geography of the local area, Year 6 asked him how it worked. They learned a lot about latitude, longitude, maps and how to use them in a meaningful context as their work became an integral part of introducing the school to the public via the website.

 

Meanwhile, inspired by this clip, students in the middle years were tasked with developing a glossary that explained how to use the cues and clues of both print and digital texts so they could navigate them easily and readily. They began with examining lots of texts for their assigned focus – contents, captions, headings, subtitles and so forth – and had to produce a definition of it. Combined, these became a go-to reference point for others. Again, putting them in the role of the teacher is powerful and empowering and ensures student-directed learning and a differentiated cussiculum.

Another character that students loved was Dr Booklove, who was essentially in charge of the library. In the first week little ones worked “with” him to create some guidelines for looking after the things they borrowed from the library and not only were these displayed as a large poster, they designed a bookmark with the list on the back to be given to every student to help them remember what was needed.  So even Kindy students became teachers. Older students also worked with him to determine what an orderly productive library time looked like when their class was there so both rules and consequences were collaborative, negotiated and age-appropriate.

Dr Booklove

Dr Booklove

The more learners are put in charge of their learning, the more invested and empowered they will feel; the more responsibility they are given, the more responsible they will be. So, having used their responses to identify gaps in their knowledge of library use and the information literacy process, look for ways in which they can become the teachers so whatever outcome you are seeking becomes not only an integral part of the learning but is embedded in a meaningful context which has purpose and allows them to transfer their new skills to new situations.

Apart from the increased engagement by the students in a model where they are the driver of their own learning, such an approach differentiates the curriculum allowing each to work at their own level of understanding.  Usually, some well-considered questions that address what you want them to eventually know, do, understand and value to initiate thinking are all that is required for the investigation to develop its own momentum, opening the doors to self-directed learning that really needs a minimum of formal planning by the TL. 

The first week sets the tone of what will follow for the year.  It can either be Ho Hum or WooHoo. 

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the newbie hat

Your TL degree is so new and shiny that the dust hasn’t had time to settle on its frame yet, but in a few short weeks you are going to be stepping into your dream job – the one you’ve been thinking of for years and have undertaken hundreds of hours of gruelling study to achieve.

Yet even though you might have excelled in your assignments and learned that being a TL is so much more than being a reading expert and circulating books, where you once thought you had this thing mastered, suddenly your brain is empty and you’re wondering where on earth you start.  There just seems so much to do, and that you want to do but where to begin?

Firstly, go back to your initial learning about information literacy and recall the work of Carol Kuhlthau who examined the affective domain of taking on a new research task. (If you’re not familiar with her work, then that should be your first professional learning task because it will give you great insight into how students feel and respond.)  Understand and accept that the feelings of being uncertain and overwhelmed are natural and common, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself.

 

Information Search Process

Information Search Process

One of the reasons that we do feel as though we’ve just hit a wall is because we have so many ideas that the starting point is not clear. This is the time for clarity of thought and action and the best way is to break the task down into immediate, short, mid and long term goals.  Time management is critical and Stephen Covey’s Habit 3 of putting first things first is a very useful mantra., as is his matrix for managing tasks.

Time Management Quadrant

Time Management Quadrant

Learn to ask yourself these questions…

  • Does this need to be done now or can it wait?
  • Is it more important than what I am doing right now?
  • If I don’t do it now, will that have an impact on other tasks that must be done?
  • Is it more important that the other things I have planned for today?
  • Will doing this help me achieve what needs to be done in the short, medium and long-term?
  • Does it require my time and attention or can I delegate?

If it helps, document the tasks you need to do and the ones you want to do so you don’t forget and when it comes time to develop a strategic plan  to develop and manage the library’s growth all those big ideas are not forgotten or overlooked.

But first things first… what is it that needs to be in place before the first staff and students come through the door on Day 1?

There are two different scenarios – are you moving into an established library or are you starting a brand new one – but the tasks merge very quickly. If it is an established library, see if there has been anything left for you from the previous TL; if it is a new library then you have a clean slate and will have a little more to do. But the focus is the same – having a facility that is up and running efficiently as soon as possible.

people

Relationships are the most critical part of the job and the impression you make first up will be the lasting one, and could quite well determine how the library is used long term. So…

