Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

A fresh new library September 7, 2012

Filed under: Libraries — penszen @ 12:47 pm

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, when my son’s school moved their library into a beautiful renovated space. I visited other school libraries to get ideas and inspiration, I helped with the hard boring job of packing up, storing and moving, which included the horrifying sight of a roof leak over the summer and hundreds and hundreds of water-damaged books. We dealt with unexpected setbacks like finding the built-in shelving only fitted two shelves of large books, not three, so we essentially had a third less shelving than planned for. So much arranging and re-arranging of the collection. And re-arranging. And re-arranging. Finally though, with a lot of wonderful parent volunteer help, without anyone killing anyone else, the new library came together. Here is a taste of the transformation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




ETL504: What did I learn? July 6, 2012

Filed under: Leadership,Libraries,Ramblings,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 4:07 pm

Teacher Librarian as Leader was a great pulling together of many facets of the course so far. We got a primer on leadership styles and how to work with different personality types, as well gaining an insight into our own style. I’ve always known I’m a ‘people person’ which in leadership speak means I have a democratic and affiliative style. The weakness with that is that I’m too focused on everyone’s happiness at the possible expense of getting things done, i.e. I will usually prioritise people’s wellbeing above the task, in an effort to avoid unpleasantness or discomfort. However, to get things done sometimes requires putting people (including yourself) out of their comfort zone, making them work harder than they might like to or try things they might otherwise avoid. A good leader should be able to do that, knowing it is for the good of the overall project, in this case the school and the students. Admittedly, as a teacher, I am capable of pushing students to enhance their learning through engaging lesson design and when necessary, both carrot and stick methods (mainly carrot, at the early primary end) so maybe I’m underselling myself, but I know I am more timid with adults. Anyway, only time and experience will tell!

ETL504 then asked us to pull together all our prior learning to create a three year vision for the school library and explain how it would manifest. I had trouble with this, not because I haven’t learnt a truckload over the last 3 years and not because I didn’t spend hours and days working on the assignment (though a poor mark makes it look like that, sadly). I think it was the fact that I based my assignment on a school library I am familiar with which is only barely operating as a 20th century library. My vision started from this point and it just wasn’t visionary enough with regard to 21st century learning. Also, I spent too much time discussing basics such as access and attitudes and not enough on the all-important teaching and learning. At least that is the last assignment I have to do based on a real library, which has proved to be an ongoing problem for someone not already working in a library. Either I have written too vaguely and theoretically or in this instance, too prosaically. Oh well. Much as it makes me doubt my worth, I must remind myself that the learning did occur, even though I was unable to articulate it adequately in the assignment.


Hello Arthur February 19, 2012

Filed under: Libraries,Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 9:36 pm

About to embark on ETL504, tonight I read the introduction to our textbook, Arthur Winzenried’s Visionary Leaders for Information (2010). Despite the monochromatic 80’s-textbook-style cover, it promises to be a thought-provoking read. First up, Fullan’s idea of the ‘moral purpose’ of the library (p. 7), to differentiate it from simply an IT centre, which many think is all we need now that technology brings information to the masses (by the masses). Winzenried quotes Hughes (p. 7), saying that it is impossible to teach without consciously or unconsciously imparting morals. I remember something like this in a reading by Estes and Vasquez-Levy (2001). They talked about values in education, saying that simply by giving time and attention to a topic you are ascribing importance and value to the subject and to learning itself. The teacher librarian’s role is essential as an intermediary between the user and the information, not least because we bring that value to the process. Winzenried describes how productivity fell in some sectors after their libraries were removed, saying, “Despite all the technology, people at the ‘coal face’ still needed some interpretation, collection or management of the information they needed in order to work efficiently” (p. 14).

It is a relief to feel reassured by the ‘experts’ that the teacher librarian’s role is a worthy one, to back up my own instinct. I am also delighted that Arthur seems to have no time for name changes. Library it is and library it may remain.

Estes, T.H. & Vasquez-Levy, D. (2001). Literature as a source of information and values. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(7), 507-511. Available from

Winzenried, A. (2010). Visionary leaders for information, Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for
Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.


