Thursday, 20 October 2011

Out with the old... Who keeps books as trophies?

It's a bold move for a librarian-in-training to publicly declare that they are getting rid of their beloved collection of books. Indeed, I feel nervous even writing my intentions. However, I have decided that I am going to do a major sort through of my collection of beloved friends and that it's time for a serious cull.

In doing so, I've had to think about why I have kept so many. Why am I holding on to these possessions that are mostly collecting dust? There's many reasons. Some I truly love, some are sentimental, some are the holders of my good intentions (one day I'll push past your first 100 dull pages and finish you!), and some I don't feel I've owned long enough to get rid of yet (consumer guilt I think). And some, well, some I have because I think I should.

I've had to establish some rules. Here they are:

Rule 1: If it is sentimental, then it stays. This includes books from my late maternal grandmother, (herself an avid reader), school texts with my teenage scrawl in the margins, and books that have been given as gifts or that I wish to pass down to my son.

Rule 2: If I truly, truly loved it, then it stays (going through them all, this actually doesn't apply to many)

Rule 3: If I haven't read it yet, then it stays (surprisingly applies to many many more than I thought possible!)

Rule 4: If I've read it, and none of the other above rules apply, then it goes.

I began writing this post a while ago, and the sorting is now done and dusted. I've given boxes of books to an op shop and have given dozens away to friends and family (share the love, I say).

But, my reading hasn't been hampered by this culling, and indeed, it has even increased.

Yes, that's right. I've bought a Kindle. And I think it's true love.

Monday, 10 October 2011

ETL 401 - Critical Synthesis

When I began this course, and particularly this subject, I did so because I was (and still am) passionate about teaching and learning and reading and students. Becoming a TL seemed like a natural progression to my classroom teaching practices and it still seemed like it would be a role with enough dimensions fuel my passion. My knowledge about the role of a TL was extremely limited and was based on my experiences firstly as a student, and then as a teacher through observing my colleagues. The TL’s main role, in my experience, was to check out books to classes, create pathfinders (usually printed) for disorganised teachers, and catalogue and process new materials. Occasionally, their role would see them address year levels and inform them of new resources, or of the importance of referencing their research correctly to avoid plagiarism. All of this, however, was usually done in a rush and squeezed into a brief twenty minute assembly. As Purcell, suggests, I wrongly thought that “all librarians do is check out books. . .” (Purcell, 2008).

Although I knew this course would challenge my preconceptions about the role of a TL, what I didn’t expect was the potential enormity of their role. Herring (2007), identifies 11 roles of a TL, whilst Purcell (2008), identifies five roles. This seems really discrepant given that TLs are so often undervalued by the executive staff and the teaching staff who see them as the equivalent of a “chimney sweep”! (Braxton, 2003). Evidence suggests that the school Principal plays a vital role in determining how effective the school library is (Hartzell, 2003) and evidence suggests that the school library plays a pivotal role in the learning outcomes of its students (2-9% of student achievement can be attributed to the school library) (Lance, 2001 in Oberg, 2002). I knew that a good TL- like any good professional, is proactive (Oberg, 2006), but I was surprised at the lack of Principal support that many TLs seem to receive as I would have liked to believe that all Principals value all members of their staff and that the library (or media centre, or information resource centre) is a valued school resource.

What I didn’t expect (perhaps somewhat naively) in undertaking this course and the discussions about information literacy, was the role of the TL as information literacy teacher. (Herring, 2007; Purcell, 2008, Eisenberg, 2006). Braxton (2008), states that “literacy through literature was the prime responsibility of the teacher-librarian”. Indeed, it was this literature role that I was most familiar with. Although my first blog post spoke about my passion for information literacy, it also, as many other students’ did, spoke about my love of books (Warner, 2011). Now, however, the role of TL as literacy teacher is much broader as the concept of literacy has expanded to include all types of information. Prior to this course, I thought that it was primarily the role of the subject-teacher to teach their students to think critically about information and how best to use it. Ideally, they would be doing this as they were the ones to set the inquiry based projects. Walker, however, states that the school library media specialist must “understand those skills that students need to read and, most importantly, to read for understanding, [they have] . . . the special expertise necessary to bridge the technical skills of reading with the experiential side of reading” (in Cart, 2007). With this information then, it is necessary that the TL be proactive and work collaboratively with classroom teachers across all aspects of the curriculum to ensure that these technical skills are being brought to light. One way to do this, is to “envision the ideal and then work backwards” (Higginbottom, 2010).

The role of a TL entails so much more than reading and processing books. TLs today are dynamic collaborators who, with their passion for information and technology in all forms are able to help students become critical, literate and engaged. My perception of the TL has expanded and will continue to do so as the roles and responsibilities afforded them adapt to the changing information environment.

Braxton, B. (2003). Raising your profile- again. Teacher Librarian. 31 (1). Pp 41-42.

Braxton, B. (2008). The teacher-librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian. Retrieved from:

Cart, M. (2007). Teacher librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian. 34 (3). Pp 8-12. Retrieved October 5, 2011.

Eisenberg, M. (2006). Three roles for the 21st-century teacher-librarian. CSLA Journal. 29(2). Pp 21-23.