  • meet the current library staff and ask them about their current roles and responsibilities, timetable and other pertinent information including their aspirations. So often in situations where you are new and they are not, situations arise where those who have become used to doing things in a particular way cling to those ways, perhaps as security, and toxic relationships build. Perhaps have a general chat over a cuppa to reassure them that you are a team player, that you will respect existing practices although these may change in light of current best practice but you are willing to discuss major differences so there is understanding on both sides
  • schedule time with your principal and supervisor to gain insight into their vision for the library and how it will support the school’s overall goals and contribute to teaching and learning. Even though what you take from this may become a long-term goal, it demonstrates that you want to become an integral part of the movement forward.
  • seek an overview of the nature of the student population such as whether there are significant indigenous or non-English speaking or LGBTQI groups and so forth who have specific needs that must be catered for
  • be prepared to give each child a fresh start regardless of any overdues or lost books from the previous year.  Build the relationship by letting  them show you their reliability and responsibility and acknowledge they are more important and the loss of a few books is the cost of doing business.  The long-term gain is worth the short-term loss. Read Corey’s Story.
  • investigate if there is a student leadership team for the library, identify those students who are likely to continue in this role and the program/expectations they follow Put on your students’ advocate hat  and be willing to listen to their needs and suggestions and implement those that make sense.  Remember, that for many the library is their safe haven and you really want to keep it that way.
  • understand the chain of command so it’s clear who the supervisor is, who to go to for procedural or financial advice, who to go to for technical support and so on. Discover who the most supportive staff members are, those keen to collaborate or who know the collection well and ask how you can support them.  Don’t ignore those who may be reluctant but a little positivity that your work is appreciated can be the lift you need in those early days.
  • identify any expectations and opportunities  for joining or leading  in-house or curriculum committees and play an active part in these.  Go beyond the traditional English faculty so you can demonstrate that the TL ‘s role is cross-curricula.
  • investigate outside contacts such as parent volunteers, frequently-used vendors, book fair co-ordinators, TLs in nearby schools, the local TL network co-ordinator, ICT Help Desk, even the local MP’s secretary and news editor if yours is a school that hosts events where politicians and the press are invited

practicalities

Remember that all the teachers are bursting with the enthusiasm of a new school year and may be somewhat tunnel-visioned when they come looking for resources and so forth. They may not know or have forgotten that you are new and learning the roles, routines and responsibilities so…

  • if possible, be familiar with the library management system so you can do basic circulation tasks. If not, then just use old-fashioned pen and paper and record the teacher’s name and the resource barcode to add to the system later.  It might be tempting to get teachers to do this for themselves, but this is an easy way to establish a connection and learn names and faces
  • if a teacher asks for particular resources and you’re not familiar with the collection yet, make a note of it, follow through and deliver them as soon as you can even if it means going an extra mile.  It’s the manner in which you receive the request and the effort you make that will be remembered.  Understand your main job is to support their teaching so that’s your priority.
  • have a basket of lollies on the circ desk in those early days – teachers will appreciate and remember them!
  • offer to put together a tub of books to tide them over the first few days. Suggest a novel for that first read-aloud or have a display that they can select one from. Remember your first week on a new class and how manic it can be.
  • if you are in a primary school, do whatever is necessary for Kindergarten students to be able to take a book home on the very first day.  This is so important in establishing their beliefs about what “big school” is and their attitude towards using the library
  • create a display of new titles or “back to school” or something that will entice those who have been waiting for the library to reopen to come in and borrow
  • understand your teaching role, whether it is in a collaborative situation or covering teacher prep, and prepare for the first week’s lessons by focusing on understanding what the students know about the library and how they use it.  Ask them what a library is; what it should look like when they are there; and what they would like it to be. That gives you information about their perceptions; a collaborative set of “library rules” and some direction for the future while it gives them input and ownership as they show you what they know.
  • know the requirements and procedures for marking the roll and reporting absences
  • know, or create, passwords for
    • the circulation system
    • the library management system
    • online subscriptions such as databases, encyclopedia, ebooks
    • accessing the school’s computer network and/or learning management system
    • accessing library booking system
    • student sign-in system
    • social media access including any wikis or websites administered through the library
    • if passwords are not generic then list instructions for how they are generated by individuals
  • know the hours the library is open beyond core school hours including supervisory duties at break and lunchtimes. Work within your contract or award so you get your required breaks and ensure you know where the staffroom and toilets  are. Investigate how the library is used during inclement weather and your responsibilities during these times.
  • if you are required to supervise students who have ‘free’ periods, ask for information about expectations for attendance and performance such as whether they are required to undertake formal study or whether it is a time to chat and play games.  Know the hierarchy for behaviour management issues.
  • have a safe system for any keys in your care
  • clarify whether students are allowed to have food and drink in the library
  • know the location of and access to services like photocopying and laminating as well as supplies such as printer paper and any procedures for accessing these

paperwork

Paperwork can be both a boon and a bugbear and it certainly seems to be having a boom in teaching, with just about every thought having to be recorded and analysed.  However, it is critical to remember that the most important thing we do is build relationships with staff and students for without those, nothing else happens or matters. We must always keep in mind that we teach students NOT subjects. So…

