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


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


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.


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!


Herring Chapter 1 August 7, 2009

Filed under: Teaching and learning strategies,Technology — penszen @ 9:25 pm

I love reading and thinking about teaching and learning. I tend to have a sieve-like mind, so I’m happy to revisit ideas and concepts and greet them as familiar yet still delightful friends, details about whom I’ve forgotten (for the moment anyway).

In James Herring’s book, The Internet and Information Skills (2004), he begins by discussing how important it is that the internet is used within a teaching and learning context, not just used because it is there, new and exciting (“technological determinism” p. 1).

I remember when computers were still new, when I was in high school in the 80s. We went to the computer lab and indeed it was entirely removed from the rest of the curriculum – we learnt basic programming and typing, made up quizzes and played Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? It was was great fun and in the end probably reasonably useful. Our educators knew that these would be the machines of the future and we had better get a head start. I think there is an argument for ‘teaching’ a technology for technology’s sake, though certainly we should be critical about its usefulness. It is essential to ask, What’s the point? in all educational pursuits.

Herring goes on to discuss behaviourist learning theories, cognitive theories like the evergreen Blooms Taxonomy and my old friend constructivism. I used to roll my eyes at university when the lecturers waxed lyrical about constructivism, not so much at the content as at the newly converted fervour that accompanied it. Actually, I have proven to be a teacher who naturally creates a constructivist learning environment. I’ve never been didactic and I’mnot comfortable standing up the front delivering information. I like to set up intrinsically interesting activities and let them go. I’m pleased that that seems to work 🙂

When it comes to using the internet and technology as learning and teaching tools, I am lucky to have worked at a school where this is pursued with skill and enthusiasm. I have looked on in awe as the year fives present their work in multimedia and the teachers carry their laptops instead of baskets of books and paper. I can definitely learn a lot there.

Now here is a dumb question. What is the difference between aims and objectives? and even learning outcomes?? I feel like a fraud, because clearly a real teacher knows this stuff. So perhaps someone can give me some examples. I may even look it up on the internet, seeing as that’s what I’m meant to be getting skilled at. Will report back!


Travel tales July 31, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings,Technology — penszen @ 10:22 am

We have just returned from a 6 week trip to the US. How different it is travelling with children. I wanted to satisfy my adult self by going to art galleries and museums, browsing in groovy little shops and sitting in cafes morning, noon and night. But no, my mother self knew that to keep a happy balance in the family, we had to spend lots of time in playgrounds and by water. Venturing out on big missions every day just led to exhausted, overwhelmed, ratty children. And a grumpy frustrated mother. So we found some kind of compromise and I appreciated just being somewhere different, meeting other mums with different accents and stories to tell, and taking little tastes of the more capital C Culture when I could get it.

The public libraries we visited were wonderful. Carlsbad (near San Diego) had a classy modern library with a coffee cart out the front (very important), a welcoming open design, interesting art displays and a great kids’ area. I very much appreciated the library in Boston. On rainy days our local branch in the North End was a great option for the kids, with toys and puzzles as well as books. To my delight I was able to get a “courtesy card” which allowed me an hour a day internet access. It is the only library I’ve seen with a water feature and fresco in the middle of it. Charming.

Now we’re home and as the jet lag recedes, the pressing issue of study emerges. ETL501 looks practical and relevant, and indeed very important for me, with my reluctance to move into the Web 2.0 world. I’ll be glad to find out how do-able websites and wikis are, because I’m sure they are. I am actually very competent on the computer, when I am forced to learn. I discovered that when I had to publish a poetry journal in a previous job. I didn’t do a fancy job with the desktop publishing, but it was fine. And this blog lark has been a breeze (though I’d like more time to actually write stuff!)

Say hello to my positive attitude!