There is no doubt that the role of the teacher librarian (TL) has vastly changed over the last decade with the introduction of computers and easy access to the Internet into the majority of schools (Herring, 2007; Kuhlthau, 2010). The TL’s role is complex and varied.
Dewey (1916) suggested that the purpose of schools is to develop educated individuals or cohorts to actively participate in society. Globally this continues to be the primary purpose of schooling… (Starkey, 2012, p. 20).
The assimilation and introduction of the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, (ACARA), 2015), with revamped syllabuses in New South Wales (Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards NSW, 2015) has made the role of the TL critical in terms of being a curriculum leader, an information literacy leader and an instructional leader (Herring, 2007). This has necessitated the need for the TL to have a thorough and current knowledge of key issues that surround leadership and change management.
Teacher Librarian as Leader
It is interesting to note that in my assessment task one blog, “the next step in my leadership journey will be to implement an information literacy model that is adopted school-wide” (Ellis, 2015, April 14). This did become a strategic focus, but it was so much easier said than done! Discussion was also about the TL as leader in the areas of team teaching, collaboration and promotion of information literacy (IL) skills, supporting classroom teacher practices and as a service leader in resourcing the Learning Centre (LC) with quality print and digital materials. While all these are important components of the role of TL, my view has now been dramatically expanded to include that of being a curriculum and pedagogical leader who must understand change management and have a vision for the future of the LC to ensure it is a central learning space in the school. Defining and articulating a vision statement as opposed to a mission statement proved rewarding, but challenging.
Changes In 21st Century School Libraries
A key area of growth and understanding with regards to 21st century school libraries is the incredible, fast-paced changes that are occurring in terms of web tools and the importance of having a flexible LC, physically and virtually for students to access information resources and learn individually or in a group setting at school or at home. The implementation of a whole-school Guided Inquiry (GI) process can be the key to stabilising these changes as it provides an educationally sound framework for information literacy learning (Kuhlthau, 2010).
Current evaluation of the Australian Curriculum is that it is too crowded in terms of content and that it is currently under review (ACARA, 2015). Keeping up-to-date with present-day curriculum implementations is crucial in being able to support classroom teachers with the new syllabuses and supporting resources.
One personal weakness, highlighted during this module, has been my lack of technological knowledge. How can I support the entrenching of information literacy skills in the school if I don’t have the skills myself? Using the forum to seek suggestions from others (Ellis, 2015, April 8) and delving further into a name – Karen Bonanno (2015), proved extremely valuable. Excitingly, the discovery of Bonanno’s F-10 Inquiry skills scope and sequence and F-10 core skills and tools has piqued my interest and will become the building-block, that not only informs my teaching practices next semester but my role as curriculum and information literacy leader.
The deliberate provision of time for teachers to collaborate on issues of curriculum and instruction is paramount in providing opportunities for “teachers to learn from one another, refine their practice, and work with others to deepen their understanding of the complexities of teaching (Lieberman & Mace, 2010, p. 79). However, this does not necessarily have to be done face-to-face. As a result of this module I have now:
- joined the New South Wales TL Listserv;
- encouraged the school to subscribe to SCAN;
- begun experimenting with web tools to use with students; and
- joined a variety of educational diigo groups.
This has been significant in terms of feeling supported in my journey as TL as I seek help and keep abreast of new concepts and student and teaching learning practices (Coatney, 2010, p.x). Collaborating digitally, has made me realise how important it is for students to be able to feel connected and supported in their learning journey. Not only do we want to create a safe physical learning environment for students but a safe virtual learning environment where students can seek support and learn from others.
Curriculum Design Leader
In one of my earlier forum posts I commented that the principal wanted me to become a leader in the LC (the first time I’ve ever worked in the library) and that I was thrown in the deep end and led by “selecting library monitors, organising rosters…coordinating PRC and Book Club” (Ellis, 2015, March 8). While I understood that this was more leadership management (even at the time), the concept of leader in curriculum design, delivery and strategic planning were well out of my realm of understanding.
The TL role as a leader in curriculum design is multifaceted. However, I kept going back to Sinek’s Golden Circle (Sinek, 2007), where he inspires all great leaders to take action by initially asking the question “why”, then, “how” and finally “what”. Answering the “what” is always much easier than the “why”. When developing this strategic plan, I kept trying to focus on “why” – Why GI? Why IL? Strategic plans need to begin with educational outcomes. During the strategic implementation stage, it was then “how” – How can GI and IL be integrated as a lasting change practice embedded as part of the school culture.
Key aspects of understanding about the role of the TL have been:
1) Leadership from an organisational perspective as opposed to being a curriculum leader – eg. volunteer for leadership roles,
2) Knowledge of innovation and change;
3) Communication – be active at staff meetings to promote digital and physical resources, attend stage meetings to help with curriculum planning, develop relationships with students and parents; initiate and implement workshops for all stakeholders advocating the role of the LC and TL in supporting the curriculum;
4) Planning – be intentional and deliberate; start small with interested teachers and grow from there (Zmuda & Harada, 2008).
A critical component of strategic planning is to take the time to assess the current situation and context before leaping in with an action plan. While the gathering of information and analysis of the school’s internal and external context can be time consuming it is worthwhile to critically think about any possible issues that may arise. It may not always be fool proof in avoiding unknown problems, but at least the TL will be more aware (Allison & Kaye, 2005, p. 125).
Currently, there is no whole-school approach to embedding IL or GI as part of the school culture. It is therefore critical that the TL adapts a leadership role to promote, establish and embed these concepts within the school. This is only possible if the TL understands the motivating forces behind personnel undergoing change and the concepts that underpin lasting change. Implementing change can be challenging and as the image at the top suggests, the TL needs to be intelligent, honest, creative confident, driven and courageous.
Allison, M., & Kaye, J. (2005). Strategic planning for non-profit organizations: A practical guide and workbook (2nd ed.).Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2015). Australian Curriculum v7.4. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au
Board of Studies: Teaching and Educational Standards, NSW. (2015). Syllabuses. Retrieved from http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabuses/
Bonanno, K. (2015). F-10 Inquiry skills scope and sequence and F-10 core skills and tools. Retrieved from http://eduwebinar.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/curriculum_mapping_scope_sequence_skills_tools.pdf
Coatney, S. (Ed.). 2010). The many faces of school library leadership. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Ellis, S. (2015, March 8). Re: Task 1: What is your understanding of leadership? [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/conference?toggle_mode=read&action=list_forums&course_id=_6061_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&mode=view
Ellis, S. (2015, April 8). Re: Task 3: Digital Learning [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/conference?toggle_mode=read&action=list_forums&course_id=_6061_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&mode=view
Ellis, S. (2015, April 14). A reflection on a concept map and critical analysis of leadership [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://samanthaellis4.wordpress.com/
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. Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 17 – 28. Retrieved from http://www.iasl-online.org/publications/slw/index.html
Lieberman, A., & Mace, P. (2010). Making practice public: Teacher learning in the 21st century. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 77-88. Retrieved from http://jte.sagepub.com/
Sinek, S. (2007). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. London: Penguin Books.Starkey, L. (2012). Teaching and learning in the digital age. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Zmuda, A., & Harad, V. (2008). Librarians as learning specialists: moving from the margins to the mainstream of school leadership. Teacher Librarin, 36(1), 15-20. Retrieved from http://www.teacherlibrarian.com/