Censorship April 8, 2011

Filed under: Collection management,Libraries,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 10:07 pm

This has been one of my favourite topics thus far because I thought I knew where I stood on censorship, then I did the readings and had to have a rethink. Gotta love that.

In Kim Moody’s comprehensive article, “Covert censorship in libraries: a discussion paper” (2005), she describes various possible sources of censorship that may occur in libraries. Some relevant to schools are vendor or publisher bias, acquisitions outsourcing, pressure from funding bodies and the most insidious, self censorship and ‘community standards’. Working in (even loosely) religious schools, I have observed censorship in such laughable forms as drawing underpants on a naked Mr McGee in Mr McGee and the Biting Flea by Pamela Allen and more worryingly, in the lack of books about puberty at a girls primary school, even though girls begin puberty as early as eight and often by the end of primary school. When books were acquired, they were kept off the shelf in the back room, to be ‘requested’. As if a confused 10 year old getting her period for the first time is likely to boldly ask at the circulation desk. Hm.

Self censorship is more intriguing, meaning that the librarian’s own biases and prejudices affect his or her selection, whether knowingly or not. This is what makes having a well-defined collection policy so important, to over-ride such biases in our own selection.

But this is all relatively straightforward in my mind. What made me think was Moody’s discussion about the ethical minefield of ‘hate’ literature. She quotes Chomsky: If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Of course that’s true, but does that mean you should include texts which are racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-Semitic? How extreme do ‘views’ have to be before they become unacceptable for inclusion in a library? What is important to remember is that there is literature about these topics and then there is literature advocating these ways of thinking. A library can include the former, which may acknowledge the issue while contextualising it, without containing the latter.

As a children’s librarian, I feel a drive to offer materials that reveal the breadth of the world out there, which will include its beauty, potential and confusion but must also include its ugliness. Many parents question the bleakness which pervades a lot of contemporary fiction for children. Issues include death, drug abuse, homelessness and sexual assault, among other things, even in picture books. As teachers and librarians who can censor at will, we must walk the fine line between protecting children from what may frighten them and allowing them to explore the world through the relative safety of books when the time is right.

Moody, K. (2005). Covert censorship in libraries: A discussion paper. Australian Library Journal, 54(2), 138-147. Retrieved from


Out and proud. March 11, 2011

Filed under: Libraries,Ramblings,Reading for pleasure — penszen @ 1:50 pm

I’m not sure what librarians are trying to prove. Is it that they feel undervalued, unrecognised? They can come across as so condescending, as if we mere mortals cannot possibly be aware of the trials they face managing resources for an ungrateful public. I appreciate that it’s true, the average punter does not realise what a complex and demanding job it is to be a good librarian. I stress good librarian. We all know librarians who fit the stereotype of a sour-faced, mean grouch who doesn’t seem to want to actually share ‘their’ library resources. We also know perfectly pleasant librarians who have their systems in place, from 20 years ago, who do not seem aware of the changing pace of the world outside their shelves.

Good librarians are truly amazing people, with energy to burn, curiosity, empathy and minds sharp, quick and broad. They know their patrons and they know their products and they are not afraid to lead. Most importantly, they learn unceasingly, and they share that learning. I have been inducted into the world of good librarians through this course, and especially through the OZTL_NET listserv, which connects librarians all over Australia and beyond. They are inspiring. I fancy I could be like that, but I also came into this course because I have a love of books. I know. Shoot me now.

John Kennedy, in his 2006 book Collection Management, is withering when he states, “Until ten or fifteen years ago, entrants to library science courses were notoriously prone to nominate a ‘love of books’ as the reason for their choice of career” (p. 35). I know, John, how naive! While being a shameless lover of books, I do recognise that it does not automatically make you a good librarian, but I would dare to say it is a desirable attribute. Despite the growing number of alternative information sources and entertainment media available, libraries are still largely populated by books. I would be disappointed if my librarian was anything less than enthusiastic about books. Perhaps I am so book focused because I work in the primary realm of the education landscape, where learning to read is paramount as an entry to learning and pleasure. At our end, books are still an integral part of the library experience, and I will continue to love them, out and proud.

