In twenty years of secondary English teaching, I have encountered a range of teacher librarians. Some of them have been traditional ‘book curators’, looking after the collection, reading aloud to primary classes and maintaining order in the library. Others have been proactive – sharing information with staff, happy to get involved in resourcing subject areas, suggesting ways to help or improve on current services. I have known librarians who felt strongly about copyright issues and referencing, and were quite militant about informing staff of these obligations. What I have not yet encountered is an unhelpful librarian.
When I commenced my new role as teacher librarian at the start of this year, my perceptions of the role of the teacher librarian were a combination of the above impressions. As I commenced the role at my new school I was hoping to find a job description that I could use as a starting point. There was no such document. The very able technician in the library has taught me survival cataloguing skills and I have gradually adjusted to the primary aspect of my role, teaching some basic information skills and choosing interesting stories but I knew there was more to it. I was certainly aware of my own ignorance and shortcomings, recording that I was “aware that I have an awful lot to learn,” in my initial blog (OLJ, February 28, 2013). The only thing I really understood about the position of teacher librarian was my own ignorance of the role.
The Role Statements supplied in Topic 2 were enlightening as a clearer perspective on the elements of the TL role emerged. The readings in Topic 2 by Purcell (2010), Lamb (2011) and Valenza (2010) broadened my perspective of the TL role further. Purcell’s (2010) article identified the following aspects of the role: instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator. It was helpful to see the tasks I am aware of fit into these categories. Lamb’s PALETTE mnemonic (People, Administration, Learning, Electronic information, Technology, Teaching and Environments) was informative and it helped to see another perspective of the role. Valenza’s (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians was both informative and overwhelming in the perceptions it shared on the role of the TL (OLJ, March 20, 2013). Whilst I applaud her enthusiasm, I don’t imagine there are many teacher librarians who can fulfil all the aspects of the role Valenza described. However it was worthwhile reading about all the possible ways teacher librarians can contribute to the school community and gaining some inspiration for implementing a range of these in my own workplace.
The concept of Guided Inquiry and Problem Based Learning further broadened my perspective of the TL role. I was encouraged, as I noted in my blog (OLJ, March 25, 2013) to see that the continuum extended from cooperation to collaboration, and that you could start at the lower end and work up to full collaboration over time. Information Literacy was another new concept that added to my understanding of the TL role. Becoming familiar with the models of Information Literacy, both the Big 6 and Kuhlthau’s ISP models, amongst others, showed the importance of ‘learning how to learn’ (OLJ, May 14, 2013).
The module on time management gave some valuable advice on how to manage aspects of the TL role. Operating a few lists with different timeframes (OLJ, May 14) was a worthwhile suggestion in how to combat frustration at the end of the day when you feel you haven’t achieved what you set out to do. Another valuable concept from the module was to be careful about what you choose to give 100% to (Effective Time Management for Teachers, n.d.).
An aspect of the TL role that has been an underlying thread throughout the ETL401 course has been the need for librarians to share information with their school community about the broad scope of the role and the capacity the TL has for giving assistance and support to both staff and students. The role of the Teacher Librarian is multi-dimensional and each TL must adapt their skills and abilities to support the school and students within their reach. The emerging message in the course: there is wisdom in prioritising to suit your particular circumstances (OLJ, March 20, 2103).
Effective Time Management for Teachers (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.time-management-success.com/time-management-for-teachers.html
Eisenberg, M.B. & Berkowitz, R.E. (1999) Teaching Information and Technology Skills: The Big 6 in elementary schools. Linworth Publishing Inc, Ohio, USA.
Kuhlthau, C. (n.d.) Information Search Process. Retrieved from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33
Valenza (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians