ETL507: Final Reflective Portfolio

My Initial Approach:
I began this degree with a year of Primary Teaching experience and three years of work in a Public Library environment behind me. During my year of teaching and my many practical placements in schools prior, I had always been fascinated and attracted to the teacher librarian role. The school library seemed like such a different learning environment to the classroom, it was exciting and vibrant with so many information resources and interesting items at your fingertips. Teacher librarians always seemed to have exciting lessons planned and the learning seemed rich and so different to the ways students learned in the classroom. It made me think that the library was the place where students would best enjoy their learning and here, they would really be able to throw themselves into the subject they were studying.
In approaching my studies during the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship), I was excited to learn how to take on the role of the teacher librarian. I wondered, what would my responsibilities be? How would I best guide student learning in this environment? In what ways do the two roles of Teacher and Librarian combine?

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My infograph – the type of teacher librarian I want to be. (2013). (Author owned)

My research and study over the course of this degree has definitely expanded my professional knowledge and enabled me to see the multi-faceted role of which is the Teacher Librarian. I believe that I have grown through my learning journey to have a more informed understanding of the role of the Teacher Librarian and through my final reflective portfolio, I will share some of the experiences and opportunities that developed my knowledge and expertise and enabled me to be uniquely qualified in both education and librarianship.

 

The role of the teacher librarian:
One of the most important points I have learned, and something that I have taken from this course and kept in my mind during my present employment in a public library and for my future career endeavours as a teacher librarian, is the role of the teacher librarian as an advocate for their profession. I favourited an extremely relevant article on my computer early on in the course that I have shown many colleagues over these past couple of years. It was written by the Australian School Library Association (2009) and reiterates that advocacy ‘is the responsibility of every person involved in developing information literate school communities’. One of the points that most resonated with me discussed how advocacy is a planned, deliberate, sustained effort to raise awareness of an issue and an ongoing process in which support and understanding are built incrementally over an extended period of time and using a wide variety of marketing and public relations tools (Canadian Association of Public Libraries, as cited in ASLA, 2009). This was an important statement to learn as it isn’t enough to just say that the school library is essential to the school community, we need to consistently establish why it is so important. From my studies during this course and my individual research, I learned we need to prove day after day that the school library and its services connect administrators, teachers and students to the information they need and a direct result of this access is an information literate school community. I plan to be a strong advocate for our profession, to justify our existence through the quality teaching of a diverse curriculum which I will enhance with rich and diverse resources, to collaborate and make partnerships for shared teaching and learning, to manage knowledge effectively and maintain and create policies that reinforces the value of the teacher librarian and the school library as resources for information literacy and lifelong learning.

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Created by Pamlovesbooks. Accessed from http://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/MjAxMi0zMDQ0OTQ1YjY3NjI5M2I3

 

Information Literacy:
What is interesting now to consider, as I approach the final hurdles of my degree, was that whilst I was learning about teaching students to be information literate during this course, I was engaging within the practices of information literacy myself. A valuable quote that has stayed with me throughout my learning was one made by a subject coordinator, Barbara Combes, who stated that to be information literate is to have, and be able to effectively utilise, literacy skills, thinking skills, information management skills, and be able to work with information (Combes, 2013). From my initial learning in ETL401, I was focusing on the importance of teaching students the skills of information literacy while I was learning them myself as an adult student learner. When I had my ‘aha!’ moment of realisation that this learning was occurring, I believe I began to better understand successful ways of teaching students the important practices of information literacy.
This realisation was made worthwhile by an assessment activity in the ETL501 course, where we were asked to create and devise our own website evaluation model that we would implement in our library teachings. I found this activity valuable as I was able to critically consider the most important fundamentals of website evaluation and consider whether the features I chose to include on my model would in turn ensure students achieve success in critically analysing and evaluating information on the internet.

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The Working Gears of Web Evaluation (2014). Author owned.

