Principals

SCHOOL LIBRARIES MATTER

More detailed information for principals can now be found at our new Connect to TLs site. Click here.

Teacher librarians support and implement the vision of their school communities.The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians 2008 states that students need “to develop a range of generic  and employability skills that have  particular application to the world  of work and further education  and training, such as planning and  organising, the ability to think  flexibly, to communicate well and  to work in teams. Young people also  need to develop the capacity to think  creatively, innovate, solve problems  and engage with new disciplines.“  They need to be skilled in sharing, using, developing and processing information, especially through ICT.  This is information and ICT literacy.

Teacher librarians can be partners with teachers and transformational leaders in schools in supporting authentic, constructivist student learning and information literacy. Debbie Abilock, widely known for innovation curriculum design and web projects that teach critical thinking, gives us this new definition for information literacy. “Information literacy is a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social, or global purposes” (“Information literacy from prehistory to K-20: A new definition” in Knowledge Quest, Vol.32:4, March/April 2004).

The professional standards for school libraries, Learning for the Future: Developing Information Services in Schools (Australian School Library Association and the Australian Library and Information Association, 2nd ed. Curriculum Corporation, 2001) state that central to the role of the professional teacher librarian in this country is the development of students who are information literate, independent learners. They further state that this occurs best through teaching approaches which are resource-based, allowing ’students to learn from their own confrontation with information resources’; with school library services that are integrated into all school activities at the point of need, and with the management of these services by ‘a qualified teacher librarian’.

Qualified teacher librarians hold recognised dual qualifications in teaching and school librarianship. Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, published in 2004 by ALIA/ASLA, has been used by Teaching Australia as an example of best practice for professional standards for teachers. Yet, in recent years it appears that the staffing of school libraries with qualified teacher librarians and support staff has declined.

This is happening even though there is a strong body of research linking quality school libraries to student academic achievement. It “shows that a strong library program, with a full-time library professional, support staff and a strong computer network that connects the library’s resources to the classroom, leads to higher student achievement regardless of the socio-economic or educational levels of the adults in the community’ (Lonsdale Report, 2003).

It is time for principals and teacher librarians to take a stand to support information literacy, not just information technology.

It is time for principals to join with teacher librarians to take a stand in support of school libraries that are staffed by full-time, qualified teacher-librarians and support staff.

It is time for principals and teacher librarians to take a stand in support of equitable funding for all school libraries.

Ten things you can do to support quality school libraries for quality teaching and improved student learning.

• Gary Hartzell “has pointed out that when information is limited, people tend to rely on stereotypes to make their judgments” (Oberg, D. Feb 2006 “Developing the respect and support of school administrators.” Teacher Librarian). Buy your own copy of Learning for the Future for a vision of what an excellent school library service can do for your students and teachers. Include an annual report on your school library and its contribution to student learning in your annual school report.

• Develop staff awareness of the role an excellent teacher librarian might take in your school and develop a plan to facilitate this. Do you have an information literate school community?

• Familiarize yourself with the Research which shows that quality school libraries with qualified teacher librarians can make a difference.

• Work toward developing Fullan’s culture for change, a culture for sharing and collaborating. Facilitate teacher and teacher librarian collaborative teaching.

• Ask your teacher librarian to speak to staff about information literacy models and programs

• Develop a school-wide program for information and technology literacy across the curriculum, embedded in all subjects and taught in context.

• Organize regular discussion times with your teacher librarian to discuss plans, policies, programs and improvement of professional practice.

• Ensure your teacher librarian can participate in year and faculty meetings, in school professional development and curriculum planning.

• Recruit and hire professionally qualified library staff.

And one more: Require an Annual Report from your library.  Here are some examples:

Do you require an annual report on how your school library has contributed to the school’s mission and goals? Here are some from the US as examples of what can be done:

Fullerton (California) Union HS District library report 
Myrtle Grove (North Carolina) Middle School library report
Solon (Iowa) Community School District library report
Grant Wood Area Education Agency, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Report library usage 
Creekwood High School (Canton, Georgia) Annual Library Report 
Macalester College (St Paul, Minnesota) Library Report

Keep up professional reading on best practice in teacher librarianship and advocate for this.

Start with McGhee, M and Jansen, B. 2005. The Principal’s guide to a powerful library media program (Linworth Books, Worthington, Ohio).

Getting the Most from Your School Library Media Program by Doug Johnson, in Principal, Jan/Feb 2005

For Australian principals, these articles:

Lyn Hay and Colleen Foley, “School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C” in Scan Vol 28 No 2 May 2009.

WYLIE, Terry (2008) ‘Winds of change’ in Scan 27(1) February, pp. 26–27.
Terry, Principal at Caringbah High School, outlines the important role of the teacher librarian in leading and supporting staff and students to be effective users of ICT in the 21st century. Terry acknowledges the leadership qualities of Robyn Morley, teacher librarian.

Sue Spence   Creating 21st century learning communities“. Principal Matters VASSP, Melbourne, Victoria. Issue No. 67, Winter 2006, and “Teacher librarians, an under utilised asset in schools,” in Curriculum Leadership, Vol 3 Issue 14, 20 May 2005.

Kerry Neary “School libraries: making a difference”  published in its original form in The Queensland Principal: the Journal of the Association of State School Principals Inc., Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2007. Some minor changes have been made here to accommodate a wider audience. Also republished in Connections Vol 69 Term 2 2009. Updated and republished for an Australia wide audience: The Australian Educational Leader 2009

A recent article from Australian Educational Leader (Vol 30 No 3 2008), Are you the Principal of an information literate school community?, is provided here with permission of the author, Marlene Filippi.

Also, Gary Hartzell’s article “Why Principals Should Support School Libraries (ERIC, 2002) is an excellent reference.

In 2000, the American Association of School Librarians sent this Principal’s Manual brochure to every primary principal in the US to help them evaluate their school library program.

“Information literacy is a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate and use information in various forms to create for personal, social, or global purposes.” – Debbie Abilock

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