Teacher Librarian: School Library Media Specialist
To be a teacher librarian seemed an almost impossible dream. My learning journey started with applying for a teacher librarian (TL) position in a nearby local school. I submitted my application and at the same time applied to commence studying at Charles Sturt University. I didn’t get the job but I did get into the TL course. Looking back on my application for the TL position makes me cringe. I really had no idea what a multi-faceted role the TL position really was. Now after only a few months of study my understanding has soared to new heights. If I was to re-write that application it would be completely different. My first real lesson was to understand that the TL is a media specialist; an information technology expert. Even though my skills using technology are considered to be above average there were still many things I had yet to learn. I have programmed using C++, created and designed webpages, used various programs, and participated in countless other information technology related activities, but none of those activities related to social media.
Even studying online was a totally new experience. At first, I stumbled my way around the online learning environment. Often I would read the modules, read the readings and then after working and dealing with other aspects of life would come back to my online studies only to find I was re-reading the same material or being unsure where I was up to. Eventually I realised that to keep track I needed a system. My solution was to print out the modules and annotate them as I worked through the course. These printed modules now have notes scribbled in the margins and when viewing videos, webinars and slideshows I filled every available white space by summarising the content. Researching using the library database was another learning journey. I spent hours searching for information and reading way to much that was irrelevant. Refining information search skills is an essential aspect to becoming more efficient. Skills that are necessary for an effective TL. Becoming a critical reader, critical thinker and mastering academic writing was yet another hurdle to overcome. Learning that is yet to be fully realised.
Feelings of anxiety and trepidation kept emerging each time another critical reflection had to be submitted. Correct referencing yet another area that proved to be a challenge. However, after what seemed like a never ending series of tripping, stumbling, and fumbling there were topics that were more comfortable and eased the journey. Constructivist learning, inquiry learning, project-based learning, resource based learning and the curriculum were familiar territory. The eye-opener here was the collaborative aspect required of the TL in curriculum development. I had not experienced this in schools but admit it makes perfect sense to do so. As Boss & Krauss say in project-based learning within the Web 2.0 world, it is a “move away from traditional teaching and toward this new vision of instructional design” (2007, p. 4). This move away also leads to the various roles the TL is expected to play and can only play if the TL has the support from within the school and especially from the principal. Lamb (2011) and Valenza (2010, 2011, 2013) in particular made me realise a new wave has crept up and we now are in a 21st century paradigm.
Is it any wonder that TLs have so many emails each day to sort through given their extensive networks? These professional networks are essential in ensuring that TLs not only keep up to date with developments but are also used to support their roles. Evidence-based practice is another essential element of the TLs focus. TLs need to prove to the world they are important in the school, that they provide support for the curriculum, and have specialist skills to value-add to the learning environment. However, the roles the TL is expected to fulfil are staggering in number and as a result the TL really has to learn how to delegate, manage time, and prioritise. Before starting the TL course I had never given much thought to the information literacy skills of my students let alone my own. Now I understand “that the next step beyond critical thinking, information literacy and creative thinking is digital citizenship” (Waters, 2012, p. 4) and lifelong learning.
My original ideas about the TL’s role in the school have changed dramatically. No longer do I see the TL as the promoter of reading and the creator of a welcoming space in the library. The TL in a school has a multi-faceted role from teaching and having specialist knowledge right through to modelling and promoting lifelong learning and everything in between. To understand these roles just read the ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (ALIA & ASLA, 2004) and you will gain insight into this multiplicity to which I refer.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) & Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/TLstandards.pdf
Boss, S. & Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning. International Society for Technology in Education.
Image: Fun Librarian: royalty free stock images. Retrieved from www.dreamstime.com
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking research & practice to improve learning. 55(4), 27–36.
Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. In Never Ending Search. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/
Valenza, J. (2011). What do TLs teach? Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/78154370@N00/5761280491/sizes/l/in/photostream/
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/
Waters, J. (2012). Turning students into good digital citizens. The journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/04/09/Rethinking-digital-citizenship.aspx