Teacher librarians (TLs) need to advocate to school administration, staff and parents that they positively impact on student learning outcomes. No longer will outcomes based on personal experience or intuition be acceptable. Instead, accountability must be demonstrated through ‘systematically gathered, empirical evidence’ (Hay & Todd, 2010, p. 34) that is explicit, measured and reported. TLs can document how they impact on learning outcomes through developing evidence-based practices.
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a ‘mindset and framework for decision-making, professional action, continuous improvement, and building active support for school librarians and school libraries’ (Todd, 2007, p. 58). EBP means that we have to have ‘rich, diverse and convincing evidence that demonstrates that the library is a vital part of the learning fabric of the school’ (Todd, 2002, p. 9). Why do TLs need proof? Economic considerations and diminishing budgets are central to the situation faced by TLs and libraries (Lamb, 2011, p. 4; Valenza, 2013). Evidence suggests ‘that there is a positive relationship between budget, staffing and student achievement’ and ‘that literacy levels are higher for those schools that support and invest in the their school libraries, staffing and resources (Softlink, 2013, p. 27). However, TLs need to support this research with evidence from their own actions (Purcell, 2010, pp. 30-32); actions that emphasise student learning outcomes (Todd, 2002, p. 8, p. 58).
EBP and outcomes-based decisions from the instructional role of TLs will inform ongoing practice and ongoing professional development. As TLs engage with the research and gain practical knowledge on how to gather, analyse and utilise evidence they will ‘position the school library as central to the learning process (Todd, 2002, p. 5)’ and ‘engage actively in more carefully planned strategies that gather evidence about the impact of their instructional role (Todd, 2002, p. 8). Outcomes cannot be based on professional expertise alone or on literacy and technology competencies, provision of resources, collaborative actions, interactions, interventions or experiences; nor can they be based on intuition, unstructured observations, anecdote or other informal approaches (Hay & Todd, 2010, pp. 33-34).
Instead, EBP should be ‘tangible measurable learning outcomes’ using ‘survey and evaluation … on a regular basis’ (Hay & Todd, 2010, p. 36). The curriculum itself provides direction: by considering deep critical thinking and knowledge, development across discipline areas and grade levels, and with instructional interventions for differentiated learning tasks (Hay & Todd, 2010, p. 36). Harada (2003) believes that TLs can build EBP through action research that is ‘deliberate, solution-oriented investigation that is group or personally owned and conducted’ and by ‘framing key questions, reviewing the literature, collecting and analysing the data, and communicating and using the findings’ and thereby providing a way to examine the impact on student learning. Often the situation is that TLs empower others and it is not easy to define the TLs contribution in the student’s finished work (Hartzell, 2002, p. 2).
Evidence-based practice provides opportunities for TLs to assert their value and the library as central to the school’s learning needs. They can do this by implementing strategies for the collection of data that aligns with outcomes related to school curriculums. TLs should speak out, be visible and present evidence to the school community, from the professional research and from their own instructional outcomes to show they impact positively on student achievements.
Harada, V. (2003). Building evidence-based practice through action research. Retrieved from http://www2.hawaii.edu/~vharada/vi-Building%20Evidence-12-03-jav.htm
Hartzell, G. (2002). What’s it take? White House Conference on School Libraries. University of Nebraska, Omaha. Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf
Hay, L. and Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30–42.
Innovative Learning Designs. (2012). [Image] Retrieved from http://innovativelearningdesigns.ca/wordpress/?m=201201
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking research and 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 a school library media specialist. Library media connection 29(3), 30–33.
Softlink. (2013). Discovery and delivery of knowledge for education: 2013 Australian school library survey. Retrieved from http://www.softlinkint.com/2013-australian-school-library-survey-schools/
Todd, R. (2002). School librarian as teachers: learning outcomes and evidence-based practice. In Libraries for life: democracy, diversity, delivery. IFLA Council and General Conference: Conference Programme and Proceedings. Glasgow.
Todd, R. (2007). Evidenced-based practice and school libraries: from advocacy to action. In Hughes-Hassell, S. and Harada, V. School reform and the school library media specialist. Westport, CY: Libraries Unlimited, 57–78.
Valenza, J. (2013). School library story: when libraries thrive and when they crumble. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2013/12/18/school-library-story-when-libraries-thrive-and-when-they-crumble/