“Teacher Librarians suffer from occupational invisibility…” (Oberg, D. 2006)
The Teacher-Librarian (TL) is currently faced with a significant obstacle to overcome. They have entered into a profession where their role is no longer defined by the boundaries of the building they work in. TLs are expected to facilitate the development of students and faculty into efficient and effective users of information (Kaplan, 2007). But, with the sheer volume of information available to students and faculty, TLs must collaborate, now more than ever, with principals and all facets of the school community in order to receive the support they need and step out of the library into the rest of the school (Oberg. 2007).
In some circumstances, this can require significant change and upheaval of the status-quo. The individuals that, more often than not, are in a “make-or-break” position with regard to these changes (Farmer, L. 2007) are the school’s principals.
TLs can be agents of change, as Hartzell (2009) emphatically points out, the role of TL is not a formulaic one, and the incorporated role of media and information specialist can make a TL aware of new learning opportunities well before many members of staff. But, while it is possible for the TL to implement these opportunities on a one-to-one level with students or staff members, it is the principal who controls the leap from a one-off unit of work into a school-wide initiative. In order to make a much bigger impact on students learning, TLs must gain the support of the major stakeholder in the school community; the principal (Farmer, L. 2007).
No curriculum has life in and of itself – it always requires someone to breathe life into it (Hartzell, G. 2009); a program, or learning opportunity can be viewed the same way. For a TL to fulfill their role as a facilitator of information use, especially the use of new information, the must have the support of a leader or major stakeholder. A supportive principal may be able to aid the ambitions of a TL. By providing time to plan and collaborate with the TL to develop and explore new opportunities and resources, facilitating professional development for the staff to help implement new programs, or by modeling collaboration themselves, a supportive and committed principal can be crucial in developing an open and trusting professional environment (Oberg. 2006).
Collaboration involves those stakeholders who share a collective goal and work together to achieve it, (Farmer, L. 2007) TLs cannot exist in a vacuum, the multi-faceted nature of the position means that there is often little time for the TL to implement quality programs purely on their own. But, considering the collective goal of all educators is to provide opportunities for students to learn, and provide them with the means to do so, this never need be the case
Hartzell, G. (2009) ‘Librarian-proof libraries? Guest rant by Gary Hartzell’ (posted on Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog in 2009)
Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
Todd, R.J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, School Library Journal.
The information profession is in a situation where, if it does not adapt to meet the needs of its clients, it will fade away. Thomas Frey points out that “The library was the center of information revered by most because each contained the foundational building blocks of information for all humanity.” Frey was referring to a time around the 15th Century, but if you can try to imagine that today: a single centre that contained building blocks of information, not just of a culture, but all of 21st Century humanity. It is simply, impossible.
Information professionals in general, and school librarians in particular, may have to give up on being a centre for all information and concentrate on the specific needs of their users. Hughes-Hassell and Mancall (2005) suggest a learner centred model where the librarian serves as a guide rather than expert. In the article on how libraries are re-inventing themselves (Berry, 2012. Part 3 of 7), this model is being adapted to serve specific needs or wants of the public.
If libraries are no longer where people seek answers, then we have to diversify to provide them with more. It is no longer possible for libraries to hold the building blocks of humanity, but maybe, if we’re clever, we can hold the building blocks of a community.
-James Thorn, 2042
As experts (Or would-be experts) in the field of information and resourcing we are often tempted to look at information in a rather sterile way, but I feel the pressing need to remind myself (and anyone reading) that EVERYTHING WE SEE OR EXPERIENCE IS INFORMATION. Every experience you have every day is informative, every little thing you do or see tells you more about the world you live in. The trend of mobile media, of instagram, twitter and the multitude of social tools is a response to people starting to believe that this information is worth sharing.
Informative experiences are coming out of people’s internal lives, and are being widely published on staggering scale. We are creating a new world, and populating it with day-to-day discoveries, revelations on every scale from the mundane to the miraculous, internal monologues, pronouncements, art, dreams and ambitions, personalities both alternate and honest, ever-updated opinions that run through all levels of intellect and experience and the entire gamut of human emotion and ALL of this, every skerrick, is information.
And we want to be information specialists?