Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

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.


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.


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.


Katz (2002) August 11, 2009

Filed under: Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 9:42 pm

Initially daunted by the 40 page reading, I was relieved to find that Katz has a readable and charming style. It’s lovely to read such enthusiasm for the profession in the What It Takes section (p. 13-14). It reassures me that I will make a great librarian (while not aiming to be specifically a reference librarian). I am a generalist and interested in just about everything, which means I’m enthusiastic about digging up information. I certainly am a people person and enjoy helping people with their queries. And I’m smart enough to master whatever skills I need to get the job done. I plan on being that wise old librarian, oh yes I do.

As a reference librarian, how many reference titles should you know? Katz says, “As a rule of thumb, the beginner should be familiar with the much-used titles, from bibliography and indexes to encyclopedias and almanacs, found in every library. This amounts to mastering between 100 to 300 reference works. Beyond that is the universe of 15,000-plus titles” (p. 6).

“The librarian must have a thorough knowledge of the electronic data-base, and must be able to quickly ascertain such things as period of coverage, type of materials considered, and frequency of updating. There are about a dozen widely used databases out of a possible choice of over 6,000. Public and academic reference librarians are more likely to search (in rough order of such use): Psychologzcal Abstracts, ERIC, ABI/Inform, M U (Modern Language Association), MEDLINE, Dissertation Abstracts Internatzonal, Sonal Sciences Citation Index, PAIS, Newspaper Abstracts and the GPO Monthly Catalog” (p. 11).

“Today the primary professional duty of any reference librarian is to sift through the masses of information available, on or off the Web, and indicate what is suitable for a particular question, a particular person” (p. 20).

“The path to success is a calm Zen-like attitude. This is based as much upon a good disposition as confidence in when to say, ever so politely “Let’s see what we can find.” “(p. 25).

Katz goes on to discuss evaluation, which is going to need another blog entry.

While reading Katz, I marvelled at all that detailed knowledge that most people never give thought to, even regular library users like myself. I have been struck again and again through this course by how complex and under-appreciated the role of librarian is. I feel like I’m being initiated into a new, esoteric world, and what a delightful journey it is!


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