Monday, 25 April 2011

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

ALIA and ASLA (2009) provide a strong rationale for the provision of a qualified teacher librarian to lead and manage the school library. In their Statement on teacher librarian qualifications, they offer a description of seven areas that teacher librarians deal with in their practice. These organisations acknowledge the changing nature of the profession, and stress the importance of ongoing professional learning. The statement can be found at:  http://www.asla.org.au/policy/teacher.librarian.qualifications.htm.
The ALIA and ASLA (2004) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians are divided into three sections: Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Commitment. These standards are worth visiting regularly, in order to be reminded of my professional goals. The standards can be found at: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm.
The SLASA (2003) Teacher Librarian Role Statement includes Teaching and Learning, Leadership, Curriculum Involvement, Management, Literature Promotion and Services, with a detailed list or duties for each title. It claims that teacher librarians operate at “leadership level” when all roles are being fulfilled. The role statement can be found at:  http://www.slasa.asn.au/Advocacy/rolestatement.html.
The IASL (2003) Policy Statement on School Libraries embellishes on the previous organisations’ role statements. It reminds teacher librarians to cater for the heritage of the students, as well as facilitating an understanding of other cultures. It states the importance of providing access for disabled students and it suggests extending the library’s hours of operation. The policy statement addresses the potential to provide lifelong education, research skills (ICT) and literacy development. Kilbreda College’s Library provides all these services to its students. This policy statement can be found at: http://www.iasl-online.org/about/handbook/policysl.html.
The policy statement suggests creating connections with local public libraries. The Kilbreda College Library website includes links to six public library catalogues. Links to the State Library of Victoria’s Ergo and Inside a Dog websites were included on the school library’s website three years ago. VCE students are invited to join the State Library of Victoria, in order to access the broad range of digital databases that are provided. A public librarian from Bayside Library, who is a former teacher-librarian, has agreed to attend the meetings of the School Library Association of Victoria branch that I convene.
The IFLA/UNESCO (2006) School Library Manifesto focuses on lifelong learning skills and the potential to develop the students’ imaginations. Its mission is to provide the resources that “enable all members of the school community to become critical thinkers and effective users of information in all formats and media” (p. 1). The manifest can be found at: http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s11/pubs/manifest.htm. I have printed the accompanying Guidelines, but have yet to read them! They are available at: http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s11/pubs/sguide02.pdf.
Melissa Purcell (2010) lists the following five roles of the teacher-librarian: Leader, Instructional Partner, Information Specialist, Teacher, and Program Administrator. She deals with time management by suggesting that teacher-librarians keep a time study chart, by recording what tasks have been completed during that time. Each task can be allocated a code, connecting it to her list of the five roles. I plan to take up this idea. Purcells’ article can be searched at: http://web.ebscohost.com/.
Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson (2008) describe the school library media specialist as an instructional leader, whose activities are woven through the curriculum. Whilst technology and collaboration are emphasized in their article, no attention is given to the leadership and administration roles that were included in Purcell’s role description. The article can be searched at: http://web.ebscohost.com/.
James Herring’s ETL401 podcast encourages me to concentrate on prioritising my roles, according to my strengths. His chapter highlights the teaching and learning roles that were featured in Purcell’s article, and the article by Lamb and Johnson. He also stresses the importance of assisting students to develop their research skills, using Bloom’s higher order thinking skills as a goal for teacher-librarians to aspire to in their teaching. The article is not available online, but a hardcopy is filed in my subject folder.
Ken Haycock’s article (2007) repeats the fact that teacher-librarians have an effect on student achievement and collaboration improves student learning. It can be searched at: http://web.ebscohost.com/.
Dianne Oberg (2006) offers strategies for attracting the attention of principals and other school administrators, in order to earn their respect and support. She believes that teacher-librarians achieve this by
1.      Building their professional credibility as experts in the field;
2.      Communicating effectively with principals as agents or catalysts of change;
3.      By working to advance school goals, as an ally of the principal.
