Good shelf life

The teacher-librarian's role is evolving with the times

Martin Gray

Books are still an important part of every library

Libraries have never been places that are only about books. The library has always been a repository for information and technology, and a 2016 survey shows that more than 95 per cent of librarians teach information and technology skills to their students and nearly 50 per cent teach their school staff. There is little difference in their mission today than when school libraries first became common in NSW.

For a teacher-librarian, best practice involves supporting the whole school’s teaching and learning, with a focus on information skills.

A teacher-librarian is most effective when working with classroom teachers on class work or other assessment tasks: isolated information skills lessons are widely understood to be less effective.

This requires planning sessions between the classroom teachers and the teacher-librarian which, while difficult to organise in a busy school schedule, can lead to better outcomes for students. Examples of such collaboration might include teaching a senior PDHPE class how to use the local library’s subscriber databases to find research articles, or collecting physical resources for a junior history class on the topic “Australians at War” from a library collection.

Books are still an important part of every library. Reading on paper can lead to more indepth comprehension and greater recall of a subject than online alone. Books also foster an enjoyment and appreciation of reading and the teacher-librarian is expected to choose appropriate material to add to and remove from the collection. Children are more likely to find enjoyment and appreciation in library resources if their searches do not return irrelevant or excessive results.

A school library is not just a collection of information: it is also a space. That space has to be managed for most efficient use. Booking of classes, distance education lessons, catch up examinations, teacher meetings or quiet study. The space must be managed to accommodate all these competing educational, spatial and technological requirements, often simultaneously.

A well-organised and presented library will often be the gem of a school’s buildings and used to host parents and other community members at information, award and school promotion events.

Importantly, the teacher-librarian should be part of the whole school, and as such take part in all school programs, welfare, discipline, sports (or chess) and anything else that is required. The teacher-librarian, as the Department’s Handbook for School Libraries says, leads the library on behalf of the school.

Martin Gray, a Google Certified Innovator and a Department of Education Google Champion, is gathering data on the way school libraries and teacher librarians are used today

Read this article in full in the latest issue of the Centre for Professional Learning’s journal, JPL here. Reading JPL can be counted as Teacher Identified hours for Maintenance of Accreditation.

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