During my study of the ETL401 course I began my early development in understanding the role of the teacher librarian. The Australian Library Information Association and the Australian School Library Association (henceforth, ALIA and ASLA) within the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians (2004), emphasises the role of the teacher librarian as a leader in the implementation of school values and visions through being an advocate and creator of effective library and information services that support and encourage the development of students as lifelong learners (p.1). In completing ETL401 and ETL501, and through completing activities that include the creation of my own teaching resources I learned that it is the responsibility of teacher librarians and teachers to collaborate to provide learning resources that promote the enjoyment of reading, researching and learning and enable learners to become critical thinkers and effective users of the worldwide web.
Some difficulty I encountered involved the study of information literacy models such as Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (2004) and the Big6 Skills Approach to Information Problem Solving (1987). I recall an early struggle when requested to compare weaknesses and strengths of information literacy models and when required to reflect upon the model I would imbed within my teaching I was unsure which one to approach. I still believe that this is an area I will need to further consider and investigate as I will need more research and experience of using the models in order to know which one would best merge with my teaching style. Perhaps it needs to be considered that due to the changing needs of students, the merging of features from multiple information literacy models would better support my teaching of the student learning outcomes. I will consider this as future professional development of which I will be interested to engage within.

Collection Development and Management:
In my progressing studies I began to understand the importance of collection development and management in the teaching and learning of information literacy. Significantly, I learned that collecting ‘as much as possible’ and collecting ‘only the best and most appropriate’ is not as easily defined as it seems (Johnson, 2009). Both through my current working experience, my ETL507 study visit and professional placement, I began to really understand the changing forces that are affecting the provision of library services and how library information professionals are adapting to these changes in order to best provide access to resources for their users. Two of the major and ongoing problems facing all libraries including school libraries is funding and budgets, accessing the money that is required to provide the level of services you would like to, or that your users need.
In order to effectively teach students to be information literate the teacher librarian and students need access to high quality, valuable resources. Through my learning in ETL503 I discovered that the Teacher Librarian’s perception of value may be reflective of a balanced collection or of user demand and that keeping up with new resources, new online and digital availabilities, and technological advances is an on-going and challenging task (Hughes-Hassel & Mancall, 2005). This learning was reaffirmed through my ETL507 professional placement in an academic library, and where I had the opportunity to undertake work in the Collection Management Service department. Here I learned the valuable lesson of how to perform in-depth investigation, analysis and evaluation of the library collections in order to provide a rich and relevant collection that is useful for all users’ needs. Further to this I also discovered the valuable use of statistics in generating performance reports to ensure the quality and balance of the collection. The ETL507 professional placement was a rich learning experience in which I was able to see in practice many of the things I had learnt in theory during my course work and these collection management techniques are systems that will be valuable to put into place in my teacher librarian future.
Further to the provision of high quality resources in the library, the teacher librarian needs to enable access to the resources through effective cataloguing processes. The ability to effectively retrieve information resources when required, necessitates the provision of an efficient and systemic method of information organisation, and the implementation of tools and knowledge that will enable users to locate what they are searching for. During my course I began the journey of learning about information organisation and the subject of ETL505 was crucial in my developing an understanding of how to best create and manage metadata so that information resources are organised in a way that will best suit user access and improve accessibility.
Crucial to my learning to effectively catalogue was firstly, the understanding of a new system of cataloguing called RDA: Resource Description and Access (henceforth RDA), and secondly, the understanding of the importance of metadata standards. A valuable lesson learned from my course was that resource description and the creation of suitable metadata is an important aspect of organising information and document retrieval. It is through following metadata standards and through the use of controlled vocabulary that information is able to be recorded and indexed in a way that maximises effective retrieval. I learned that this requires resource description and metadata to be “functional and useful, comprehensive and detailed, accurate and up-to-date, and precise and consistent” (Hider, 2012, pp. 77-80).
Through studying ETL505, learning the system of RDA, and assessments that enabled me to actually catalogue items and use the Dewey Decimal system, I was able to increase and refine my knowledge of cataloguing of which I have been able to apply in my current role in a public library. I have been able to use knowledge gained from the course learning to individually perform and assist with cataloguing tasks both original and copy cataloguing. The understanding of information organisation that I received during my learning has also empowered me to better understand the bibliographic data in our catalogue entries which has increased my ability and comprehension of how the items were catalogued and why each field in the record was used.
Expanding upon my learning in ETL505, I was the first member of staff to be familiar and have worked with RDA across the library branches. When the Technical Services team were informed of their impending training in RDA, I was consistently and frequently approached with questions and request to share my knowledge of RDA. It was exciting to have such experienced technicians and librarians asking for my assistance or recommendations in the use of the new system. I was so grateful and appreciative of the learning I completed in this course that enabled me to assist my colleagues and increase their opinions of my professional knowledge. This on-the-job application of my learning was so worthwhile.
Effective cataloguing services enable students to access resources, but they can’t access the resources if they don’t know how to search the collection to locate the items. Working in a public library, I was able to understand the importance of how not only having access to high-quality resources is enough, but that the teaching of students in the skills of how to locate resources is vital. A simple task that highlighted this statement to me was through the organisation of the Junior Fiction collection at my work. For many years the collection had been unorganised and difficult to search and retrieve items due to only being grouped under the first letter of the author surname. A project to alphabetise the collection was successfully implemented and completed and it has been a great success in helping the children find the item they are looking for on the shelf. Feedback from children and parents is overly positive, with requests for assistance in locating items on the shelf being noticeably down. Although this was a minor change in collection management, it proved to me how something as simple as alphabetising the collection increase the confidence of the children as library users.

