Bec in the library

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

Finding my way: a reflection on pathfinder creation October 5, 2013

This is Part B of my final assignment for ETL501: The Information Environment, critically analysing the process of creating a pathfinder.


This pathfinder was created to assist Grade 4 students inquire into how environmental changes are connected to human consumption. Whilst students will choose their own personal inquiries into this central idea, expected broad topics under this umbrella, which are covered by this pathfinder, include global warming, climate change, waste management and conservation.

This unit is one of six taught throughout the year, however the only one under the transdisciplinary theme of “Sharing the Planet”. It has a strong social studies component but there are also science and literacy links. The key concepts are connection and responsibility with related concepts of consumption and sustainability. The learning outcomes the students will be working towards when using the pathfinder are:

  •  LAA.CT.4.7 comprehend, respond to and analyze literary non-literary texts.
  •  HUM.GU.4.3 Learners will gather, evaluate and use information.

Throughout the pathfinder creation process, I took myself through the steps I would expect of a student when searching for resources. Based on Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) and Valenza’s (2004) observations of effective student searching, as well as the readings from Module 6 (CSU, 2013), I planned my search using a concept map consisting of key words from the unit vocabulary list and a list of questions taken from the unit planner.

Keeping Herring’s (2011) website criteria in mind, I used the librarian created, student-specific search engines, KidsClick and ipl2. I knew it was highly likely I was going to find sites that were technically and educationally sound as well as reliable in terms of authorship and content.

I was absolutely shocked by how high the sites I had chosen had come out on readability tests, there was not a single site that came out lower than Grade 5, even those targeted to K-3! These results certainly rammed home Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) assertions about how important it is to scaffold internet use for elementary aged children.

As information about the environment can change rapidly, using the school’s OPAC proved extremely helpful, enabling me to find the most recently acquired resources. A basic search on Google and Bing led me to a Follett comparison tool for texts by the various publishing houses. This clarified the reading and interest age of the resources I had chosen, leading to the discarding and replacement of several choices.

Understanding how to create a pathfinder that would enhance my students’ use of information literacy skills was challenging. Based on my knowledge of how my school’s students are taught interactively through the online world of blogs (heavily embedding files and links), I was creating online curriculum instead of a pathfinder embedded with ILS. The difference between giving instructions and directions baffled me for some time and I was mired in indecision and frustration about how I could make my pathfinder’s emphasis on ILS simple yet effective. This was especially important as our students have had very little explicit instruction in, or practice with, ILS.

Discussing my problem with the school’s two Technology Integrators and re-reading Abilock’s (2004) and Eisenberg’s (2003) ILS work helped guide me in a new direction. I decided adding one or two key skills as dot points to each resource could help students learn and assimilate ILS into their research toolkit in small increments.

The biggest lesson constructing this pathfinder has taught me is that effective research relies on extremely high quality ILS instruction. 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, 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 can now see how pathfinders can help TLs to explicitly and patiently give teachers and students the help they need to understand these concepts.


A clever TL could utilise the hard work of others in order to cut down the time it takes to create pathfinders. This could be done by using the existing unit planners and OPAC Resource Lists as a base for pathfinders. The school’s two Library Technicians (who already routinely create Resource Lists) could be taught how to make pathfinders. Additionally, as part of the reflection process, each grade level could complete a skeleton pathfinder of the most useful resources used during that unit. In the case of the latter strategies, it would be prudent for the TL to edit and flesh out the pathfinder with appropriate annotations and citations. The final step of publishing them on the Grade Level blog home page as well as the Library website would help ensure the pathfinders are used again.


Pathfinders can be a simple and powerful way to provide students with both relevant information and important ILS. I have learnt that regularly creating and updating pathfinders that are used in conjunction with explicit, in person, and frequent ILS instruction by the school TL can contribute to highly effective student research.




Selection and censorship March 8, 2011

Filed under: ETL 503: topic 2 — becinthelibrary @ 12:58 pm
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What do you believe are the key principles relating to access to information that the above professional statements are advocating?

