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.


Sergiovanni – for the common good April 10, 2012

Filed under: Leadership,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 10:25 pm

As Australian schools are being dragged along in sad mimicry of the US system of standardised testing and public league tables, Sergiovanni (2000) articulated my opinions beautifully in his discussion about how to create change in schools.

Rather than positioning schools as organisations subject to market forces, and teacher as self-interested employees who respond only to incentive and penalty, he suggests “building community in schools as a means of implementing deep change” (p. 160). “Market forces, for example, may be more efficient than democratic forces, but they may not be appropriate given schools’ special importance and their responsibility to promote societal interests” (p. 161).

He describes the concepts of ‘constrained’ versus ‘unconstrained’ views of human nature, the first having the expectation that teachers will behave selfishly and need penalties or incentives to do the right thing; the second having the expectation that teachers will behave morally, putting aside self-interest for the common good (p. 156). Change forces which embody the constrained view, such as bureaucratic forces, are ultimately destructive for schools. “Instead of nurturing professional community, constrained views breed cynicism, erode civic virtue, and encourage the development of human nature’s selfish side at the expense of human nature’s altruistic side” (p. 164).

Sergiovanni, T. J. (2000). Deep change and the power of localism. In The lifeworld of leadership: creating culture, community and personal meaning in our schools (pp. 152-164). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Passionate leadership March 1, 2012

Filed under: Leadership,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 1:05 pm

I am reassured by two bits of advice from Jim Collins’ Good to Great (in Donham, p. 297). The first is to know what you can and cannot be best at. Teacher librarianship, as I have come to realise over this course, is a very broad field. In fact, not long into the very first subject, ETL401, I had the OMG response and wondered if in fact I could manage it – did I actually want this job? Collins advises that it is important to be capable at all aspects of the job but to recognise and maximise your strengths. I would also add that it is important to know who you can ask if you need help with certain parts of the job. For example, I would identify my strengths as teaching, literacy and literature, anticipating and meeting library users’ needs, organisation and people skills. The area in which I am merely capable is technology and I would seek to develop relationships with staff members in the school whom I could call on to assist with technology if necessary. The second point Collins suggests is to pursue your passion, as passion is a hallmark of great leadership: “the passion for one aspect of the field will generate the intense enthusiasm to invigorate and inspire students and to keep oneself energized.” For me this would be reading, literature and the pursuit of learning. Reflecting on these two points reassures me that yes, I do want this job and yes, I would more than manage it, I would be great at it!

Donham, J. (2005). Leadership. In Enhancing teaching and learning : a leadership guide for school library media specialists (2nd ed.) (pp. 295-305). New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers.


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.


Multicultural literature – a definition August 17, 2011

Filed under: Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 6:59 pm

In this reading, Cai describes three possible interpretations of multicultural literature:
1. multicultural literature includes literature from all cultures, with no distinction between the dominant and other cultures.
2. multicultural literature includes only literature from cultures which are marginalised – without the elements of power structure and struggle the term multicultural loses its meaning.
3. multicultural literature should focus only on “people of colour”, whose voices have typically been absent from literature.

While always celebrating the multicultural nature of Australia and bandying the word about a lot, I had never really thought about how the term ‘multicultural’ might actually be defined. I’ve always thought of the ‘culture’ part as only ethnic (not just indicated by skin colour/visible differences though – Russian folktales definitely count!). The inclusion of sexual orientation/disability/the elderly etc is new to me and while I agree there are ‘cultures’ associated with some of these, I would probably list them separately in my selection criteria otherwise they may be overlooked by people like me who have never thought about how broad ‘multicultural’ might be. Upon reflection, I think if you have a multicultural library, it means the literature of the dominant culture is there as a given PLUS literature from other cultures. Otherwise it is monocultural (dominant culture only).

As a Teacher Librarian, I think the first priority is to know the diversity of your clientele and cater to that, then as much as possible include representations of other cultures and groups to allow library users to see the diversity possible in the wider world.

Cai, M. (2002). Defining multicultural literature. In Multicultural literature for children and young adults : reflections on critical issues (pp. 3-8). Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press.


What is ‘children’s literature’? Is it different to children’s ‘literature’? July 30, 2011

Filed under: Literature,Reading for pleasure,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 3:34 pm

As part of my subject Literature in Education, we are debating the definition of ‘children’s literature’. This is what I had to say on the forum:

“A definition of children’s literature must consider the role children play – as readers and perhaps as selectors – as well as what ‘literature’ is. Just because it is for children, should the quality that is ascribed to ‘literature’ over fiction in general be compromised? Winch (2006) uses longevity and impact as two measures which might separate literature out from other written works. Enid Blyton was not held in my (childhood) primary school library as she was considered poor quality but her works have stood the test of time and are beloved of many children, so according to Winch, they would be included in a collection of children’s literature. She would, however, be left out if literature meant “high literary and artistic standards” as suggested by Sutherland and Arbuthnot (1991, pp.5-7, in MacGregor’s document).
Personally, I loved Enid Blyton and would love to share her with young readers today, so I think my definition would be broad enough to allow relatively populist authors if they did prove to be lastingly successful, though I would draw the line at the Psycho Bum books, beloved of many as they are…”

I was immediately queried over my judgement of Andy Griffith’s Pyscho Bum books so I must hasten to add that though I find them eye-rollingly juvenile, of course I appreciate their value in appealing to children, particularly otherwise reluctant readers.  I would always have them in multiple copies in a library collection. My question is whether ‘literature’ includes ALL material made for or enjoyed by children or whether it indicates a certain literary merit and is therefore somewhat exclusive. What do you think?

Winch, G. (2006). Literacy : reading, writing and children’s literature (3rd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.


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