  • investigate what paperwork already exists, or has been left for you.  If you are in an established library, be content to let this guide you until you have found your feet and your direction. If this is a new school library then there will be time enough to develop a Collection Policy and so forth and it will be all the better for your developing knowledge of the school’s ethos and needs.
  • in the absence of anything having been left, creating and/or finding the following may prove most useful…
    • a draft teaching timetable that provides a guide of expectations of the workload and its scope, including administrative duties and lesson prep time
    • a daily timetable indicating current hours the library is open, for whom and for what purposes, including period and break times and any formal supervisory duties
    • a yearly timetable of events that the library has a leadership role in such as National Simultaneous Storytime, Book Week, Premier’s Reading Challenge, book fairs, community celebrations and in-school events including P&C and School Board functions. See this calendar of events for ideas for celebrations.
    • a calendar of requirements such as the submission of the budget; closing date for expenditure; subscription expiry dates; newsletters; student reports; anything already scheduled for the upcoming year such as a book fair
    • requirements for contributing to social media, newsletters for faculties, the annual school report, sharing professional articles and so on, including the timeline, the process followed and a list of recipients
    • a copy of the current budget, annotated where necessary to identify priorities of the current collection policy including those yet to be fulfilled including details of ongoing grant submissions
    • a mission statement, the current strategic plan and critical policies such as those relating to the running of the library, collection development, collection management and circulation
    • a summary of the short, mid and long-term goals so you can see the direction being taken at a glance (Just because the personnel changes, ratified policy shouldn’t have to.)
    • the library procedures manual and diagrams of common workflow tasks especially if they are done by or involve others
    • a list of “big picture” tasks recently completed or which need to be done such as inventory of a certain section
    • “cheat sheets” of essential information like logging into the circulation system
    • any social media policies and platforms used and how to access these if they are within your domain
    • emergency routines such as fire drills and lockdown procedures
    • staff handbook for general school routines and procedures
    • school behaviour management procedures so that  there is consistency and continuity of expectations
    • sample forms used for budget submission; purchase suggestions; library bookings; curriculum planning
    • library-specific curriculum documents if applicable
    • policies and procedures relating to the use of technology, games, makerspaces, access to new books and so forth – students will ALWAYS quote the previous TL’s rules if they perceive any sort of discrepancy
    • a list of above-and-beyond tasks currently undertaken by the library such as textbook management and equipment storage, maintenance and repair and the procedures for these
    • an outline of external programs that your school is involved in and for which you have leadership such as Accelerated Reader, the library’s responsibilities in relation to these and any library-specific procedures

In the ACT, where I worked, the first week of the year is devoted to professional development, and planning and preparation for the weeks ahead. Each year, my library manager and I hosted a  Brunch’n’Browse session. We put on a scrumptious lunch, had lots of pick-a-ticket prizes, distributed The Library Book, displayed  new releases, teacher reference, and whatever else we had to support the first-term school-wide theme, and gave teachers and teams plenty of opportunity to browse, talk, plan, ask questions, make suggestions, select their borrowing time…

New staff met us and saw what we had to offer and how we could help them, as well as meeting other staff informally.  Even though it took a lot of preparation, it set the tone for the library for the year and was one of the most effective things we did.

Jenny, my library manager, talking to the principal and teachers about our new resources. princi

Jenny, my library manager, talking to the principal and teachers about our new resources.

 

My other priority was to ensure that every Kinder Kid could borrow on their very first day and so Jenny worked really hard to ensure they were on the circulation system while I prepared library bags with essential information for parents including  Dr Booklove’s Share-A-Story guide and Hot Reader’s Challenge.

The first week’s lessons focused on students exploring the library, identifying what they knew and used and wished for, and developing their own behaviour expectations , all of which gave me insight into where the rest of the term’s program would go. I didn’t assume or presume their prior knowledge. For example, if they didn’t know how to locate resources using the OPAC then the next lesson would be pairs exploring it and writing instructions for others to use.  Those who were competent helped those that were not-so so each worked at their own level and achieved something useful, as well as opening up new social pairings that might not have otherwise happened.

