Corey Thornblad Teacher
Kilmer Middle School, Virginia, USA
I recently had the pleasure of participating in the annual Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll admit that I was a fish out of water – the only teacher in a sea of school librarians. Even though I don’t know much about the Dewey Decimal System or online catalogues, they made me feel right at home.
As I sat at dinner, listening to their conversation about teaching and learning, I realised that unless you have had the privilege of working in a school over the past decade you may not understand what school librarians actually do. Librarians are not a braggy bunch, so I feel inclined to set the record straight on their behalf. You probably think they spend their entire day shelving and checking out books, while shushing students. It’s time to set aside these stereotypes and give librarians their long overdue kudos.
As teacher librarians, we can become frustrated and feel we are victims of occupational invisibility – that our contribution to whole-school programs and student outcomes is unseen and undervalued. This feeling may be due to the nature of our work in empowering colleagues. As a result, our contribution is often swallowed up in the successes of others (Oberg 2006). Our invisibility is also because, while we can see the impact we make on a daily basis, we can usually only offer anecdotal evidence regarding our contributions (Hay & Todd 2010; Lamb & Johnson 2004–2007).
To remedy this, we need to throw off the victim mentality and advocate for ourselves. We must become proactive. We must self-promote and make visible our contribution. To this end, we need to gather hard evidence to unequivocally prove that we make a difference (Bonnano & Moore 2009; Hay & Todd 2010). According to the Australian Library and Information Association (2004), excellent teacher librarians ‘undertake research which informs evidence-based innovation in school library programs’. Likewise, Hay & Foley (2009) advocate that, to build capacity for student learning in the 21st century, teacher librarians need to employ evidence-based practice to support a ‘continuous improvement cycle’. Similarly, The NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) has posited evidence-based practice as one of its foremost recommendations in creating sustainable futures for school libraries.
Karen Bonanno provides a series of advocacy activities to help school library staff influence policy, advising that to bring about change requires consistent and persistent effort to shift perceptions. She advocates maintaining regular positive activity supported by strategies such as identifying a memorable message, capturing killer statistics, gathering startling facts and statements and leveraging the network.
Leonie Dyason and Rachel Fidock, teacher librarians from Mooroopna Secondary College (MSC) share their experiences of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) program, run by the State Library of Victoria (SLV) and the School Library Association of Victoria (SLAV). They outline how their practice has changed through application in the library, in team teaching and in troubleshooting. A list of useful Web 2.0 tools is provided.
Bev Novak questions the idea that searching can replace learning. Her ten questions challenge teachers and parents to consider the distinction between information and knowledge, and to refine what they mean by learning and how learning is best achieved. This article is reprinted from her NovaNews blog.
This article outlines research by Dr Helen Boelens into the role of school libraries in digital Europe, using the Kalsbeek Information Literacy Matrix (KILM).
A poster: ‘Read’ in European language terms is provided for download.
This article by Georgia Phillips provides an update on the activities of the Hub campaign for quality school libraries in Australia, following the release of the Australian Government’s report into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools. It includes an overview of the current state of school library staffing in Australian state and territory government schools.