Kennedy, J. (2006). Collection management. A concise introduction. Revised edition. Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga.


The post-literate world March 3, 2011

Filed under: Libraries,Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 1:03 pm

I love Doug Johnson. What an interesting thinker he is, and always respectful of readers. His article, Libraries for a post-literate society (2010), invites me to think more positively about the move our society is making away from print towards other methods of information sharing and entertainment such as audio, video, graphics and gaming. As someone for whom words, especially the written word, are more nourishing and comforting than food, this is a challenging shift. Johnson convinces me with the argument that this move is in fact a revitalising of traditional forms of communication such as speaking, storytelling, dialogue, debate and dramatisation which were displaced by the advent of writing . He notes that “now these modes can be captured and stored digitally as easily as writing”. Instead of inviting friends over to sit in the parlour and listen to each other play the piano or recite a poem, we record ourselves and upload it to youtube to share with our friends and the world at large. So what does this mean for libraries, especially for school libraries? Johnson reminds us that libraries transmit culture, so resisting the technology juggernaut allows libraries to become irrelevant.We must engage with these new forms without bias, as Johnson reminds us, to really offer library services that are meaningful to a range of users.

Mal Lee, in his article A library without books? is much more strident in his warnings about the irrelevancy of school libraries that will not keep up. As the digitisation of schools progresses, he foresees “each classroom becom[ing] a digital teaching hub and thus a ‘state of the art library'”. This assumes that every teacher can take on the role of librarian and information specialist, able to guide and teach students how to manage the volume of information available on their laptop. This assumes every teacher individually has time to source and manage best quality digital resources for their teaching and learning experiences. I would argue that a state of the art library needs a state of the art librarian. Lee is also insistent that name changes, from ‘library’ to ‘information services unit’ for example, signal qualitative change. I am yet to be convinced that this is an necessary step. Lee argues that “[t]he old labels serve to inform the educational administrator that that group/entity has not moved with the times.” I would propose that it is the actions of the librarian and the activity of the library that will be noticed, regardless of titles. A principal should know what is going on within the library, whether it is moving with the times. Rather than worrying about the name, the emphasis should be on the relationships between the librarian, the school administration and the school community as a whole, and whether the librarian is stepping up as a leader within the community.

Johnson, D. (2010). Libraries for a post-literate society. Connections, 72, 1-2. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from

Lee, M. A library without books? Connections. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from


Focusing on the needs of library users September 19, 2009

Filed under: Libraries,Ramblings,Role of TL — penszen @ 1:46 pm

Topics 5 and 6 have been meaty and provocative, asking me to really define what I think a library does, how far its services extend and how best to offer them. The message that keeps popping up for me is that the focus must remain on the users and their needs. I remember in ETL401 being reminded that it is not “our” library, it is the users’ library, and as I had been nurturing a little fantasy about getting “my own” library one day, I had to take stock. I’m a community minded person by nature so I don’t think I would fall into the trap of making the library how I want it, regardless of the school community and its needs, but it is good to be reminded. Complacency is always a danger.

In Topic 5, Tyckason’s (2003) article reported how for library users, the personal interaction with a librarian was more memorable than the actual information being sought. I agree wholeheartedly that we must not dehumanise the library service too much. As a public library user and a teacher librarian, I know that libraries are spaces that provide more than just books and information. They provide community for lonely people, meeting spots for friends, refuge for outcasts, free entertainment for families and warm comfort on cold days. Our local library has been closed for renovation all year and as a stay-at-home mum, I am sorely missing it, not just because we can’t change our books as frequently as we would like, but because our visits there are a sanity-saving part of our weekly routine.

At our nearest toy library (which is part of a regular library), they just opened up their brand spanking new circulation desk, with two self-service machines for checking your own books out. This is a great idea, but the librarian was so keen to show me how it worked, she overlooked the fact that I was juggling my baby, the baby bag, eight books, a DVD and two toys as well as keeping an eye on my four year old. On that day, I really just wanted a nice librarian to check my stuff out for me. She was so focused on the new technology she ignored the needs of the user.