Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

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.


ETL503 Reflections May 29, 2011

From observing school libraries in action, it appears that it is very common for collection practices to occur which may have originally been a response to particular circumstances, or convenient at the time, or which suited a particular person’s style, and now have become “the way things are done”. As an observer, it is easy to see inefficient practices occurring which may never be questioned (Why have a CM policy, 2010).

Having a written collection policy as well as procedures outlined in writing means that someone has, at least once, looked critically at the policy and the practices of that particular library, and tried to see the big picture. Unpacking this sentence reveals many important elements which I have considered during this assignment:
someone” – the person in charge of the library, hopefully a qualified teacher librarian, in collaboration with other stakeholders
at least once” – once the policy is written, is it ever revised to maintain relevance or does it become a dust-gatherer?
looked critically” – rather than just described uncritically
that particular library” – not a generic library, a library with a unique group of users which demands its own policy, not a policy copied from another school
the big picture” – how the library complements the school and its aims

The one element that came through in every reading for this assignment was the emphasis on the collection meeting the needs of the users. (Bishop, 2007; Hughes-Hassell & Mancall, 2005; Debowski, 2001). As someone with boundless enthusiasm for books and resources and all their delightful intrinsic value, I found useful the constant reminder that selection must focus on the users, not occur at the whim of the selector.

The other major learning curve was considering the role of electronic resources in the collection. The school library I visit has yet to embrace this new model, aside from housing computers for students to use, and the change must occur there first in the head of the teacher librarian before it will take any real form.

Doug Johnson (2010) does a fine job of highlighting the value of technologies which our students widely use and which we must provide as part of their learning environment. I find it interesting and daunting that, as this is such a new area, we are obliged to make up rules and guidelines as we go along. No one actually knows what works best and perhaps this demand for courage to try and fail and flexibility of thinking is what is holding so many teacher librarians back. I am inspired by those who have embraced the challenge and share their work on blogs and listservs. I think this course is equipping me to be one of the triers.

Completing this assignment has given me a much greater appreciation for policy as a vision, as an active document rather than a dull dust-gatherer. I look forward to bringing this enthusiasm and knowledge into my future role as teacher librarian.

Bishop, K. (2007). Community analysis and needs assessment. In The collection program in schools : concepts, practices and information sources (4th ed.) (pp. 19-24). Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited.
Debowski, S. (2001). Collection program funding management. In K. Dillon, J. Henri & J. McGregor (Eds.), Providing more with less: collection management for school libraries (2nd ed.) (pp. 299-326). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Hughes-Hassell, S. & Mancall, J. C. (2005) Collection Management for Youth : Responding to the Needs of Learners. ALA Editions. Retrieved from CSU library.
Johnson, D. (2010). Libraries for a post-literate society. Connections, 72, 1-2. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from literate_society_1_2.html
Why have a CM policy? (2010). [ETL503 Module 8.] Retrieved May 9, 2011 from 41341abf1c4f


Shame on LA schools department. May 26, 2011

Filed under: Ramblings,Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 1:15 pm

I have to register my horror at what is happening in LA schools. In a effort to cut spending, the LA Unified Schools District (LAUSD) is closing school libraries and trying to get rid of the librarians too. If they haven’t taught in the classroom in the last five years, they are making teacher librarians face a court to prove they have actually been ‘teaching’ while doing their job.

One wonderfully articulate teacher librarian tells her story on her blog And remember, she’s not a double agent in Russia, or a dissident in China – she’s a teacher librarian in the so-called land of the free.

Read it and weep.


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.


Ready to launch again February 18, 2011

It’s time to reinvigorate my blog as I embark on a new subject in my masters degree, ETL503, Resourcing the Curriculum. This subject is all about the management of library collections: the selection, organisation and deselection of library materials and how best to meet the needs of the library users. The area I’m most curious about is digital collection management – how do you store, catalogue and provide access to digital materials such as websites, especially when they are such rapidly evolving things?

I have mixed feelings about resuming the course, after a semester off. I’m curious and enthusiastic, on the one hand, definitely refreshed by the break. I’m also nervous and fearful, having found the subjects thus far extremely challenging. I’ve received marks in the 50s. Ouch. As I’ve pursued this course, I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m not being very good at, well, hard work! That gives the wrong impression, but I don’t know how else to put it. I was always a bright child to whom things came easily, and I’ve been reading recently how such children are at risk of not developing a habit of persisting with challenges. Tamara Fisher (2008), gifted education specialist, puts it like this: “A lot of gifted students get used to getting everything “right” the first or second, sometimes third time that they try it. Many of them, frankly, skate through school. They develop a myth in their own minds that they should always be able to do anything the first or second, sometimes third time that they try it. Yet we as adults know that Life has a different plan for them in that regard. At some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), learning will get more difficult.” For me, the skating has continued till this masters degree, and now, with a hideous crrrraaaack, I’ve fallen through the ice and the water is COLD. I have been repeatedly tempted to quit, but fortunately my stubborn nature and pride are an even match for my fear of failure, so here I am, ready to launch again.


Fisher, T. (2008). Chase the challenge in Unwrapping the gifted. Retrieved February 18, 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.


ETL501 Update August 31, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings,Teacher Librarianship,Technology,Website Evaluation — penszen @ 9:26 pm

I have been finding this subject, ETL501 The Information Environment, much more manageable and practical than the last. I actually feel up to date on the reading and on top of the assignment. What a treat! The forums are well organised, with groups of people being asked to contribute each week, so we are not inundated with posts. I expected a little more contribution on the forum from our subject co-ordinator James Herring but I’m now used to the idea that it really is a place for us to share our learning and I suppose he only needs to add something if we are really stuck or wrong. When it comes to the assignment, James is prompt to answer questions and provide guidance.

The assignment has been very useful. We need to evaluate two sets of website evaluation criteria and then use them to evaluate four websites on a topic of our choice. Even if I don’t do well in the assignment (and I am still lacking confidence after my disastrous first experience) I will have got so much out of it. I’ve read widely and looked at so many criteria that the key points are firmly in my head. I go with Alexander and Tate’s (1999) reliability elements: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage and audience. Then I add some of Herring’s (2004) and Schrock‘s (1999) educational criteria: relevance, suitability, language level and overall appeal, as well as their suggestions for technical criteria: design, stability, navigation, speed of loading, graphics, level of advertising and need for plug-ins.

One of the sets of criteria I evaluated came from the American Library Association (2009) and it’s comprehensive and clear, but it’s possibly a little repetitive and there are a lot of points. I like a set of criteria which is a manageable size, even though it’s hard to cover everything, and somehow memorable. What I don’t like though, in something like Neutral Bay Public’s CCs, is that the natural grouping of criteria gets lost in the effort to make them fit a memorable concept. That’s why I didn’t love Schrock’s ABC, even though it’s so thorough, because it’s a bit scattered. So there’s a challenge for me, to create my own brilliant set!

The other thing that struck me in doing this assignment is that finding the right websites for a very specific purpose is actually very hard! I chose Minibeasts as my topic, and settled on a Year One level, as that’s a level I know well, and I thought it would be easy – there were so many relevant sites! Once I came to evaluate them though, I found that most were too difficult and some that were just right, content-wise, were horribly designed and didn’t work well on a technical level. Of course the easy thing to do would be to adjust my pretend task upwards to make it a year 3/4 task, but no, I’m taking this on as a challenge now.

I’m looking forward to the second assignment, where we design a pathfinder on our topic on a website or a wiki. I can’t wait to get into a school and actually do this stuff for people who will use it.