Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

A changing perception June 2, 2009

I entered this course seeking qualification for a role that may be disappearing or probably never existed. With a primary teaching background and a personal love of books, my emphasis was on reading books for pleasure, more than information. I loved the library exactly for its separation from the fast-paced, stressful world of the classroom. No parents, no reports, and books books books.

My first blog entry, Hello World (26/2), reflects my one-sided view of the library as a repository of stories and me, the teacher librarian, as the reader and guide, but it also mentions how the librarian is “involved with all the staff” and describes the library as “the hub of the school”, two concepts which turn out to be critical in my new, informed imagining of the role.

At the residential school, I was excited but overwhelmed by the presentations. The video clip Information R/evolution rocked my world. I wrote in my blog entry But Is It Crap? (8/3), “After watching the mind-blowing video Information R/evolution I had feelings akin to panic as I realised I was entering a domain I knew almost nothing about.” I had a sinking feeling in my gut that perhaps I was in the wrong course, a feeling that would recur periodically.

The readings were nearly all fascinating, opening my eyes to a world of deep-thinking, ambitious professionalism that I had never suspected. I wrote in the Topic 1 sub-forum, “these readings have reinforced my strongly held belief in the importance of collaboration. It has rekindled my interest in RBL, which I see in practice at my kid’s pre-school and less and less frequently as kids progress through school. And it has certainly made me aware of the critical impact of school libraries and TLs on educational outcomes (thanks to Haycock’s searing report on poor Canada)” (9/3, A proud and beautiful people).

However, the breadth and responsibility of the teacher librarian’s role seemed overwhelming, summed up neatly by Anne Olsen in the Topic 1 sub-forum, “Just now the task of a Teacher Librarian seems at once impossibly worthy and . . . impossible” (7/3, About the impossible).

The measured response of Judy Bolton in the Topic 2 sub-forum was reassuring and inspiring. “Before a T/L even contemplates communicating her or his priorities to others, I believe that s/he must make them clear and palatable to her/himself. … So our first priority must be to ourselves…. a clear articulation, within our own mind, of what we must/ want / need to / CAN do in our individual situations” (9/3, First things first: communicating our priorities). It was good to be reminded that there might be an ideal role, but we must start from where we are and not feel intimidated by the task.

Reading about teaching and learning reminded me how much I love teaching, and that it is a part of the teacher librarian role I will relish. The learning theory behind Kuhlthau’s work inspired me, especially Dewey’s vision. I wrote in my blog entry Kuhlthau the Guru (12/4): “[T]o say in 1944 that a democratic society “must see that its members are educated for personal initiative and adaptability” (in Kuhlthau, 2004, p.15) is so progressive.” It also fits perfectly with the information literacy concept of empowering learners to cope with the rapid pace of change in the 21st century.

Collaboration is a topic I am passionate about and I assume, wrongly it seems, that everyone enjoys sharing and working with others as much as I do. In my forum post for Topic 3, I wrote: “would it not be reasonable for a principal to set up an expectation that TLs are included in grade meetings? Would teachers really feel imposed upon or threatened to have another professional joining their planning? Whether the TL would have time to do it is another question, but in theory, it seems simple enough. Or does it???!!!” (2/4, Am I out of touch with the real (school) world?) Several other posts from practising teachers and teacher librarians indicated that if fact many teachers out there keep a very closed shop and see collaboration as threatening and invasive. It’s a challenge I am ready to take on.

So, perhaps I am inspired enough by the potential for change to set aside my quiet vision of reading stories, shelving books and showing someone how to find Argentina in an atlas, though I will still relish those moments. I am becoming convinced of the importance of information literacy in this Web 2.0 world our students are growing up in, with which we must also engage if we want to help them learn. If I can make it through this course I hope I can get out there and make a difference.


Bolton, J. (2009) ETL401 Forum posting to sub-topic 2, First things first: communicating our priorities, 9/3/09.

Haycock, K. (2003). The crisis in Canada’s school libraries: The case for reform and reinvestment, Association of Canadian Publishers, Toronto, Ontario. Retrieved from CSU Library Reserve database.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Learning as a process, in Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-27. Retrieved from CSU Library Reserve database.

Olsen, A. (2009) ETL401 Forums posting to sub-topic 1, About the impossible, 7/3/09.

Szentkuti, P. (2009) ETL401 Forums postings to sub-topics 1, 3. (Various entries).

Szentkuti, P. (2009) Pen’s TL Blog, (Various entries).

Wesch, M. (2007) Information R/evolution. Available at


Doug Johnson May 15, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 10:49 am

Where oh where did I stumble upon Doug Johnson? Somewhere in the readings, OzTL_NET perhaps? or a link from another page.

Anyhow, he is the Director of Media and Technology in the Mankato Schools (Minnesota) and a consultant, writer and speaker about school libraries and technology. He is pretty funny, as well as wise, and collects library-related witticisms you will want on your T-shirts.

Here is his Internet Serenity Prayer:
Technologist, grant me…
the Serenity to accept that not everything can be found on the Internet…
the Courage to go to the Library…
and the Wisdom to evaluate the information I do find.

On a more serious note, his rubrics for assessing technology skills for teachers are a great way to find out where you need to improve.

Lots more to explore. Bye.


Kuhlthau the guru April 12, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,ISPs,Teaching and learning strategies — penszen @ 2:19 am

I finally got around to reading Carol Kuhlthau and yes, she is a guru. Having looked at a few of the other information search processes (ISPs) like the Big 6, the NSW DET process and Herring’s PLUS model, I really appreciate the more holistic approach Kuhlthau takes which incorporates the feeling side of the learning process as well as the thinking and acting aspects.

