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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All Librarians do is check out books, right?

The media and hollywood perpetuate the myth that "all librarians do is check out books". But throughout this subject we have had to critically analyse the role of the teacher librarian in the school and the description I love best is the one of Instructional Partner.

Purcell identifies the role of Instructional Partner (IP) as someone who works collaboratively with teachers to meet learning needs of the students. The Instructional Partner is well positioned to participate in curriculum design and assessment while bringing together the needs of both cross curricular (horizontal) and year level curriculum (vertical). The teacher can then work collaboratively with the Instructional Partner to ensure that the needs of the students are met.

Herring (2007) writes that there is no other role in the school that is more focused purely on curriculum needs than the Instructional Partner and who is in no better position to reinforce learning with cognitive and constructivist theories (Herring). In the HREEC (2011) report on School Libraries, Parliamentary recommendations reinforce the view that the Teacher Librarian as an Instructional Partner is uniquely positioned in the school to influence and drive change.

Both authors identify that relationship plays an important part in the role of an Instructional Partner. The Teacher Librarian needs to be highly skilled in working as an effective collaborator who can implement learning theories with the appropriate selection of technology to affect student learning.  But these skills are useless unless the Teacher Librarian has the ability to create trusting professional relationships with both colleagues and students.

Herring makes the excellent point (p34) that whist many Teacher Librarian’s are called upon to support the information literacy program in a school, it is their ability to arm the teacher with the resources needed to encourage critical thinking and metacognition that is more important. Both sources could have expanded on techniques that TL could use to be proactive in establishing these relationships.

If we view the role of the library as a service area within a school (Purcell) rather than a resource provider, then we can shift our focus as an Instructional Partner onto client needs, the managing relationships and adding value to teaching and learning. Both authors identify the need of reflective practice to ensure continuous improvement in the support of teaching and learning goals. However, Herring provides a more substantive strategy in using empirical research to support action rather than a simplistic “time study” that Purcell recommends.  It is still important to quickly identify tasks that do not directly contribute towards improved teaching and learning. Purcell’s views in thinking outside the box and engaging members of the school community, such as volunteer parents, to complete these tasks are supported in the HREEC (2011) report on School Libraries.  Boyd (2006) emphasis the need for the Instructional Partner to plan to evaluate from the start of the project, having evaluation sheets ready to go as part of a lesson preparation. The Japanese term for this is Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement where reflection is part of your every day practice (Weiser  2005)


Boyd, S. (2006). The connected library: A handbook for engaging users. Hawthorn, Vic.: Utopia Press.

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

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.

House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee (HREEC). (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia,

Wiser, J. (2005) Kaizen Meets Dewey: Applying the Principles of the Toyota Way in Your Library. Toronto Conference. Special Libraries Association. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Can I be specific .. maybe not

Chugging along on the essay, nearing the point where I will actually read it offline for the first time. Strange but true. It has taken me a while to get my "study groove on". I read better offline, I write better online, I think better with food in my mouth, I also need time to let ideas ferment. Finally I have come up with a study system that "I think" works. It is a bit different this time around studying, now I have two kids to juggle.

A few thoughts from my readings that relate back to my experiences working with IT and ICT. This observation might not make it into my final piece as I don't want my assignment to be focused on ICT, but it is something that seems to be popping up in a number of articles. The lack of specificity in some areas, but not others. Particularly in the area of Information Communications and Technology (ICT).

Herring (2007) makes a number of valid points in his Chapter on "Teacher Librarians and the School Library" about the cross over between the various roles within a Library. I would however argue with his point that because the ASLA guidelines do not mention Internet or web, that they are outdated.

The Internet is an information system, a global information system and a disorganized one at that, but still an information system. We call the World Wide Web the Internet a the moment, but within the context of guidelines (which are normally loosely compiled to allow flexibility), I would expect that they would not be specific. Perhaps the guidelines could read “networked resources”. This would imply that they could be accessed by networked devices.