Teacher-librarians have dual degrees in education and school librarianship and school leaders are expected to have master’s degrees. Oberg states that, “By contributing as school leaders to school wide initiatives and concerns, teacher-librarians build their credibility as educators and increase the willingness of others to work with them”. (p 16). Oberg points out that principals believe that in-servicing staff is the most important aspect of the teacher-librarian’s role. Teacher-librarians believe that collaborating and collection development are more important roles.
Oberg encourages teacher-librarians to utilise professional networks. I have gained from my membership in the ALIA and SLAV organisations. Attending their professional development conferences and convening a branch of SLAV has enabled me to grow professionally. Sharing this knowledge by writing journal articles for SLAV’s journal FYI has challenged me to communicate beyond my branch. “Principals and teacher-librarians have a lot in common and a great deal to gain by working together” (p 17). Her article can be searched at: http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/.  
James Herring’s suggestion on his podcast, I have made two attempts to join OZTL_NET, with no luck. I joined when I was studying a Graduate Diploma in Information Management in 1999. I will try again because of the richness that interacting with other teacher-librarians can offer my roles. I am interested in accessing the Big 6 blog, ALIA News, ALIA on Facebook, Librarians & Facebook, and Joyce Valenza’s wiki, after being inspired by her at a SLAV conference in 2010.
Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson (2004 – 2007) have provided access to three articles that define certain roles of the teacher-librarian. They each offer practical advice and strategies for gathering appropriate evidence that teacher-librarians make a difference in terms of performance indicators, based on their specialist skills.
Evidence Based Practice (EBP) in the Library Media Program can be found at: http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evidence.html.
Evaluation of the Library Media Program can be found at: http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evaluation.html.
Library Media Program Accountability can be found at: http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/accountability.html.
Ross Todd (2003), in his article Irrefutable Evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, suggests asking students at the end of their research lessons to state three things they had learned, how the lesson had improved the way they conducted research, and how he could further help them. Their answers gave him clear insights into the impacts of his lessons. He offers four steps to get started on the process. These strategies help to gain the support of the administrators, principals, teachers and parents.
In his article, Evidence-based practice and school libraries, Ross Todd (2007) gives a powerful argument that “evidence-based practice moves beyond intelligent guesswork and clever hunches to establishing a sound basis for making claims about the impact of that practice. In doing so, it moves from a persuasive framework to a declarative framework in building active support for school libraries” (p 63).
Todd offers many lists and strategies for collecting and measuring the evidence. On page 74, he gives a ready-made questionnaire of eight statements that students can give Yes/No responses to. I would like to use his suggestion to guage students’ opinions of the assistance they received from a teacher-librarian: “Now, remember one time when the school library really helped you. Write about the help that you got, and what you were able to do because of it” (p 75). Todd’s article can be found at: http://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/todd-r.pdf.
Dianne Oberg (2002) states that well funded libraries tend to achieve higher average test scores, whether the schools were rich or poor. The size of the library staff and its collection also determined student achievement. The extent of instruction given by teacher-librarians also has a direct correlation to student success. Her article can be searched at: http://proquest.umi.com/.
Lyn Hay (2006) shifts the focus of our attention to “what Aussie kids want” (p 19). She highlights the demands that are placed on students to be efficient users of information and ICT at school and at home. Hay surveyed students in Queensland and Victoria, using open ended questions that asked students to recount a recent experience of help. This is a similar strategy to Ross Todd’s research in 2007. The details that the students referred to are very practical, making Hay’s research very useful in discussions with the principal! Her findings emphasise that students feel more confident as researchers when they receive the help they need from teacher-librarians. Hay’s article can be found at: http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=151835;res=AEIPT
This has been a hefty topic to cover thoroughly, but the evidence that teacher-librarians do make a difference to student achievement is very strong. I feel empowered to approach my principal with convincing research, if necessary. She has been supportive of the value of the teaching and learning that is achieved by Kilbreda’s Library, by the 1.4 teacher-librarians. Having a sister who is a teacher-librarian enables her to be aware of the information fluency experiences that are facilitated by school libraries.


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