Each school is unique because each child and staff member within it is unique, and so there can be no one-size-fits-all, 1.2.3 checklist that can be ticked off. Starting afresh could be seen as a new , final assignment where we use all those learning, research and organisational skills that we acquired to this new, practical situation. Just as with students, each of us is at a different point but hopefully these suggestions can be placed somewhere in that Covey time management matrix to make the transition from university student to fully-fledged TL easier.

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the “I’m here” hat

 

 

 

 

 

This post is being written as the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the blink of an eye, schools, while technically still open in Australia, have switched to a remote-learning model that is based on the availability of and access to technology.  

Like those they teach, teachers have as many issues with learning to use new platforms, programs, apps and so forth and for many the learning curve has been steeper than that of the spread of the virus itself.  They are being bombarded from all sides with new demands and expectations from the government, the education authority, the principal, the parents, the students as well as trying to convert the curriculum to a totally new format; deal with copyright issues; source resources; deal with digital safety and privacy issues and so on and on through an endless list.

And that doesn’t factor in all the other variables that students and their families are dealing with… or, indeed, the teachers themselves. We cannot go behind the closed doors to see what privileges and obstacles there are – just know that they are many, unique and important to the individual.

Source unknown

And, somewhere, in the midst of the mayhem, is the teacher librarian.

In a setting where, under ordinary circumstances, their role is often neither understood nor valued, the current climate has become overwhelming. And what could be construed as their time to shine as the information specialist supporting teachers with a range of things, can become a time of even greater invisibility. Some have even expressed a fear that their jobs will no longer be there when normality returns because with no resource circulation, no books to cover and no need to teach during teacher prep time what is their purpose? They don’t have their own Google classrooms or video hangouts or whatever method is being used to connect with students so why waste a salary that could be spent on other stuff?

Yet this could be the brightest spotlight we have ever been in, for although we might not be teaching directly, we can still wear our teacher’s hat, using it not as being the ‘sage on the stage’ model which many see as the definition of ‘teacher’, but to draw on our underlying, fundamental knowledge of the development of the child, best-practice pedagogies matched to learning styles, and the span of the curriculum to evaluate and share all that we are being bombarded with so it becomes a targeted approach to support classroom-based teachers on their new journey, rather than scattergun, For example…

 

  • share these sorts of things with your parent body so they have access too, perhaps finding something new that captures their child’s imagination. and include information sites such as this one about the virus in many languages that you think will be useful to them
  • look for ideas that promote and consolidate learning at home that don’t require timetables or technology such as a scavenger hunt on a daily walk or creating an obstacle course from chalk on the footpath and share these with both staff and parents
  • find a book similar to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, take an easily duplicated character from it and encourage children to make one and place it in their window for those out walking to find.  Change it up with a new story and character each week.

  • consider how you can get books in the hands of the students through your library management reservation system and some sort of click-and-collect opportunity
  • set up some reading challenges that encourage students to keep reading, or if your school is involved in a premier’s reading challenge facilitate this with information about how it can be continued at home
  • spend some time creating a library website that becomes a one-stop-shop for information about the library and its services, as well as links to resources to support the curriculum for both staff and students and trusted leisure sites – use Inside Out to help you determine the who, what, why . (The linked site was one I built years ago, before the cookie cutter approach and drag-and-drop, and was part of the main school site so there were crossovers.)
  • keep your own daily diary of things that you have done, learned, been grateful for, rewarded yourself with, the people you’ve reached out to and how so you can see that you are contributing and you are making a difference

If ever there were a time to put on the information specialist hat , it is now. To make visible what is often invisible. To be the guide on the side not the sage on the stage. To be the buttress to the foundations, rather than trying to be the whole building. This is why we have that masters degree on top of our teaching degree and to show that our specialist subject is information – acquisition, evaluation and dissemination – rather than the keeper of the books or an English teacher on steroids.

But above all, we must remember teaching is not a competition, and particularly during this time, it’s not about who was most able to replicate the in-school experience in a landscape that is so vastly different that it cannot duplicated or replicated.  Teaching is about relationships – every time we smile at a child we are validating their worthiness to be liked and loved – and whilst ever there is a camera and a screen between us, it will not be the same.  So just because the TL is not physically  front and centre of a group of students. either on-screen or not, their role in supporting teachers is critical if those teachers are going to be able to do a tenth of what is being expected of them. 

We must be kind to ourselves and to each other if we expect to be there for those in our care, either virtually or in reality.

