My journey over the last few months of the beginnings of my career as a teacher librarian has been a challenging and interesting one. Originally my perception about the role of teacher librarian was very similar to Farmer’s (2007) description of principals’ perceptions; I saw the teacher librarian’s role as being on a par with other support staff, mainly concerned with the management of resources and perhaps more interested in things than people (p. 60). This was not helped by my previous experiences in schools, none of which had a qualified librarian. Since then my perceptions of teacher librarianship have rapidly changed. There is so much happening in the field at the moment and it is a truly exciting place to be and I am working hard to change perceptions of teacher librarians within the school as well.
In my blog ‘The Faithful Librarian’ in July I wrote a response to hearing Joyce Valenza speak that shows how the obstacles I was facing made me struggle with the dissonance between what I wanted to do and what I felt I could fight to achieve.
“There are small things that we can do, sites that we can use, perspectives that I can work to change that are exciting.”
After Joyce’s incredibly enthusiastic talk I came away feeling overwhelmed rather than inspired. It wasn’t until I began to do the readings on collaboration that I began to recognise the potential for the teacher librarian’s role to be more than just looking after ‘things’ and dealing with the technology access crises. I particularly found Fullen’s (1999) perspective on collaboration interesting and recognised a lot of the qualities that are required for creating a collaborative culture as being already present in my school, and that I was in a good position to tap into those qualities. I also began to realise that much of what I was doing was collaborative, particularly my involvement with the Gifted and Talented team where we are in the process of developing an instructional program for our gifted and talented students that will involve collaborative teaching.
The importance of the teacher librarian’s role has come to me, ironically, through the process of information literacy. In my ‘Power to the Students’ post (September 23), I discussed how surprised I was at the prevalence of plagiarism and the lack of research skills in my year eight class. This coincided with my reading about information literacy. I had discussed several times with the head of humanities at my school the possible implementation of an inquiry process model within the school community, and this stressed the urgency of this matter to me. I have now begun collaborating with a group of teachers on what this inquiry process looks like, and better yet, have communicated with my principal about the importance of implementing it in the school and been adequately supported and resourced (September 15).
Section three of the ASLA (2004) Standards encourages teacher librarians to actively engage in school leadership. The understanding that I have developed about the teacher librarian’s pivotal role in creating information literate communities and the overall importance of information literacy to student outcomes has helped me to see the role of teacher librarian as one of being a leader, information expert and a linchpin for improved student outcomes in an information world.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm
Fullan, M. (1999). Deep meaning of inside collaboration. In Change forces : the sequel. (pp. 31-41). London : Falmer Press.