My initial blog for ETL401 was given the portrayal of ‘Climbing the Library ladder’, reflecting the severe learning curve my ‘climb up the rungs’ from Library Technician to the apex of Teacher Librarianship (TL) was going to demand. During this climb, due to my not working within a school, more than a few learning concepts have been explored in an atmosphere of a vacuum if not explored based solely on course theory. However, my recent ETL507 practicum at a Brisbane primary school provided a platform to definitively attach my book learning to relevant and practical experiences within a school library.
Encompassed in this final reflective post will be a brief reflection of each subject undertaken, detailing highlights of each field of study as well as what I have personally gained from each subject throughout my personal ‘climb up the rungs’ of my Teacher Librarian ladder. As I do not currently teach within a school, this reflection details my future proposals and approaches to being a TL.
ETL401 – Teacher Librarianship
The first subject in this Masters of Education was a roller coaster, first up than down, elated one minute and perplexed the next. Initially it gave me the appreciation that teacher librarians were unique in schools through holding teaching qualifications as well as qualifications in librarianship. Understanding of the roles of the TL came from reading Purcell’s (2010) "All Librarians do is check out books, Right? A look at the roles..." , this statement alone has indicated to me the depth of misunderstanding that laymen and teachers have of my chosen profession. The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians expanded on the roles for which the teacher librarian is responsible, leader, program administrator, instructional partner, information specialist and teacher.
However, reading Henri, & Bonanno’s (1999) statement that the augmented roles of TLs in planning and managing library platforms reduced interaction with students gave reason to rethink my chosen field. This coupled with a deficiency in prominence and respect of the profession by the media and school hierarchy (Oberg, 2002), made me question if my skills and personality are suited to being a teacher librarian. Did I want to progress down the path of ‘management’ rather than directly assisting students to become informative learners and working with teachers to attain their own success in the classroom?
Nonetheless, perseverance prevailed and the exchange of ideas and outlooks, via the subject forums, from those more experienced and conversant with school libraries convinced me that TLs can construct a supportive and neutral social space for students and staff despite the management concerns I had previously possessed. The varied facets of teacher and teacher librarian coordination I witnessed during my ETL507 professional placement have validated this perception of approachability.
I absorbed through Kuhlthau's Information Search Process (ISP) that ‘teacher-librarians play a vital role in creating inquiry learning’ through information literacy instruction programs, based upon my previous experience I see no problem in creating learning activities that assist students in discovering concepts and understanding information, rather than allowing them to rely on rote information in textbooks.
ETL503 – Resourcing the curriculum
The two concepts that stood out from ETL503 were the necessity of creating a collection policy and the evolution of information resources.
Ironically, when researching my library’s collection for the final assessment for ETL503, it became apparent that I and most of my co-workers had never seen the policy that is the ‘blueprint’ guiding how we function each day. This oversight has since been rectified with my policy becoming the revised blueprint for the current resource collection policy. The revised policy advocated the benefits of collaboration in expressly resourcing the curriculum through ‘patron-driven’ involvment by both students and staff leading to incresed use and ownwership by clients and promoting a student-centered approach to learning (Hay & Todd, 2010: Kennedy, 2006).
The migration from print format to digital content was also a highlight in ETL503. In providing a collection that conforms and embraces the evolving digital environment, TLs must ensure that they meet the needs of the 21st century learner. The subject stressed that these clients, born in the digital age, will be more conversant and excepting with the online environment than they are with print material (Johnson, 2012). Therefore TLs must lead the effort away from biblio-centric collections to an amalgam that embrace a virtual collection while supporting the traditional forms of information delivery to meet the needs of all clients (Herring, 2011).
However, experiences I encountered during my ETL507 practicum contradict this abandonment of hard copy for electronic equivalents. The school libraries electronic collection of online resources and eBooks, able to be accessed from school and home, is only moderately utilized by staff and not at all by students.
As a TL I must provide a constructivist approach to information literacy within the library that includes the establishment of appropriate resources supporting the Australian Curriculum’s general capabilities in hard copy as well as electronic. ETL501 provided me with the opportunity to create a library policy document that endorses these principles. This document included providing professional support that embeds information literacy skills at the point of need as well as embedded into the teaching program.
The basis of understanding that I have construed from this subject is that the creation of a collection development policy for any educational library facility must impart balance and equity in the collection, providing for current clients, but must be flexible enough for future web-based clients. (Evans, & Saponaro, 2005, p. 49).
ETL504 – The teacher librarian as leader
The Teacher Librarian as Leader was initially a concept that was unique to my experience of leadership; my experience in collegial leadership has been one of linear format. ETL504 presented leadership related to organisational theory, strategic planning and communication, a viewpoint defining TL’s role within the school. I subsequently view TL leadership as impacting on shared visions and initiating strategic collaboration to affect egalitarian change within a school (Haycock, 2007).
Preceding ETL504 I had an uncomplicated perception of the librarians ‘ownership’ of their library, dispensing information and advice alongside physical texts. ETL504 has encouraged me to see the importance of working in conjunction with teachers, establishing collabrative relationships and shared responsibility within the school community to effect positive change through informal leadership (Linton & Stegall 2012).