This diagram (original source unknown) provides us with some options…

If we are overwhelmed and struggling despite the plethora of tips about how to cope and what to do that we are being bombarded with, then you can bet our colleagues are too. Reach out to someone today – send them an R U OK message and offer them an ear, a word of support, a resource that might make them laugh or relax. Be that safe haven that we offer to students to staff.  That’s what they will remember you for – the kind word, the acknowledgement of what they are doing, the personal touch from someone who ‘gets’ it = at a time when they hit the wall.

But most importantly we need to remember this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the gardener’s hat

Wearing my volunteer’s hat, I am currently helping a colleague at a local school evaluate the collection and weeding all its sections in preparation for a major refurbishment later this year. At the moment all the shelves are cram-jammed full of books, many of which haven’t really seen the light of day since they were first placed there!  (You can tell because they are obviously unopened, are yellowing, have unused date due slips, have an “old book’ smell about them, in many cases a publication date of more than 20 years ago and it takes strong fingers to prise them from their neighbours.)

 

Unlike a lot of teacher librarians, I have no problems disposing of books and, working on the philosophy that if they are not good enough for our students then they’re not good enough for others – a view shared by my colleague – the recycling hopper is gradually being fed. 

But many have an emotional connection to books in print and find it difficult to throw them away, particularly if they are still in a reasonable condition.  It is almost like it is sacrilegious for a librarian to do such a thing.  Yet, we are quite happy to dispose of food that is past its use-by date, discard clothing that is no longer a good fit and even dig up plants that are growing in the wrong place in the garden in the name of “weeding”.

Not being prepared to put on our gardener’s hat is doing our clientele a disservice for unless we regularly appraise and evaluate the collection, the shelves just become more and more tightly packed, giving easy access to nothing rather than everything.  While non fiction seems to get a regular workover because information changes and we can’t expose our students to that which is out-of-date, how often do we turn our attention to our fiction collections – both novels and picture books? Many of the novels I’ve culled in the last few days were on the shelves when I first began my TL career 23 years ago; some were even around when I began my teaching career 47 years ago!  A quick check of the item’s record showed that if something had been borrowed at all, then it was done back in the 90s, so clearly there was unlikely to be a revival of its popularity.  Added to that, children’s reading habits and expectations have changed – now they prefer characters who represent their generation and at the very least, expect them to have access to the internet and a mobile phone (unless it is genuine historical fiction). Life has changed significantly in the last 30 years since the introduction of the World Wide Web and young readers expect this to be reflected in their reading materials.

Picture books are different, particularly those written for a young audience, because the themes of those are usually timeless, although there is a growing trend amongst authors to embed a message of either social or environmental significance within the plot, and so it is the battered and bruised of that format that generally find their way to the compost, hopefully with a newer brighter version of the most popular stories being planted in their stead.

Teachers’ resources seem particularly problematic because there are some who cling to old favourites of yesteryear despite the changes in best-practice pedagogy and curriculum.  However, when I was asked to tackle that section, I found it easiest to pull what was no longer current or relevant and place them on a table in the staffroom with a large notice saying “Help Yourself”. Those teachers who wanted their favourites could now have them permanently; that which was left filled the recycling bin!

Apart from teacher librarians having issues with disposing of materials, it also seems to be very wasteful to the non-professional eye and many have problems convincing principals, peers and parents that we have a duty to ensure that the collection meets the current needs, interests, expectations and abilities of our clientele.  To help combat this I have written Taking Stock which examines the need to undertake a regular inventory of the collection, and encouraging those who think it’s just an annual “counting of the books” to understand and share the underlying purposes and processes.

The Collection Policy should also address the deselection of resources in detail and the following is taken from the Sample Collection Policy I have written after many years of experience marking university assignments on this topic.   

De-selection of resources –the systematic and deliberate removal of unwanted items from the collection to ensure it remains current and relevant for its users—will be formally done during the mandatory annual stocktake, although it will also be an informal process undertaken throughout the year as needs arise.   The final decision for de-selection remains with the teacher librarian based on her professional knowledge of the needs, interests and abilities of the collection’s users, both staff and students.  This includes considering

  • regardless of age, retaining resources that are known to appeal to particular age groups such as the collection about dinosaurs for Kindergarten so their perceptions about the value of the library are developed and their expectations met
  • regardless of age, retaining fiction titles such as the Harry Potter series which have enduring appeal and use; works by authors whose appeal and popularity has been established and continues; and works which continue to support the curriculum such as historical fiction
  • students’ access to ICT within and beyond the school so there is anytime, anywhere access to information if required
  • students’ preferences for print resources over other formats, as well as the need, identified by current research, to develop literacy skills using traditional formats so that onscreen skills are enhanced
  • the provision of resources that will enable users to have a range to cross-check information for authority, accuracy, currency, objectivity and relevance

