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At the end of Week 4

August 9, 2010

‘Check-out chick for books’

Success!  I’m happy to have made contact with the Teacher Librarian at the school I’ve been working at for the first few weeks of this term.  She is a CSU MEd (TeachLib) graduate who is going out of her way to encourage me in my studies and my new career path.  She says she will give me whatever casual work becomes available in her library as she’d prefer to have someone in the library who knows the job is a little more involved than ‘check-out chick for books’.  So nice to hear positive things about my chosen path for a change.  So many people are negative when I tell them of my plans.  From what I am hearing and experiencing, Teacher Librarians are a very welcoming bunch!

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‘Art for art’s sake’

Thoughts on Topic 2 – The Role of the Teacher Librarian

I found Todd’s 2007 article ‘Evidence-based practice and school libraries’ useful and sobering.

Sobering because ‘evidence-based practice’ seems to increasingly be the way of the world.  Libraries are less and less likely to stand alone as culturally-enriching institutions imparting information literacy skills.  If libraries cannot prove their worth in relation to curriculum outcomes and cease concentrating on activities and skills that are remote from the whole-school learning experience, it may well be that they are doomed.

Useful because proving the worth of library programs and even defending the very existence of school libraries themselves seem to be causes that teacher librarians will increasingly need to champion.  In our results-focused society, it may not be enough to say that a library is successful because it, for example, has been instrumental in increasing the borrowing of an identified group of reluctant readers.  It is likely that principals and education bureaucrats will want quantitative proof that the average reading age and ability of the group members have increased.

The professional relationship between a principal and teacher librarian is crucial to the success of a school library.  School budgets are ever-tightening and (especially in areas where the library may have been undervalued in the past), the library must prove its worth to the school community.  The more empirical evidence of improved learning outcomes a teacher librarian can gather and present to stakeholders, the more likely it is that funds will be made available to finance ongoing and future programs. So, evidence of improved learning outcomes can form a solid base to interactions between the principal and teacher librarian and lead to increased likelihood of the principal advocating the various causes of the school library to the whole school community. 

Similarly, classroom teachers (often overworked and exhausted) are likely to embrace TLs that will work in partnership with them (i.e. helping to lighten their teaching load) by providing rich and meaningful learning opportunities on the road towards improved curriculum outcomes.

Is ‘art for art’s sake’ an old-fashioned luxury?  I get a very real sense that in the brave new world of teacher librarianship, there seems little room for ‘art for art’s sake’ – i.e. a school library that promotes books and reading as a pleasurable and crucial end in itself.  I take comfort in librarian role statements that still include objectives such as “foster an environment where learners are encouraged and empowered to read, view, listen and respond for understanding and enjoyment.”  (ALIA & ASLA’s Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians).

 

References

Australian Library and Information Association and Australian School Library Association, (2004).  Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians.  Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm

Todd, R. J.  (2007).  Evidence-Based Practice and School Libraries: From Advocacy to ActionIn S. Hughes-Hassell & V.H. Harada, School reform and the school library media specialist, (pp.57-78).  Westport, CY:  Libraries Unlimited.

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