A little known fact about having a teacher librarian in your school is that she/he is more than one person. A great teacher librarian is networked with TLs throughout Australia online and involved in regular local gatherings. So when your school employs a teacher librarian, they are really tapping into the collective knowledge and experience of hundreds of school library professionals, who have amply demonstrated over the years the strength and loyalty of their collegiality, born in the pre-internet days of inter-library loans. It’s kind of like the Borg*, but with more comfortable shoes, and much less evil intent.
Here’s how it works. An English teacher comes to me and says, “My Maori students loved reading Whale Rider. I don’t know what else to suggest that they might enjoy”. So I say, “Leave it with me, I’ll get back to you”.
Now, New Zealand fiction isn’t my strong point. If you want classic sci fi, then I’m your girl, but in this case I am only temping in this school, so there isn’t time to adjust my reading habits to suit the student demographic. So it’s off to the Batphone, or in this case, the computer. Shortly afterwards, I send off my question, and the first response takes only a few minutes. Within the hour I have produced a fairly decent list of book titles and authors held by the school library.
Upon presentation of said list to the English teacher, he is suitably impressed. In the unspoken law of TLs, I do not mention the online consultation, and take full credit for the result, just as I expect my colleagues to do whenever I am able to help them out.
At University, we called it “The Invisible College”. Yes, there are lots of different avenues to find information, but sometimes it is easier and faster to just ask someone who knows.
So is this a big secret I shouldn’t be telling the non-TL world about? I hope not. Principals in particular need to be aware of these networks, especially when interviewing candidates who will be the sole TL in their school. It is part of ASLA’s Standards for Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians, a document that every principal should read. Point 3.4 states that teacher librarians should “actively participate in education and library professional networks”.
Does your school have a member of The Invisible College?
*The Borg are a fictional pseudo-race of cyborgs depicted in Star Trek. The Borg are depicted as an amalgam of cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organised as an inter-connected collective with a hive mind, inhabiting a vast region of space with many planets and ships, and sophisticated technology. – taken from Wikipedia, the hive mind of the Internet.