De-selection will be considered for items which

  • are dirty or damaged beyond reasonable repair   
  • are in a format no longer supported by available hardware
  • have information which is inaccurate, out-of-date, biased, racist, sexist or misleading
  • contain racial, sexual or cultural stereotyping as a predominant feature of the plot or characterisation
  • are unappealing in appearance or format
  • are inappropriate or irrelevant to the needs, abilities and interests of the library’s users
  • have significantly declined in circulation and unlikely to be popular or required again
  • have been superseded by newer editions that have greater aesthetic appeal
  • are unused duplicate copies

Digital resources will be deselected if

  • they meet any of the appropriate criteria above
  • links are no longer live
  • have altered terms and conditions of use which are unacceptable
  • have accompanying advertisements or other material which is inappropriate
  • have embedded links which lead to inappropriate sites
  • no longer comply with copyright
  • they are no longer deemed suitable for the use of students

In order to ensure the collection is up-to-date the following should be used as a guide to replacement times.

Dewey Classification Timeframe Type of Resource Timeframe
000 2-10 years Biographies flexible
100 5 -10 years Fiction individual basis
200 5-10 years Encyclopaedias 3 -5 years
300 2-10 years Reference individual basis
400 10 years Periodicals 3 -5 years
500 2-10 years Almanacs 3 years
600 2-10 years Ebooks Based on licence and hardware availability
700 5-20 years Audiobooks Based on licence and hardware availability
800 flexible Digital resources Based on curriculum needs, licence, hardware availability and software compatibility
900 5-10 years Teacher Resources Based on curriculum currency and compatibility
Maps, charts,posters, ephemera Individual basis

These criteria are to be used as a guide rather than a rigid set of rules. Consideration will also be given to keeping

  • classics, award winners, and titles likely to be in demand again such as the Harry Potter series
  • local history resources
  • school publications for archival purposes
  • titles on current reading lists
  • out of print titles that are still useful
  • biographical resources relating to prominent local, national and international figures
  • resources which might be of historical interest or for comparison at a later time

Culled resources will be written off in accordance with approved procedures, including amending the record in the library’s management system.  They will then be disposed of appropriately according to their reason for culling.  Most materials unsuitable for the school library are likely to be unsuitable for other libraries so careful consideration needs to be given to their final destination. 

Resources will be marked in such a way that it is clear they are no longer required, including defacing barcodes.

The sale of unwanted titles will to be within the guidelines of the educational authority’s financial procedures.

Disposal of resources is always a touchy topic – there are many who will be offended that those I’m dealing with now (and have in the past) are heading for recycling.  There are regular questions on the various TL networks for names of organisations that will take and re-home weeded resources, sending them to not-so-fortunate communities, often overseas.  But the cost of storage and shipping of such donations are exorbitant in many cases, and one wonders if it wouldn’t be better to have an in-house sale so students and staff could own their favourites and then donate the proceeds to those organisations and communities.

There is also the proposition that they could be shared in community refuges or other places where children might not have access to books of their own, but one wonders what message this sends to those children.  Are they only worthy of some old, musty second-hand library book with a defaced barcode and a blacked-out school stamp? Or would they, too, be better served by having books bought with the cash from those who choose to buy such a book?

Weeding books will always be contentious and controversial as people have an emotional attachment to books for a range of reason, unlike their relationship with other objects.  But if we are to serve our clients properly, in accordance with our mission statement, the school’s philosophy and ethos, and that of professional associations which guide us in best practice, then as teacher librarians we need to step beyond the personal into the professional, put on our gardener’s hat and weed our gardens regularly. That is how the rest of the collection will thrive.

This  article about handing the power and process of weeding the collection over to the students, is well worth your time for many reasons.  The process is linked to whatever the class is studying at the time and becomes a valuable selection skill that could be transferred to their selection of other resources for research in the future. The rubric is linked within in it but under “visual appeal” I would add something about the text’s layout because I have found that to be the first element a student uses to appraise the use of a book. 

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the kindness hat

 

 

 

If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind,” spoken by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer in R. J. Palacio’s seminal text, Wonder  has not only resonated with many but has sparked the #choosekind challenge movement inspiring people to pledge ” to create and spread more kindness in the world.”