Hartzell, G. (2003). Why should Principals support school libraries? Connections. 43.

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed. ) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Higginbottom, J. (2010). What is a literacy leader? Literacy Leader (blog). Retrieved from: October 7, 2011.

Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement? School Libraries in Canada. 22(2). Pp 10-13.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian. 33 (3). Pp 13-18.

Purcell, M. (2008). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the rols of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection. 29 (3). Pp 30-33.

Warner, J. (2011). Welcoming myself to blogger (again). Unshelved. Retrieved from October 5, 2011.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Discussion on the role of the Principal in working with the TL

So, it's my week this week to help lead the discussion in the forum on aspects of the Principal and their support. To be quite honest- I was a little nervous doing this! It's one thing to speak openly in a small tutorial in person, but committing something to paper (even in its virtual form) and then presenting it to the whole subject contingent and having to appear knowledgeable on the topic too is quite daunting!

I did, however, do all the reading for this week, and although it has helped my understanding of the importance of the role the TL plays, I can't help but feel it's a bit "chicken or the egg" when it comes to determining the relationship between Principal and TL. It needs to be a collaborative and mutually interdependent relationship. A Principal can't create an effective library without an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and proactive TL, and the TL can't be those things unless they have the support (financially and professionally) of the Principal (and with that, the wider school).

Anyway, here's my forum posts as they were entered tonight.


Collaboration between any group or individuals requires the factors of trust, shared vision and communication (Mattesich et. al., 2001 in Haycock, 2007). This is especially necessary for school professionals (academic and non-academic staff). Trust is important (to gain and maintain the trust of both students and colleagues). School staff need to have a shared vision (this should be guided by the school’s mission statement or ethos and should be used as a yardstick of sorts for self- reflection and as a guiding tool when it comes to planning and collaborating. Communication, to be effective, needs to be timely, clear and honest and should involve all parties.

I agree with Hancock that TLs, to be credible, need to be highly skilled in collaboration, although I would argue (and I don’t necessarily think that this is the point that he is making), that all staff working in a school, or indeed, in any professional environment, should be highly skilled in collaboration. When collaboration doesn’t happen between classroom teachers and TLs it can perhaps be attributed to the following reasons: (This is just my personal opinion and is based on my experience and anecdotal evidence).

- Time poor teachers (teachers may simply “run out of time” to organise to involve the TL in their lesson planning)

- Some teachers are protective of their work (either they don’t want to share because they don’t want their ideas used by others, or they feel that their teaching style or method is being judged or criticised. This may be why some teachers are hesitant to use the skills of the TL- (as was the case in one article I read – although I can’t find it now) as they feel they should have those skills themselves.

- Some teachers don’t value the TL

- Some teachers do not have time in the packed curriculum to teach effective research skills

The role of the Principal.

What I can take away from the readings is that the relationship between the TL and the Principal needs to be collaborative. What is also clear is that, if the Principal isn’t initially supportive of the role the school library plays within the school, then it is up to the TL to highlight the important role it plays.

The TL can do this in many ways- they need to be extroverted enough and proactive enough to actually engage the Principal in the discussion (Haycock). They should be prepared to present the Principal with research-based evidence on the contribution school libraries make to student learning (either their own or an analysis of the available literature), (Oberg, 2002). They need to be prepared to highlight the important role they play in the management of the school library (perhaps through having conducted a time study as suggested by Purcell). They then need to have a Principal who is forward thinking and open-minded, and who has the physical means (access to finances and the support of the school board) in order to maintain the resources of the library to the high standard needed to support student learning. TLs may find this difficult if they are introverted, unmotivated, do not have a good working relationship with their Principal, are prevented from collaboration due to time-table clashes and the physical isolation of the library, have a Principal who has a stereotypical view of TLs or have academic staff who do not value the role of the TL or are ignorant of their skill set.

What is the most important aspect do you think? What is the biggest hurdle that a TL will face with their Principal? What is the best way for a TL to overcome the mindset that librarians just check out books and mind the desk?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Welcoming myself to blogger (again)

A few years ago I tried this whole blogging thing- a girlfriend and I set up a blog, on blogger, and called it "Cheese, Wine, Everything's Fine" (a good motto if you ask me). It was dreamed up after a few glasses and we thought our wit and hilarity would make us famous in the blogosphere. Needless to say, we didn't stick with it, we're not famous, and we're not as funny in the morning light!

Hopefully, with a bit more of an incentive this time around (like having to pass a course...), I'll be more diligent and more astute in my observations and entries.

So, about me... I'm a VCE Psychology teacher and I'm currently on maternity leave with my first child (who's now 10 months old). I'm undertaking the MEd TL for a few different reasons- I've always loved libraries. I love the sense of belonging they create in the community, I love the role they play in providing information and in encouraging the seeking of information. I love the quiet, cosy nooks they provide and the designated work spaces they offer. I appreciate also, the role that the school library and its librarians play in the wider school community, but also feel frustrated for the lack of acknowledgment that is given them.

I like the idea that being a TL will allow me to use my training and background in teaching and education, and combine that passion with my love of books and information literacy while still being in a school environment.

Oh, and I used to "play" libraries when I was little. I think it was meant to be...