Bec in the library

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

Whoomp, there it is! October 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — becinthelibrary @ 4:21 pm

ETL507 Professional Portfolio

This is the basic, text only version of my portfolio.

You can find the WAY cooler version over at my new professional website, InfoGirl.

Happy reading 🙂

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I’m InfoGirl (aka Bec) a Super with many guises – stay at home mum, small business owner, primary teacher and aspiring teacher librarian, scrapbooker, avid reader, amateur chef, wife and eternal optimist.

Mum to Master Builder (born August 2009) and Firecracker (born August 2012), I am the proud wife to uber-talented educator and app developer, GeekGuy. We live for much of the year in Beijing, China as GeekGuy works as a technology integrator in the primary section of a large and prestigious international school. Whilst we are proud Australians who adore and cherish our homeland, we relish this opportunity to raise our children as global nomads.

It is with great excitement and joy that upon graduation from my Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) in November 2014, I can begin recruiting for a TL job in Beijing.

As a teacher librarian (TL) I have the passion, enthusiasm, time and willingness to fight for what I believe is important in 21st century education: a library whose staff advocate for, and provide, relevant information services while encouraging and fostering a reading culture. I do this through embracing collaboration, harnessing and valuing the skills of others, creating welcoming reading spaces and managing a relevant, engaging and easy to access physical and online collection.

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This website showcases my reflective learning throughout my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) degree and is the final assessment piece for my final subject.

A full list of references for the articles and books cited in this website is available.

Throughout this website you will find links to the blog I created whilst studying.  Each of these blog posts discusses my ideas and experiences about TL concepts – most are rambling, many are angst filled, some are boring but all show for better or worse my journey towards the start of a new career.

The many superpowers of a TL

Just what is a TL and what do they do?

Teacher Librarians (TLs) are many things to many people!

We help build a school culture that creates passionate readers who are information literate.

Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto (2010) completely transformed my understanding of the role of a TL, especially in terms of information literacy. Whilst her passion lit a fire within me, I was  also taken aback with the complexity of the role and what a long road of advocacy I have to tread. Purcell’s (2010) explanation of the multi-faceted role of a TL also taught me a very important lesson that has burned its place into my professional soul – TLs can only be used to their fullest extent if people know what we are able to offer.

Read my thoughts about creating passionate readers through successful collection management.

You can also delve into my stance on information literacy instruction and all things Library 2.0.

TLs who use quality collaboration, leadership and advocacy can make this school culture a reality.

Collaboration

“Collaboration is not easy. But collaboration is the single professional behavior of teacher-librarians that most affects student achievement.” (Haycock, 2007, p. 32)

This inspiring quote spurred me on to more closely interpret how I can successfully collaborate with the school community for the betterment of teaching and learning. With so many ‘hats’ to wear and so many people it is possible to collaborate with, there has been many times throughout this course that I have felt frustrated and hopeless at the task ahead of me.

Over time it became clear to me that successful collaboration in a library setting also involves setting priorities and finding champions of your program within the school. A wise TL acknowledges that they cannot achieve their clear vision and purpose alone. Therefore effective collaboration relies heavily on meeting people where they are: finding out what they want, giving it to them and then building on it. Based on it this, it makes sense that TLs can, and indeed, should be, the trailblazers of personal learning networks within schools. Donham’s (2005) belief that when we are visible in our own learning and PLNs, we more easily bring others along in their own journeys, really resonated with me. This modelling shows that it is our responsibility as TLs who lead from the middle (Donham, 2005) to help staff believe that PLNs are not just another thing to learn or do.

Two additional outstanding lessons about collaboration I learnt during this degree focused around mentoring and delegating to others based on skill set. Both these concepts were hammered home during my time as a library technician at an international school where the TL made a concerted effort to involved all members of his staff in the successful running of the library.

Leadership

Before starting this course, the reality that a TL is a school leader, one of the few who clearly understands the broader learning context and needs of a school, was completely unknown to me. Learning about the complex nature of leadership during this course has given me many guiding tenants as I move forward into my career as a TL.

Meet people where they are. Reading Henri (1994) and Cheng’s (2002) belief that leadership is about influencing behaviour and helping people meet their own goals resonates strongly with me as a way that I can frame my ambitions for my library. Making sure I have a clearly communicated vision can help people feel important and valued as we go ahead on a shared project, or to increase buy in on a personally initiated project.

Shared leadership is shared responsibility for a shared purpose (Lambert, 1998) so the need for being a visible participant in helping to achieve personal and shared goals is essential. People need to see and clearly understand how the library’s purpose, goals and actions tie into their own. They can only do this if you are leading from the middle in classrooms, in meetings, on committees – constantly visible with a “this is how I can help” sign.