I see leadership in schools much differently than I initially did; my first post denoted that I saw my library position as one where my influence would be minimal and limited to that of the library, focusing on providing a learning environment for small groups and individual needs of my clients. My current position is in direct opposite to the previous view; the subject outline suggested that a leader is defined as one who functions with the intention of improving learning.
While the idea of transformational leadership is still an aspiration for future implementation and far from commencing to feel comfortable, my intention is to influence change by ‘leading from the middle’, initiating meaningful communication among staff and students, while providing a ‘safe hub’ that supports staff and students to broaden their idea of what they can achieve and then encourage them to surpass their mindsets.
As my concept map signifies, leadership within schools is not restricted to a hierarchical paradigm but originates from a collaborative culture utalising diverse approaches and contributors to achieve a desired wholistic outcome.
Leadership concept map
Through my central position within the school, my technology and communication proficiency as well as my understanding of pedagogical principles and curriculum, I am exceptionally placed to lead as a TL, by stimulating activities, motivation and expertise to not only teaching staff but also students (Johnston, 2012).
ETL501 – Information environment
A major perception I acquired from ETL501 is that an effectual TL 'facilitates the development of information literacy through effective collaboration with classroom teachers' (Broomfield, 2010). I would have liked to have completed ETL501 in conjunction with ETL505 - Bibliographic standards in education; both subjects involve indispensible skills for TLs to support their student’s information literacy evaluation and retrieval through their pre-production of electronic and text based resources and guides for students and staff.
The creation of a Pathfinder devised for grade 9 students presented me with the prospect of generating, rather than purely guiding students to a resource. However using my own Libraries Pathfinder/Study Guide format was, in hindsight a mistake, as it required my adhering to the preset structure and style of a college-based presentation. Despite this setback I consider that the creation of pathfinders to be amongst the most effective format for learning I have developed, as it strongly positions the library as an essential part of the classroom lesson.
The continuance of print resources within my library policy was based upon providing a range of information literacy skills different to those used through electronic and digital resources as well as understanding that not everything is available in electronic format, and that students don’t read electronic format in the same manner as they read print.
ETL501 reinforced my perception of the so-called ‘digital generation’, although conversant with technology is not proficient with using these resources in the practice of information retrieval and impulsively download information of ambiguous. Their dependence on Google and Wikipedia presents both a windfall and a hindrance in regards to the volume, availability and quality of information. Information is so readily available that students waste an inordinate amount of time locating resources that are not suited to their required cognitive level.
ETL501 alerted me to the need to cultivate standards for website evaluation. Both Herring,s (2002) three distinctive components – educational, reliability and technical criteria and Schrock’s Five W's of Website Evaluation presented practical instruments for student learning, producing students who are information literate or at least accepting in the use and mastering of digital tools, technologies and literacies.
Conversely, while researching for this subject I came upon a TED blog by Sugata Mitra 'Kids can teach themselves'suggested children are their own best teachers and that the ‘digital generations’ familiarity with technology may allow them to develop their own learning style, no teachers required.
EER500 – Introduction to educational research
Sometime during the climbing of the fifth rung I realized that my engagement and understanding of jargons and concepts had taken a significant leap, my resultant gain in perception could be intimated as a metacognitive coming together of everything I have studied over the last few years. Until this decisive juncture each subject had been attempted and comprehended individually, it was at this crux that it commenced to develop as a holistic process with each subject corresponding like a jigsaw.
My research topic for EER500 reflected my awareness in encouraging and supporting teaching proficiency of ICT in the classroom, in advocating teachers to integrate new technologies into curricula rather than just using ICT to present education.
I have, during my career within TAFE libraries, had contact with a number of students and also teaching staff who could be characterized as technophobic. I have also observed how this condition has affected their learning and teaching ability.
EER500 gave me the opportunity to commit to a practicable research project to determine the apparent disparity between existing and beginning teachers use of ICT within the classroom, is it just digital natives verse digital immigrants or is it the lack of training in a school setting that is holding them back.
The goal of lifelong learning was, as always, the objective, and while I did not expect or achieve any break through result, EER500 gave me the contextual experience to investigate an observed dilemma with the objective of conceivably providing a solution.
INF506 - Social networking for informational profesionals
I chose INF506 as my elective as it reflected my teaching major.
Three projects in this subject enhanced my Web2.0 skills; the creation of my online learning journal was not arduous following the obligatory blog for ETL401.
The second project, developing a Professional Learning Network (PLN) encouraged me to be aware of, and reflect on the communal expertise of my peers through social media environments such as OZTL list, ASLA and other library professionals within the many ‘communities of practice’ available. I have come to appreciate these professional links, and I must cultivate and expand these personal learning networks and in order to take advantage of collaborative knowledge and peer support found both within and without the traditional educational networks (Greenhow, 2009).
The third project entailed a total shift in perspective, my utilizing the 3D virtual world/online game 'Second Life'.