As outlined by Moody:

  • Vendor promotional, classification and selection bias
  • Use of citation rates in periodical selection and weeding
  • The exclusion of independently-published materials
  • Pressure from funding bodies
  • Self-censorship of librarians
  • Adherence to ‘community standards’
  • Labelling of controversial items
  • Inaccurate or slow cataloguing and classification
  • Exclusion of socially unpleasant materials, such as ‘hate items’

Is it practical to pursue such ideals in the school library context?

Time consuming perhaps but practical, yes. These are all just factors to run through your mental filter as you weigh a purchase.

How can we best ensure that the selection process is not censorial?

Collaboration is key. If an item is ringing some bells, just ask someone else! Run it through OZTL_NET or a fellow teacher, or TL. These decisions don’t have to be made alone! Be aware of our own biases and try to think laterally and be a devil’s advocate for yourself.

How can we ensure our policies on selection are not simply paying lip service to stated standards on ‘freedom of access’ that we may actually not follow when we feel vulnerable?

“Where one side of an argument or debate is represented in the collection, the various alternative sides should also be represented.” (Moody) If you feel uncomfortable with the stance a text is taking but you know the text provides freedom of access to information, try and find a resource that provides a balance.

Other interesting thoughts bought up by the articles

“The popularity of the items within your collection does not tell you anything about the need for items not in your collection.” (Moody) Such an interesting observation! How can we deal with this?

Cataloguing bias and labelling (Moody) – a big issue for me as the (mostly) sole cataloguer of our resources. How much bias do I employ?


Selection aids – what works?

Filed under: ETL 503: topic 2 — becinthelibrary @ 12:43 pm
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The examples given of selection aids comprise only a small sample of those available. Examine at least two of the examples given of each type covered above and compare their strengths and weaknesses. The examples provided are largely Australian selection aids.

Bibliographies – strengths

  • lots of info in one place, good for time poor TLs
  • mostly created by people ‘in the know’, often without bias
  • include subject lists prepared for a specific purpose which takes guess work out of selection
  • “clearly indicate specific resources which have been identified as having clear relevance, value, popularity, etc. relating to the topic” being discussed (Crotty, 2011)

Bibliographies – weaknesses

  • lists “begin dating from the moment they are created and may consequently contain resources that are outdated or no longer available and may not contain more current and pertinent resources” (Crotty, 2011)
  • the compiler/s of the bibliography, their knowledge of the area and the basis on which they identified the resources contained in the bibliography may be unknown, which can leave you uncertain as to the authority of a bibliography (Crotty, 2011)
  • “bibliographies are frequently developed for a specific context, which may not be relevant to your school. Consequently, it is advisable to frequently cross check the appropriateness of resources listed within a bibliography against other selection aids such as reviewing journals and websites.” (Crotty, 2011)

Input from library staff and from users of the collection – strengths

  • working within the needs and context of the school environment
  • more likely to get resources into the hands of the people who need them
  • easy to cross-check with peers on listservs such as OZTL_NET

Input from library staff and from users of the collection – weaknesses

  • is the source reliable? have they actually read the text or are they basing their opinion on what someone else has said?
  • personal bias
  • does the staff member/user know the extent of what is already available in the collection?

Try and identify at least one further selection aid in each category. Preferably ones of relevance and interest to you.

  • Website critically reviewing educational software, reviewers are teachers, parents and kids and the website developers are not affiliated with any publisher or creator. REviewing criteria were comprehensive and balanced.

What criteria do you feel a particular selection aid should meet before it is used, trusted and valued? How would these criteria vary, if at all, between the different types of selection aids?

  • TL area of knowledge growth (for us, knowledge of graphic novels and relevant educational software are areas of growth)
  • gaps in current collection – do we need more of a certain TYPE resource? If so, I would look to selection aids that are totally related to that area so I don’t need to wade through stacks of info
  • run aids through OZTL_NET to get peer reviews


E-books (selection)

Filed under: ETL 503: topic 2 — becinthelibrary @ 12:40 pm
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List the issues raised in this comprehensive chapter concerning the selection and acquisition and discuss using the sub-forum for this section.

