Why do we need TEACHER-librarians in our school libraries?

5 05 2010

A Queensland primary teacher librarian responds:

As the sole Teacher librarian in a primary school of 1300, I work closely with ALL teachers and ALL students.

My training and experience as a teacher means that I am able to integrate information literacy, literature, and ICTs into the curriculum program at all year levels.

For example, in Term1 I worked with all our Year 3 classes on their Environmental Impact Study. This involved Interactive Whiteboard activities integrating literature, teaching the genre, and introducing the children to some useful Web 2.0 applications, along with some of the traditional information literacy skills. We used Wordle ( beautiful word clouds ) as a concept mapping tool to develop some field knowledge about the topic. We located photos of Great Barrier Reef creatures on Flickr to consider copyright issues and the Internet. We used Kim Michelle Toft’s One less Fish, and some non fiction titles about the Great Barrier Reef, integrating location skills and strategies for using books with gathering information for our genre model. We studied a gorgeous picture book Food Chain (PJ Robertson), to reinforce discussion of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and completed a concept map on the IWB with links to the genre model of the Environmental Impact Study. And we used Jigsaw Planet to create our own jigsaw puzzles. Our lessons in the Library were seen as a complement to classroom activities where children were preparing to write their own environmental impact study of a local area, Nudgee Beach.

Another example: Year 4 teachers wanted their students to learn how to find fiction without using computers. We used the mapping tool from Easiteach on a map of the Library to locate various types of Fiction, including popular fiction, picture books for big kids, chapter books, and Junior Fiction, and considered why these collections were shelved differently. We looked at the way fiction titles are organised, and used the IWB to manipulate location labels, and to devise our own labels for brand new titles (which also introduced children to the new titles). Another lesson centred on the speed dating strategy of selection of an appealing title, and students completed a concept map on the IWB to highlight criteria for selecting appropriate fiction. Students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the location and selection of fiction through the use of a Survey created in SurveyMonkey on the internet.
Then, to fit in with classroom work on the postcard genre, we used a wonderful picture book for big kids, Alison Lester’s Are we there yet? as a springboard to the genre of postcard, along with the Read Write Think website to develop an interactive postcard, and we used a copyright free image of Uluru to create a jigsaw at the Jigsaw Planet site. Finally, we used some of the information from Letters from Felix (Annette Langen) and the concept map from Easiteach to talk about different aspects of life in various countries, and some maps from Interact to locate countries within continents.

At the same time, I worked with all Year 1 classes in weekly Orientation sessions, on some basic Information literacy skills (the location of picture books, alpha order, borrowing rules, locating their name in the borrowing book) and introduced the children to using the IWB. We also had story time where students listened to some picture books such as Library Lion, David gets in Trouble, and Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books, with some illustrations highlighted on the IWB for in-depth discussion. We also created our own books of Library Rules using Microsoft’s Ebook Reader.

And then there is my role in delivering professional development opportunities to teachers. I believe this is made possible because of their recognition of my expertise as a TEACHER. As well as the annual presentation of a 13 week PD programme in Intel, and formal PD on the use of the IWB software, I see my work with classes as an opportunity to teach the teachers how to use the newly installed interactive whiteboards, and for me to demonstrate the effective integration of ICTs in the curriculum.

As to the other aspect of my dual training: My training and experience as a librarian means that I am able to manage the library effectively as well, in the limited time available for that part of the job. While I am teaching 17 classes a week – some 420 students- the library is expected to function efficiently. This is where my training and experience in LIBRARIANSHIP is of paramount importance. I have been able to establish systems in the library that allow my (untrained) teacher- aide, and seven volunteers (recruited through an online advertisement) to continue the back room work in my absence. It is my responsibility to train all my volunteers, and their work must be closely monitored, but without their help, the library would not be able to process the $40,000 worth of resources purchased each year.

And this is where we come back to the teaching experience: because of my training and experience as a TEACHER, and my collaboration with teachers, and involvement in curriculum planning meetings, I am well placed to select resources appropriate to the curriculum, and to be able to promote those resources to teachers. I can assess the relevance of resources – print or electronic- and see immediately where they fit with the curriculum in our school, so that we have a well-balanced, appropriate, relevant resource collection that is heavily used- with 10,000 items on loan at any given time.

I believe then that it is crucial to employ professional staff to manage our school libraries, experienced TEACHERS with additional qualifications in LIBRARIANSHIP.
And we need to be supported by adequately trained library assistants, in sufficient numbers. There is an urgent need for an appropriate model for staffing numbers in school libraries- the Queensland model indicates a primary school of 300 is entitled to one fulltime Teacher-librarian (though this staffing ratio has been severely eroded in the last 10 years). There is no indicative staffing for support roles in libraries, and no recognition of the need for additional staffing in libraries for schools over 300.


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3 responses

5 05 2010
basedow1764

Thanks for this concise report.
In Germany, only few people can imagine how useful teacher-librarians could be.

I´ve linked this wonderful posting to my school library weblog.

Greetings from Germany

6 05 2010
Wozu Bibliothekslehrer? « Basedow1764's Weblog

[…] finde ich einen Bericht einer australischen […]

5 06 2010
Margarida Botelho

When one thought this debate was already outdated, it revives. The idea of publishing the question in this blog was good, to gather the voices and senses on this matter. George Steiner once wrote something this way: never as now have we had so much information and so little knowledge. It is not only the librarian’s job to provide knowledge to the students by offering them access to information; it is not only the teacher’s job to provide knowledge by telling the student the syllabus perspective of facts. It can be the job of a combined professional to get students to think, evaluate information sources, make them aware of the quality or lack of quality of some of those sources, guide the inquiry process, get them to outline a project and organize information, teach them how to make use of technology to present a project the right way, give them clues to best communicate their findings. A teacher librarian is not only a librarian; not only a teacher. S/He has to develop several skills in several areas: Nature Science, Mathematics, Linguistics, Librarianship, Computing, Information Science, Communication, and so forth.

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