Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

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.


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


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


The beginning of the Pathfinder mission September 24, 2009

Filed under: Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 9:27 pm

Today was the beginning of my pathfinder mission. Not the journey – that started earlier in the semester when I first discovered what a pathfinder was and checked some out on the web. A pathfinder is a guide for students (or any learner) on a particular topic, which covers key words and information literacy skills and suggests both print and digital resources. What a great concept! How have I never seen these before either in my role as a teacher or as a (fake) teacher librarian? James Herring writes more about pathfinders in his blog this week.

Anyway, as my understanding grew, I felt ready to tackle creating my own. I’ve signed up with PBworks and had a little look around. I think I’ll look at Wikispaces just in case, but I’m keeping in mind our lecturer’s advice to focus on the content, not the fanciness of the layout and design of the site.

So today I visited the library at the school where I used to work with a plan to “do” the print resources section of my pathfinder. I am interested in the Solar System topic undertaken by Year 4 at the school, and my own four year old is heavily into space, so we can all win here!

As the focus has been so heavily on the website part of the resource list, I was a bit blase about the print resources. Easy, I thought, good ol’ books, I can handle them. But after five minutes I recognised that of course they would take as much attention as the digital resources – the same evaluation as to their pertinence to the topic and suitability for the audience, the same reliability criteria to be met. And then, to write a five or six line annotation takes time and thought! It has to cover not just content but guide the student in their use of information literacy skills. Yikes, I think I need to block out some more time and get busy!