  • e-reference/e-textbook updates – included? price of? separate volumes or new edition?
  • e-monographs in series – release dates? communication of new releases? cost – series or each part?
  • perpetual ownership – higher price means long term ownership: is it worth it?
  • evaluation e-books – availability of previewing of each e-book depends on publisher and aggregator
  • patron-driven selection and pay per view – could mean more authentic use of e-books as you only pay for what patrons are actually viewing
  • aggregators – great for busy TLs but some limitations due to publisher hold back on popular titles
  • single use or multiple use access – what is the resource being used for determines if the resource should be single or multiple use. Multiple use is up to 50% more expensive but is a cost that must be borne if the title is to be used by many students at once (group reading/research for example)
  • archiving and continued/perpetual access
  • workflows and cataloguing – new challenges and new systems
  • licensing

Surely we don’t need books anymore!

Consider if the print format is of diminishing significance and value in school libraries?

In all honesty, I cannot answer this question succintly or with much sense at all as my thoughts just go around and around. After having a vigourous discussion with my husband (Grade 5 teacher of 21 digital natives) about this topic, I still am no clearer. My opinion (“Of course print is not diminishing in significance and value!! Who doesn’t love and need to sit down with a good book/poster/kit/piece of realia?) is emotional and based on my personal history of loving and sharing print with family, friends, peers, colleagues and students. To see, or even contemplate, the decline of print feels like the end of my world as I know it, even as I sit on the bus each day reading the latest novel on my Kindle.

Do we need to focus more on adding digital resources to the collection, and on digital collections, to meet the needs of users?

All learners need multiple access points to information. Whether this means finding information via a picture book, looking though a hard copy encyclopedia, watching a DVD, hearing an audio book, browsing BrainPOP! or reflecting and sharing via a blog – it doesn’t matter – we need a balance of all types of resources in a collection if we are to meet the needs of all users.


Who should select resources?

Filed under: ETL 503: topic 2 — becinthelibrary @ 12:37 pm
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Consider how the teacher librarian might effectively collaborate with the school community in the selection of resources in your school or in a school with which you are familiar. Who should have the final say on what is included? Why?

Given the fact that my TL is also the Whole School TL, he has a final call on the purchasing of most resources, simply because the buck – literally and figuratively – stops with him.

However, the media services budget is allocated between the three schools with the TL in each section being given full autonomy to spend as is needed, based on that TL’s knowledge of their students’ and teachers’ needs and wants.

From what I know of how selection is done in the primary school, all classroom and specialist teachers are given opportunities to order what they need, via the TL, if the resources are to come out of the library budget. Each grade level and specialist department also have their own budget for resources. The lion’s share of resources for the primary school, however, come through the library’s “hands” as everything is catalogued no matter where it is housed in the school.

We are incredibly lucky in that there is rarely a request put in by individual teachers, students, parents or other community member for a resource that has not been immediately purchased – our budget is large 🙂

I have also outlined other suggestions as to how the TL can collaborate (and why) in the selection process in my previous post.


Selection and the school context

Consider how you as a teacher librarian could best obtain the data needed to provide a clear and specific understanding of these aspects of your school and current collection? Is it a task that you, as teacher librarian, could be expected to undertake alone?

It is my belief that effective and successful teacher librarians do not select resources for teaching and learning alone as this is not collaboration based practice. A teacher librarian cannot be expected to intimately know every single unit of inquiry or stand alone language/math unit – the TL requires the knowledge of classroom and specialist teachers to give them support in this area.


  • ask all grade levels to go through their POI and stand alone planners, then create a top 10/20/100/whatever number resources wish list for each unit (after they have combed though the existing resource lists created by the LTs to ensure no double ups and to fill gaps). Having it in priority order will help if the budget is tight
  • ask LTs and/or library assistants to go through resource lists and library records to assess numbers of resources catalogued against each unit and/or what has been borrowed recently to show popularity of resources
  • ask parents, teachers and students to give suggestions as to what they love about our collection and what they’d like to see more of

loving the learning

continuing tales of a teacher librarian

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