Originally I saw little educational benefit in teleporting around fake worlds, however after being guided by our lecturer through the virtual CSU site, I came to understood how this media could be used as an informative tool. By immersing students in a neutral learning environment, virtual education stimulates interaction, exchange of ideas and allows students to participate in individual and group activities without risk or consequence (Aydin, 2012).
I particularly enjoyed the opportunity of finally ‘meeting’ a few of my classmates and lecturers, albeit as avatars; continuing this method of presenting classes would greatly reduce the dis-connectivity of distance education that I have experienced from the first subject in this course.
ETL507 - Professional study visit and placement
My study visits covered the State Library of QLD, QLD Parliamentary Library, Queensland State Archives, Supreme Court Library, Queensland University of Technology and the Brisbane Square Library. Each location provided me with the opportunity to experience a behind the counter familiarity of some of the preeminent libraries Brisbane has to offer, with enthusiastic librarians more than willing to answer any question regarding their chosen profession. The passion of these librarians was palatable as they described how and why they supported their clients. I personally found their enthusiasm inspirational and infectious.
During the process of these visits I was again reminded of Ranganathan’s Fifth law that "The Library is a Growing Organism". The concept of libraries being ‘flexible’ and adapting their environments to meet the needs of their clients, applying social and technological developments that put the requirements of their clientele first was a common theme, presented as an unwritten mission statement by each of these Libraries.
My school placement provided me with the practical to go with the theory that I have been absorbing. The library team was a working demonstration of working collaboratively within a school environment, not only with the teaching staff but also collaborating with the students through their recommendation of texts to be added to the library collection. Collaboration also extended externally to librarians in other schools, respectively working together to meet the specific needs of their own clients as well as supporting each other.
The love that children have to read and to be read to was a primary observation during this practicum. The majority of students frequenting the school library were there to borrow fiction resources. Encouraging a love of reading is paramount on my agenda, as I believe that a central role of a teacher librarian involves supporting a love of literature and reading for pleasure. And as I observed at this school stimulating reading through Book Week activities engages the entire school in reading, this was reflected in a statement made during my study visits, ‘Never forget that the children you encourage to read today will read forever’
Once again, I would have liked to have another subject to add to my bow; the elective, ETL402 Literature in Education would have been advantageous to my teaching ensemble. A TL is a fiction advocate as well as an instructional specialist (Hering, 2002); both involve indispensible skills to support their student’s information literacy evaluation.
ETL505 - bibliographic standards in education
My previous experience in cataloguing involved Library of Congress Marc records, consequently ETL505s emphasis on Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC23) acquainted me with an entirely unaccustomed arrangement of organising data.
The defining feature of ETL505 was the aspect that information, to be of any value, must be organised through consistent metadata in order that it provide the foundation for an effective cataloguing system (Caplan, 2003).
My initial focus point of cataloguing involved AACR2 and the ALA Rules for Filing Catalog Cards, scarcely cutting edge 20th century applications. Therefore I regarded the most recent evolution, Resource Description and Access (RDA) as a definitive advancement that permits digital age technology to be classified easily and enables school libraries to function more effectively in digital environments.
The establishment of SCIS in school libraries has provided a system that provides a template for TLs to catalogue their own collections based upon organising information across the country and providing ease of access to already catalogued items.
The knowledge I gained from the theory and practice of ETL505, subject headings, access points, Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC23) and application of the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) suite was a great aid when cataloguing during my ETL50 practicum, which was another example of the jigsaw of theory and the practical finally clicking into place.
Comparable to other subjects over the last 4 years, ETL505 has incorporated new terminologies, principles and levels of methodical, accuracy that I must employ so that students and staff are able to access and retrieve their required resources. I may never become a cataloguer but this subject has presented me with involved and challenging concepts and demonstrated the importance of defining educational resources, rather than just providing access to information.
Conclusion or the rung to come
My expectations when starting this climb entailed expanding my original knowledge of libraries from the perspective of TAFE libraries to that of the school library, developed through a different role, as a Teacher Librarian.
Throughout my library study visits statements were made that indicated; 'Most of all, its about people’. Therefore as a TL I must provide spaces for clients to connect, read, learn & relax as well as explore new ideas. I understand that each school community is a unique, transforming organism (Ranganathan, 1931) and that my abilities as a TL must adapt to conform to to this change in order to meet the changing needs of my clientele. This encapsulates to my mind the essence of what the Master of Education course entails.
During this climb I have realized that the role of the TL is primarily a partnership within the school but uniquely positioned to influence the educational proficiency of the entire school.
I understand the significance of information literacy to 21st century students, my obligation to observe the prerequisites of the curriculum, the importance of collection management reflecting the needs and learning styles of its clients and the importance of collaboration in achieving the schools educational goals.
I appreciate how much I can learn from other authorities, through social media and professional organisations as well as my own peers.
Learning is a lifetime occupation; and whilst I have reached the completion of this degree, the learning curve of which has been significant, I still realise that there are so many more professional rungs to climb as I continue to become a teacher librarian, so I am definite that this will not be the last rung entered into my blog 'Climbing the library ladder', my journey of a trainee teacher librarian has only begun.
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