Wonder - R. J. Palacio

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

While there are those who need such an inspiration and motivation to be kind to others, I think kindness is an innate prerequisite for being a teacher as we put ourselves aside to meet the needs of the 30 little ones in our care, and teacher librarians must have a double dose as we interpret our role as one of service to not only a school of students, rather than just a class, but also the staff.  Our days, and often our nights, are swallowed by trying to anticipate, interpret and meet the requests and needs of so many that in being kind to them we are often being unkind to ourselves.

We  try to be all things to all people in our complex role that embraces both teacher and librarian with so many stops and tangents in between, perhaps afraid that if we are not, if we miss helping someone it will be the beginning of the end for the role in the school.  We know that when budgets are under siege administrators look to the ‘peripheral’ staff to cut first and it’s often the TL whose job is the first to be questioned. But while we are trying to be kind to others we neglect to be kind to ourselves, beginning a spiral that can end up with us being unable to be kind to anyone.

Back in 1996 as I first started the transition from a classroom teacher of 24 years to an apprentice TL , an astute principal introduced me to the works of Stephen Covey and, in particular, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.   

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

I read it from cover to cover and back again – the first of this sort of text I had ever read – and while all the habits resonated and taught me much, one became the guiding principle for my life…  begin with the end in mind.

To quote Covey…

Habit 2 is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself.

Understanding and accepting this led to goal-setting so “the steps that I took were going in the right direction” – goals which led me through a successful transition at a traumatic time in my life when my very teaching career seemed in doubt; through discovering that teacher librarianship fitted me like the proverbial glove and studying and gaining three masters degrees; through the need to give back and mentor other ‘apprentice’ TLs; and through to the final goal of “being able to retire  from school-based work satisfied and still intact at the end of 2016”.  However, when I realised that I would not meet the “intact” part of that goal if I continued the way I was, I brought the end date forward and finished at the end of 2015 with ‘intact” intact – barely.

Even though in 2015 I was in a part-time position it was too easy to fall into a full-time mentality and a range of circumstances meant that I was not being kind to others in the way I should be, simply because I was not being kind to myself. 

Because that is the key – if we are not kind to and take care of ourselves then we cannot be kind to and take care of others.

But if we are to be kind to ourselves we need to identify those issues that trigger unkindness so that they can be addressed.

While each of us is unique, it’s fair to generalise that there are at least four that are common…

  • matching the ideality of university to the reality of school
  • wanting to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of all
  • time management
  • work-life balance

ideality vs reality

We know that learning is most effective when

  • there is a need and purpose to learn
  • the learning is within a real-life context
  • it is based on what we already know and believe
  • there is an expectation of success
  • there is opportunity to apply and practise the new learning
  • it offers clarity and understanding
  • it is owned by the learners

We know from our university research and readings that the ideality of the teaching role of the TL is at its best when delivered within the context of classroom learning, planned and taught in collaboration with the classroom teacher so that the TL’s specialist subject of information literacy -in its broadest context – is embedded into the everyday learning in the classroom, can be readily transferred to other situations and support and guidance is offered at the point of need.

But for a range of reasons, the reality is vastly different with such things as

  • fixed timetables
  • students and classes coming infrequently for short periods
  • teaching in isolation to cover teacher prep time
  • lack of time to consult and plan with classroom-based teachers
  • lack of a library “curriculum”
  • lack of understanding of and appreciation for the role of the TL within the school

If we are to be kind to ourselves we have to manipulate what we know to match what we have so that it is win-win for everyone (Covey’s Habit #4)  The solution, and the pathway to it, will be unique to each of us but it is important that we work to achieve something that we can work with comfortably so we don’t start the day frustrated and on edge.  That’s not to say we abandon the ideal, but if we can develop a plan that will move more towards it -‘begin with the end in mind’- and accept that it might be a long journey to its achievement then we are more likely to accept the current lot, work with it and have some peace of mind.

jack-of-all-trades

The reason that this blog is called “500 Hats” is because that reflects the complexity of our role, and we tend to think that we must be across every aspect and like Bartholomew Cubbins, each time we take one hat off another one appears. In addition, each person perceives not only our role differently but also sees their needs as the priority. So often we are torn, if not shredded, and left wondering if we will ever get all the pieces together.

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins - Dr Seuss

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins – Dr Seuss

 

Joyce Valenza writes about this dilemma in her blog post A Belated Confession , offering insight into the issue and revealing that even when we see our hero colleagues looking like ducks swimming serenely along, they, too, are paddling like crazy to stay on top of the water.  She offers a personal survey to help us reflect on the key aspects of our role, and help us develop some priorities that are in alignment with both our school and personal mission statements, strategic plans and personal goals.  Areas of strength can be identified as well as those for which we might need to establish a professional learning plan. 