School leadership is not the sum of individual leaders, it is a system, a culture (Hargraves & Kink, 2003). Therefore, everyone has the capacity to lead and should be encouraged to do so.

Goleman (2000), helped me understand that all leaderships styles are useful when used at the right time, in the right situation. Leadership has, and continues to be, an area of growth for me as I recognise my own actions in many of the more negative leadership styles. Usually this is simply because my enthusiasm for a project can lead me to forget other people need more time to process, consider and reflect before making decisions and moving forward.

Advocacy

Advocacy relies on being visible and sharing your actions, successes and challenges (Davidson, 2002 and Gibbs, 2003).

A school community cannot support a library programme that they do not understand. It is my responsibility to proactively build positive  relationships based on meeting people where they are in their teaching and learning journey if I want to successfully support, extend and complement the curriculum.

How might this look?

Showing, rather than telling. I can do this by regularly sourcing, reading, modelling and sharing library best practice with key decision makers.

Making it easy for people to say yes to whatever I am asking them to do, whether it is team teaching, fulfilling funding requests or collaboratively ordering resources.

TLs sticking together. In an era of shrinking budgets and confusion as to what our role really is as TLs, I know it is vital that the TL profession band together to learn and advocate about how to best share our expertise.

Information literacy instruction

Effective information literacy (IL) instruction is the very core of our work as TLs, our area of expertise. It is what differentiates us from regular teachers and is basic tenant around which we structure our programme. You can therefore imagine the incredible shock I felt when I realised that I had never been exposed to explicit information literacy instruction in my own schooling or during my teaching career.

Reading Herring (2007) introduced me, via a synthesis of other author’s views, to what IL really was and that consistent, methodical application is what it takes to help students really be information literate.

Given that inquiry driven, constructivist learning is current best practice in schools, it is should not come as a surprise that research skills need to be taught explicitly. Additionally, effective research relies on extremely high quality IL instruction. My academic and social learning throughout this course has taught me, however that this is not the case in reality. This was made most evident to me through the exploration and creating of multiple pathfinders for a real school. Feedback from students and teachers who used my pathfinders mirrored the current educational theory: there is no point making a pathfinder full of pertinent resources if the students don’t know how to use those resources to their fullest extent. The information universe is massive yet very few teachers and students have the time or understanding of how to harness it effectively (Valenza, 2004). Being aware of such concepts as the hidden web, that there are search engines more powerful and specific than Google, and the different kind of reading skills needed to access the right kind of information at the point of need, is absolutely integral to effective access to accurate, current, reliable information (CSU, 2013; Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2008; Valenza, 2004).

I am ready to share my basket of tricks and tools to get students well on the path of info fluency but I acknowledge that is never as easy as it seems. The study visits, professional placement and personal work experiences all very clearly showed that enthusiasm and knowledge is nowhere near enough in terms of making quality IL instruction a reality in schools. I was continually frustrated at poor or no decision making in this area, especially when people forget about what is best for students in favour of hearing their own voice. Understanding how to move forward in light of these challenges is an area of growth but one I face with enthusiasm, knowing that persistence and advocacy through presentation of evidence can help win the battle.

Library 2.0

TLs must help students become web learners rather than web users (CSU, 2013) and we can do that by teaching them “info fluency” (Valenza, 2004).

This course has solidified my understanding that effective TLs use emerging and existing technology to better meet the information needs of their school, regardless of what other schools are doing (Farkas, 2008).

Library 2.0 and an online participatory library service is not about having the latest tool that does the coolest new thing, faster and with a better interface than ever before. If it is not relevant, if it does not get users excited and pushing for more, then no matter how ‘cool’ an online tool is, it will be a waste of time and effort. Knowing what your teachers need and when, then differentiating content and training for them based on those needs, is absolutely the best way to immerse schools into the concepts, theories and practices of Library 2.0 without instilling fear of change.

Effective Library 2.0 TLs engage in collaboration, conversation, community and content creation (or co-creation) and encourage others to do so too. If teachers are creators, users who collaborate and converse in virtual and real life communities, then they are far more likely to use online tools critically and for authentic purposes in their teaching and learning (Bernoff & Li, 2010; Haesler, 2011).

During this course, I have been frequently frustrated by how few examples there are of primary students utilising the digital environment and the possible positive and negative implications of this use. It is my belief that showing is better than telling when it comes to making new ideas a reality. Therefore, I have created an ongoing list of best practice resources in this area that I can show to interested teachers.

A pivotal learning moment in my journey towards understanding how to be an effective facilitator of information literacy in the Library 2.0 context came during a conversation with a TL with whom I worked closely. In a school where technology integrators (TI) are responsible for all things technology, I struggled to understand the relevance of a TL in a digital world. His response was that TIs teach students to use tools, we teach them what to do with the information they find using the tools: tool literate vs information literate. TLs who do not have the luxury of sharing the Library 2.0 workload with TIs are indeed busy people!

