As a classroom teacher, I spent a large majority of my time searching for resources, for both my own professional learning as an educator, and for resources that I could use with my students in the classroom. The Teacher-Librarians (TL) I have worked with in the past have been helpful, but I found myself not regularly utilizing their knowledge. Now that I am a TL, I have been making efforts to connect with the staff and students to provide resources and skills, that will help them find the information relevant for their needs. Though I have made an effort, I still have a long journey ahead as I continue to learn the intricacies of how to manage a reference collection.
Theme 2 has provided many valuable resources that will be extremely useful on my journey to improving my reference services and collection. The resources used during Modules 5, 6, and 7 – Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada, Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for Library Learning Commons in Canada, and Evaluating, Selecting and Acquiring Learning Resources: A Guide – will be documents that I refer to often in my role as a TL. Theme 2 focused on the promotion, through collaboration, and management of reference materials. What is my role in these areas?
The promotion of reference, or personal, reading materials is my first role, but to do this effectively, it is necessary to establish the needs of my staff and students. Ann Riedling, author of Reference Skills for the School Librarian, recommends the ‘Reference Interview’, “to determine efficiently and productively the nature, quantity, and level of information the students requires, as well as the appropriate format” (99). Though Reidling mentions little about collaboration with teachers, it is imperative that TLs spend time connecting with all staff about available resources, and cooperative planning, which improves student success. “Collaboration between teacher and teacher-librarian not only has a positive effect on student achievement, but also leads to growth of relationships, growth of the environment, and growth of persons, all conducive to improved experiences for all members of the school community” (Haycock, 2007).
Connection must come first, but to promote resources during collaboration, a TL must have thorough knowledge of their collections. I’ve only been in my library since September and I continue to see new resources, so learning the collection well will take time. The more I interact with the resources, the more familiar I will become with the 13,165 books. As I have been using the materials, and taking this course, I am questioning whether all of the titles are still relevant. Do I need to replace some items due to age or damage? [Check out The National Library of New Zealand weeding web page.] Since September, I have heavily weeded print reference materials, damaged books, and parts of the ‘easy’ fiction section. One of my goals is to use a portion of my library administration time to start weeding more regularly.
Weeding is not done in isolation, but in conjunction with the addition of new resources. TLs are the resource managers of the school and therefore must ask: what new resources – print and digital – are available and align with the new BC curriculum? Are these resources ones that the teachers would find useful? Where will they be stored so everyone has access? Part of my role is to find these resources, and evaluate them using the ERAC Evaluation Document. Once evaluation is complete, I need to consult with staff and ask for input.
Once weeding is complete, and we have decided on potential resources to add to the collection, budget must be considered. According to BCTLA 2012/2013 Working and Learning Conditions Survey, the average library budget for elementary schools was $3,288. My budget is about 1/3 of this amount, and therefore requires a large amount of creativity when acquiring resources. I’m thankful that we do have access to a large number of online databases, and these are being promoted heavily within the school. All other resources are my responsibility, as well as any book repair materials, furniture or other improvements I wish to make to the library space.
A TL has many roles within the school, and we may wear many hats. I feel there is a very steep learning curve in this position, but my TL colleagues remind me that baby steps are necessary. Sometimes it feels as if a lack of time, and money, can limit our abilities to expand resources and programs. We must consider the value of our role in promoting a joy of books, reading, and learning media literacy skills to our students, and our staff. Our willingness to collaboratively plan units and choose resources with our colleagues creates an environment where we are all learners, and that can only improve learning for our students.
Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D., (Eds). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Library Association & The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada.
Canadian Association of School Librarians, Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada, 2014, pages 21-24.
Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: A guide. Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium (ERAC)
Haycock, K. “Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning” School Libraries Worldwide 13.1 (2007): 25-35
Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.