Rather than working harder we can learn to work smarter.

time management

There always seems to be more work than time left at the end of the day and as one task tends to lead to another not previously considered, the to-do pile mounts up and up and up and the must-do task list gets longer and longer 

It was scary how fast my part-time position became a full-time commitment as I effortlessly slipped back into the practice of taking stuff home just so I could stay ahead.  In my previous position, my home work was confined to creating an award-winning, cutting edge school website alongside working through three masters degrees, but this time with the library management system online, easy access to SCIS, Scootle, and a zillion other resources, social media and so on, apart from the 150km commute, nothing seemed to separate my work life from my home life.  And with a hubby who worked even more ridiculous hours than I did, it was easy to slip into old habits and watch that to-do list grow again.

Once again, my friend Stephen Covey came to my aid.  I returned to his time management matrix to start identifying priorities and getting things back under control and practise Habit 3 – putting first things first.

Time Management Quadrant

Time Management Quadrant –Stephen R. Covey

While Covey explains its function and operation fully in his book, I learned to ask myself these questions whenever a new task popped up…

  • Does this need to be done now or can it wait?
  • Is it more important that what I am doing right now?
  • Is it more important than the other things I have planned for today?
  • Will doing this help me achieve what needs to be done in the short, medium and long-term?
  • Does it require my time and attention or can I delegate?

Setting work-based priorities has to be tied into your strategic plan so you are not suddenly confronted by something that has moved into Urgent and Important because it was swamped by other things.  The big picture has to remain as clear as the daily detail so if, for example, you are required to write an annual report or contribute a page to the school yearbook, start on the first day of first term taking photos, jotting notes and so forth so that when it is due most of the work is done. 

Because being a TL encompasses two distinct sides of our profession, even though the T side should be the predominant side we must also have time for the L side if we are not to end up in a series of crises.  Workplace awards should delineate a certain percentage of at-work time that is set aside for administrative duties, a time that is independent of lesson preparation and planning.  You need to know what your individual rights are and ensure that these are delivered by your administration. If you are forced into a corner and are not given sufficient time then enlist the help of the staff to help you determine your priorities by sending out an Information Needs Audit. Such a document not only educates your colleagues about the extent of what you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, responses will help you establish priorities and also act as a defence if your time allocations are questioned.

Keeping all the balls in the air is a juggling act but by being pro-active with time management, even down to creating a daily timetable for your at-work time, you can be much kinder to yourself than you have been.

work-life balance

Anyone who is a teacher, is married to a teacher or even knows a teacher knows that the job is not “9 till 3” despite popular opinion.  Those hours are our performance time, the other 18 hours in the day are for the preparation and evaluation of that performance (and the performance of others.)  It is so easy to slip “stuff that can wait” – the important but non-urgent things – into a basket to lug home at the end of the day, often returning to school the next day still in the basket untouched.

Each of us has a different way of trying to achieve that magical work-life balance -if we ever do – and we must know ourselves if we are to set up an effective and efficient routine.  Some like to stay at school until the work is done and take nothing home; others are so tired at 3.00pm they prefer a break and to attend to what needs to be done at home, either early or late depending on our circumstances and body clock. But whichever method we choose it needs to work for us and our families.  The consequences are too great if they don’t.  

Even if we think we are indispensable and “my students need me”, the truth is that they don’t need you as much as your family does.  There are thousands of teachers but most kids only have one mum or one dad.  A brutal but powerful way to put things in perspective is to imagine what would happen if you were involved in a major car accident or struck down with a serious disease.  Whose lives are likely to be the most impacted?

If you find it hard to let go of school work and feel guilty if you take time out to go on a family outing because there are reports to write, assignments to mark, books to accession or whatever, go anyway even if you ‘justify’ the time by imagining how what you experience and learn can add to what you offer the students in the morning.  Anything we do to enrich our own lives also enriches that of our students because it is something more we can bring to the table. 

When I finally retired from school-based work in 2015 (having been practising retirement since July 2006) I still had stuff in my important-non-urgent pile on the floor of my study, but, amazingly the school continued without it being done and after tripping over it for a few months I finally sorted it, consigning most of it to the recycling bin.  AND THE WORLD STILL TURNED.

At last I had learned how to #choosekind

 

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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.

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librarian_20c
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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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