Continuing further down the article, he then goes on to state in the 'Information Skills in schools' section that in the role of developing information literate students we have to teach students to apply their information literacy skills irrespective of technology. So guidelines have to be specific except when they are referring to skills that students must have?

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.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What is Information Literacy?

If you ask someone “What is information literacy?” they will respond with simple description of finding and using information. I guess before I started my Masters of Education (TL) I had never really thought much about a proper definition, in fact the word or phrase was hardly used as part of pedagogical discourse in the schools that I taught in.

Despite the many research papers that identify information literacy (IL) as the driving force behind enhanced student learning (Langford 1998, Grafstein 2002), there still seems to be no agreed definition of information literacy in schools (Herring 2011, Buschman 2009).

Often Information Literacy is misunderstood or substituted for concepts such as “information technology literacy, computer literacy, library literacy, information skills and learning to learn” (Bruce 1997 p21).

It is important for a teacher librarian to have a clear definition of Information Literacy as often the teaching and learning of these skills form the foundation of many learning tasks. Eisenberg (2008) makes the point that “every person in every possible setting” uses information and the skill in being able to filter out inaccurate information means that IL is an important life skill to develop. 

Langford’s (1998) description of information literacy as being literate in the field of information is often interpreted as the information skills that Bruce (1997) talks about. Ryan and Wall(2010), p32 have defined Information Literacy in familiar terms, “students can access, use, organise, create, present and evaluate information”, which is supportive of the descriptors given by both ALIA (2006) and ALA (1989).

ALIA’s (2003) descriptor includes efficiently as a key term in regards to how the information is used. Tessmer’s (1985) descriptor includes the word effectiveness and identifies that information is used for a specific or given need. This is supportive of Badke’s (2010) descriptor that identifies that the reason why we would seek information is to solve a problem. Wolf (2007) identifies Information Literacy as “the ability to access, evaluate, and use information efficiently and effectively”. The introduction of the words efficiently and effectiveness implies that higher order thinking skills are part of the attributes of an information literate student.

Behrens (1994) identifies that a definition of Information Literacy has expanded to “accommodate the growing requirements for the effective handling of information”. Pariser (2011) makes an important point that developments in technology may impact unknowingly on the quality of information.

A definition of Information Literacy must acknowledge that the skills are more than just a “way of thinking and reasoning about a subject”; they need to be both contextual and must be adaptable (Grafstein 2002).

Both Bruce (1997) and Eisenberg’s (2008)’s descriptors resonate with me as they both identify that Information Literacy does not stand on it’s own. Bruce talks about the multiple literacies within the school environment that influence how IL skills are developed and similarly Eisenberg talks about IL as a process that needs to be seen within the context of learning. Kuhlthau and Maniotes (2007) identifies that IL is just one of several literacies that occur during the inquiry learning process.

I have put a list of references on my research and references page.

Further reading to digest

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An opportunity missed for IT teachers and Teacher Librarians

I am busy reading articles and compiling my first essay of my course. But one thing that struck me is that in many of the articles the role of teacher librarian seems to be taking on the role of IT specialist in schools. Herring (2007) would argue that this is indeed a good thing, that it is part of the package that the Teacher Librarian needs to offer to be relevant in today's teaching and learning environment. But coming from being an IT specialist in schools, I worry that Teacher Librarians would spend too much time learning software and teaching IT skills rather than information literacy skills. If we talk about Teacher Librarians working in partnership with classroom teachers, then they shouldn't be taking on the roles of classroom teachers. They should be enablers not disenablers.

The implementation of VELS in Victoria has managed to all but wipe out the IT specialist in schools. What was once a noble profession within schools is now seen with distain as Curriculum Coordinators around the state cancel compulsory IT subjects and shuffle competent information professionals into teaching something else. Many of these teachers who had so much to offer have simply given up and have gone back to teaching a non-IT subject because of the hassle.

The compulsory IT subjects are an opportunity for both IT teachers and Teacher Librarians to work side by side to ensure that our students have not only good IT skills but also excellent information retrieval skills.