Her chapter titled Learning as a Process, in Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services (2004) is a fascinatng read. Revisiting some learning theory after nearly twenty years was invigorating. Is it because I’m older now, with more life experience, more insight into teaching and learning, that Dewey seems so brilliant? I don’t remember appreciating him as an undergraduate. But to say in 1944 that a democratic society “must see that its members are educated for personal initiative and adaptability” (in Kuhlthau, 2004, p.15) is so progressive. For decades after he wrote, schools were still places where children had to sit quietly and rote learn facts without questioning the teacher. In some classes I fear that’s still the case.

George Kelly is a new name to me, though I have heard of personal constructs and subscribe wholeheartedly to the concept. I am a great believer in the “endless opportunity for change” (p.17) that Kuhlthau describes, though sadly many people seem to find threats to their personal constructs too overwhelming and simply reject the possibility of change. Attitudes about homosexuality seem deeply ingrained, as well as beliefs about gender roles. From an educational perspective, I have seen young learners firmly holding on to personal constructs of themselves as ‘stupid’ or ‘slow’, not to mention the ‘naughty’ kids who find it hard to reimagine themselves as anything different. It takes a patient and persistant teacher or carer, who can repeatedly find opportunities for that ‘naughty’ child to do the right thing and feel the positive consequences that come from it, for that construct to change.

Jerome Bruner builds on the work of earlier constructivists. He describes construction of knowledge as a complex, confusing process. He stresses that thought, feeling and action do not each stand alone, but “constitute a unified whole” (in Kuhlthau, 2004, p.23). Too much new information arouses anxiety but too much redundant information induces boredom. As educators providing a learning experience, we must find a balance that will stimulate the learner without provoking so much anxiety that the learner will switch off.

Kuhlthau summarizes thus: “The process of construction incorporates a cycle of acting and reflecting, feeling and formulating, predicting and choosing, and interpreting and creating” (p.26).

In our second Kuhlthau reading, The Process of Learning from Information (1995), these theories are put into practice. Kuhlthau explains how important a process is to cope with the information overload we are faced with in modern society (p.2). Without a process to follow, we are aimlessly grabbing at bits and pieces of information, with no coherent strategy, easily becoming overwhelmed.

Kuhlthau’s model works through the steps of initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection and presentation, but it also describes the feelings that a learner may experience throughout the process. When a learner knows what to expect, they are better able to cope with the feelings of confusion and anxiety that arise during the challenging phases of the process. The emotions are normalised and when equipped with strategies to move forward, the learner need not remain paralysed by confusion and indecision.

I particularly liked the discussion about what is ‘enough’ (p.10), as I am currently flailing a little in my own assignment, still reading and seeking and wondering if I should include this, or that, perhaps the other. I suspect I haven’t quite formulated my own perspective, which Kuhlthau explains is necessary to determine what is enough. Her ISP “treats the concept of enough as what is enough to make sense for oneself” (p.10). I recognise that I am still cycling through stages two to five… selecting, exploring, formulating and collecting, wondering if I’ve selected an appropriate obstacle, exploring some more, reformulating, collecting some more…

Which reminds me, I have an assignment to write.


Quality teaching April 2, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,RBL,Teaching and learning strategies — penszen @ 8:41 am

I’ve moved through a few responses to the discussion paper about quality teaching from the NSW Department of Education and Training.

On first skim, I rolled my eyes at the jargony quality of it. I have a real aversion to jargon – I believe it is a great way to maintain and increase social division. While obviously some fields will have terms not familiar to the layman, using big words and long sentences where smaller and shorter ones will do serves only to alienate a large number of readers. (Did I just do that? Oh dear.) The target audience for the DET paper is educated to at least tertiary level but too much jargon will still send a lot of teachers running. If the way I react is anything to go by, others too may feel defensive and negative about what they are reading and quickly switch off.

However, once I settled in to reading it more closely (fortunately my course required it!), I thought it was a thoughtful and positive document. It definitely promotes a move to an RBL style pedagogy with a focus on student direction, self-regulation and engagement. Information literacy is addressed, though not completely, in the “higher order thinking” section where it describes students being “regularly engaged in thinking that requires them to organise, reorganise, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate knowledge and information” (p.11).

There is some nod to collaborative teaching and learning in the “social support” section, which states: “There is strong positive support for learning and mutual respect among teachers and students and others assisting students’ learning” (p.13).

Finally I got a little bit excited about it. I especially liked the concept of “problematic knowledge” where “students are encouraged to address multiple perspectives and/or solutions and to recognise that knowledge has been constructed and therefore is open to question” (p.11). That feels positively subversive! Are teachers out there ready to be challenged? I hope so.


Mind mapping March 26, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,Role of TL — penszen @ 11:33 pm

I’ve just spent a delightful hour sorting out my thoughts about my ETL401 assignment in a mind map helpfully provided by, a natty little free site which believes in “providing the minimum features to get the job done. We think that having few features that are perfected and polished is better than having many features that are hard to use and remember.” ( Accessed 27/3/09).

rAmen to that. (Yes, I have joined the Pastafarians and in true evangelical style I recommend you check it out too.)

What makes an information literate school community?

What makes an information literate school community?

I found thanks to Judith Way from Preston Girls’ Secondary College via OZTL_NET. She had found it on Bright Ideas, a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria. I’m enjoying the OZTL_NET dialogues very much and look forward to engaging more actively whenever I have something to offer.