Saturday, 15 March 2014

Significant learnings for Resourcing the Curriculum #1

This unit has been a challenge and a learning curve for me. Having never worked in a school library and not having current access to a school library, has meant that I have had little opportunity for professional dialogue with teacher librarians currently in the position, nor am I able to look at what is in place in my school, as I currently don't have one.

One of the things that concerns me, is that all of this very practical knowledge that I am gathering will have lain dormant for at least another 12-18 months, and will be hard to remember after I have completed another 3- 5 units. I want it to be readily available to use when I do start work as a teacher librarian, sometime in the not too distant future.

So, in order to be prepared, I have been creating a powerpoint document throughout the unit for my personal reference. I am finding this a very valuable resource, that should hold me in good stead with I start working in this role.

This post focuses on my learnings regarding Module 2 - building a balanced collection. I have not had any experience with bundled sets, or a standing orders service. These were new concepts for me. I benefited a lot from reading the comments of other students regarding their experience, or their school context. From the responses other students gave, I compiled a list of pros and cons for bundled sets and standing orders, which I hope should assist me when I am faced with making decisions around this area.

Cost effective – can be cheaper than buying separate titles
clear budgetary spending and forecasting of expenditure over the long term
Time effective
No selection involved – anyone can do it
Exposure to unfamiliar titles
Variety of titles
Easy to build library collection
Materials can be purchased according to specific content and age range
Continual supply of up-to-date material
Useful for new TL’s
Regular delivery of new resources
Only one license agreement required for multiple resources
E-resources can be removed from collection by publisher with little notice
Worthwhile if all staff on board with resource eg clickview
Takes pressure of the TL being abreast of new /latest available resources
Bulk nature makes them value for money
A good starting point for embarking into e-books
Can cater for a broad range of students / topic / interests
Loss of control / lack of freedom of choice / loss of ability to select or deselect resources
Inclusion of unsuitable / un-needed titles for clientele
Titles included that may not be used by clientele: unsuitable, underutilised, under borrowed.
Inclusion of lower quality titles
Publisher / distributor driven
Unrelated to curriculum content and therefore curriculum needs
Relying on supplier to address curriculum needs
Not driven by the needs of the teachers/students/community, the culture or values of the school, individual needs of students etc
Duplication of resources already in the collection – not easy to return duplicate resources
Does not take into account storage / access issues
Narrow / pre-determined selection
Can be costly
Resource selection phase overlooked
Looked in contract period eg 12 months often inflexible and expensive
Limited titles and publishers
Titles may be written for the purpose of publisher bundles and therefore may be of lower quality
Locked into one supplier if  budget is limited
Can use up the majority of a small libraries budget

Expertise of TL is not facilitated

Monday, 3 March 2014

Thoughts on the purpose and role of the school library

We use information everyday to make sense of the world around us. In primary schools the information students access is usually driven by either by the curriculum or personal interest. The decisions that have been made about what knowledge students at a particular stage of schooling are required to know, in the past set by the state, is now being set through a national curriculum framework.

In years gone by, this knowledge was accessed through the teacher, who was seen as the holder of the knowledge, the portal through which information could be accessed. The teacher librarian supported the classroom teacher by building a library collection with relevant and ‘up-to-date’ reference and non-fiction texts. As discussed in ‘The Information Cycle’, information in these texts was first reported on, then studied academically and eventually the academic findings were published. This meant access to information, particularly information that had been simplified for student use, was often published years after the fact.

Nowadays, with virtually instantaneous access to information, students can research events and information as it unfolds without the buffer of quality research, and a guarantee of accuracy. Information is now accessed online, digitally 24/7 and the teachers in school are no longer the gateway to knowledge but the facilitators of developing skills in inquiry and research. Schools are no longer solely about teaching content, but about teaching how to access, assess, evaluate and synthesis information. 

This has had major repercussions on not only the way teachers and teacher librarians teach students to access information, but also the way information is accessed and curated in the school library. Understanding the way that the information cycle has traditionally worked, and that the now instantaneous access to information is not a guarantee of accuracy, places the onus onto teacher librarians to ensure that the library is place where a multitude of rich, quality resources is available to students and staff. With many libraries making a shift to virtual digital libraries, it therefore becomes even more important that there is access to quality, research produced information. This cannot always be guaranteed through the use of the internet, and can be limited by what has been transitioned into digital format. There is also a consideration of the issue, discussed in my previous post that reference, picture books and illustrated books have yet to make a successful transition into digital format. It is vital that the teacher librarian, is able to provide a range of quality information resources, and at this point in time, I believe there still needs to be some balance between the digital and print resources. Not necessarily an equal balance, but a balance of sorts. I don't think we are quite at the point with what is available digitally, of eliminating print resources completely. 

Over the past decade, there has been a need for schools to invest heavily in technology: hardware, software, infrastructure and ICT management. In many schools, this has led to a misunderstanding about the role of the library and the role of the teacher librarian. Where school executive staff still hold a belief that the library is a simply a depository of books, and the librarian a curator of only printed materials, the library is in grave danger of being not only underfunded, but eventually phased out of existence, with resources being ‘reallocated’ to other areas. 

Assertions that 'people don't read books' anymore are bold statements that don't accurately reflect what is really happening in this digital age. People do still read. The function of actual words to communicate a message has not changed. The format that people use to access what they read is what has changed. Whilst gaming and audio visual material for communication information has exploded, people are still accessing information through written word - just in digital formats. There is still a need for teaching students how to read and how to be critically literature - assess, evaluate and synthesise the information they read whether it be from a website, a blog, online reference, social media, databases. There is still a need to be literate in order to begin the information search process - after all there is a big difference in searching for information on boat sales and boat sails. The skills of being able to interpret and comprehend information are the same whether viewing in hard print format or digital. Teacher librarians are skilled in the teaching and provision of resources that enable these skills to be developed across the school.

Students in primary school especially, whilst becoming increasingly digitally savvy, still need access to printed materials. Not all primary schools have the hardware to support a digital - only library, and Bring Your Own Devices are often not a feasible option for most primary school students both for cost and issues surrounding intranet safety. Also worthy of consideration is a desire  and concern from parents of young children, that face to face time with computers and smart devices is not a 24/7 situation. 

It is imperative that teacher librarians are vocal in their pivotal role in provided a rich variety of multimodal texts and are advocates of the crucial and critical skills they provide in resourcing across the entire curriculum of the school.  Having a firm knowledge of the standards for teacher librarians, the Australian Curriculum and how to provide a rich and varied library collection will give teacher librarians the way to advocate for not only the place for libraries within schools, but also the funding for resources to go with it.