What is reader development?

For me, reading is akin to breathing. This passion infuses everything I do as an educator, parent and lifelong learner and I wholeheartedly and unashamedly embrace the possibility of helping others also become voracious consumers of print.

Throughout the process of writing this portfolio, I thought that reader development/ advocacy was not explicitly explored during my Masters course. Indeed, it was only during a study visit to an urban library that I even heard the phrase. I thought that perhaps I just completely missed that part of the course! Or maybe because this more stereotypical facet of the TL role is already widely known and accepted as important, it was not deemed as crucial course content.

However, upon reflection, I now see that successful reader development centres around successful collection management which requires a keen understanding of patron needs. Knowing your clientele and helping them understand your role in building and maintaining a reading culture is essential. Positivity and enthusiasm often make all the difference, especially when you combine it with active listening and a genuine interest in people and their needs.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt during this course was the amount of concerted effort it takes to successfully manage the library collection, in both the physical and online realms.

What does a great library look like?

A large part of getting and keeping patrons in the library is making it a beautiful, welcoming place to relax, connect, create and discover. My study visits and professional work experiences in two libraries that meet these criteria have shown me that achieving this comes down to the inclusivity of vision and skills of others.

How do you keep patrons in your interesting, welcoming library?

Ensure that information is organised and accessed effectively so that they can find what they need quickly. I have learnt that this means thoughtful planning is monumentally important. Strategies such as collaborating with teachers to align resourcing with curriculum goals, pre-screening resources before sharing them, catering for multiple intelligences and utilising and sharing shortcuts to help with time management and referencing are all examples of planning that could work in the school context (Pardoe, 2009). Hider (2012) and Coombes in CSU (2012) were instrumental in shaping my understanding of how to support better use of the catalogue by both the TL and patrons. These strategies are even more important when working with online tools and content that are not as comprehensively vetted as printed resources.

So, what should be in a library collection?

Lee (2010), Hider (2012) and Johnson’s (2009) work expanded my view of what is important in collection content and how the collection can, and is, used and perceived by the school community. I now see how valuable it is to gain wide input from patrons and experts into collection management to attain balance and provide the online and physical content whilst taking into account the selection restrictions relevant to my school. The CSU course material that focused on website evaluation (2012) was invaluable learning in pushing me towards a strong understanding of how important my role is in guiding teachers and students to worthwhile, relevant content.

Great in theory but what about the money?

Lamb and Johnson’s (2008) article crystallised my view that people are at the heart of the budgeting, purchasing and overall funding battle. The way to successful acquisition and use of funding is to show evidence of student achievement based on the services and resources the library provides. It all circles back to advocacy – the community can only support what they value. They can only value what they see working.

I can’t do it alone!

As an intensely interpersonal learner, I have found the support, wisdom and collective genius of TL networks to be pivotal. Over the tenure of this MEd course, my involvement in listservs, Facebook groups and forums has helped me understand how best to serve the reader development needs of my current and future students through collection management.

Future career/future challenges

My personal challenges as a lifelong learner

I have never been, and doubt I ever will be, an academic. Throughout this course I have felt frustrated, hopeless and helpless in my inability to write critically and succinctly. However, the need for concise, analytical, evaluative writing as a TL is undeniable. It enables me to clearly express the worth of a concept, idea, opinion or request to the people charged with making it a reality. I will continue to seek mentoring in this area so as to best serve the community with which I work.

As a learner, teacher and leader I crave and desperately need interaction and collaboration in order to be successful. Therefore, it is not surprising that my best learning (measured by lecturer grades or self-assessment) has come when I have had the opportunity to work with others. I intend to take this understanding forward into my professional life by finding and nurturing my PLN and mentoring relationships.

Professional areas of growth

As a brand spanking new TL, I am the first to admit that I certainly do not have all the answers or expertise. I will continue to be on a sharp learning curve for as long as I work in libraries as by their very nature they are complex, evolving entities. There are two areas of growth that are markedly obvious to me however.

The first is effective collaboration. I see that I still have many lessons to learn about how to put collaboration theory into practice. For example, the very important concept of waiting for others to be comfortable with change is such a challenge for me. Knowing where people are and where they are going, knowing what works for them and for me is a way for me to achieve this goal.

The area of copyright was, and continues to be, full of unanswered questions for me, especially as I live and work in China. I was excited and relieved to learn about Creative Commons but the entire issue of copyright is so complex, and so often ignored, that I worry about our school communities’ level of honesty around both our students’ use of copyrighted material and the use of our students’ work by others.

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