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A collection that is much easier to navigate. (Author owned images. 2016)

 

Learning Strengths and Weaknesses:
In my opinion, learning within this course is affected by whether or not you are currently working within a school library or even within a school. Some requirements for assessments required students to take existing policies and change them, or improve on a situation within the school library. I found this hard to do by not having access to the school environment and school documents and in these situations students who weren’t employed in a school were requested to fabricate or imagine a situation. Personally, I found these learning activities hard to do as I felt like it was not true learning that I could professionally reflect upon.
One such example is the assessment in ETL503 where we were request to revise a school collection policy and where students who did not have access to a policy were to devise a new one based on the scenario of a fictitious school and fictitious collection issues. Although I did gain a lot of experience from devising a collection policy from scratch – and I would argue that this was a useful learning activity and again, a useful resource for my teaching future, I think it would have been beneficial to have access to a real collection policy and an actual library collection that has issues and is unbalanced, and real students whose needs are required to be met.
In saying that, I still believe that my learning in that activity was extremely valuable. Through developing a collection policy for a school library I learned that school library collections are of a changing nature, reflective of the needs of its users. I learned the importance of assessing the needs of students and teachers and how this needs to be reflected in the collection. To involve the library users in the selection of resources in their library, not only for circulation statistics, but for shared ownership of the library. This has been something I have been able to apply in my current working situation, where I assist with the acquisition of items for varying collections and now speak with the library users and ask what they would like to see more across our collections, enthusiastic readers can be helpful in informing where there is a gap in the collection and of any areas in which we could add more items.
On the other side of this I do believe I had an advantage in some subjects by being employed in a public library. I had access to a plethora of resources, I was dealing with patrons every day and helping meet their information needs. I am involved in acquisition processes, collection management processes, ICT processes that I could continually use as experience to shape my learning and support my studies in the course
Across many assessments and activities I participated in during the course, I feel like many of the ones in which I gained the most understanding and knowledge were activities where we were required to use the fundamentals of the information we were being taught (whether it be through existing models or research) and then construct something of our own creation that conveyed the information of which could then be utilised as a resource for teaching our students. One of these extremely worthwhile experiences was when I was given the assessment task in ETL501 of constructing a pathfinder for use as a teaching resource for a unit of work.

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Are We There Yet? Pathfinder created for ETL501. (Author owned image. 2016)

This was a highly successful learning experience as it developed my understanding of the role of the teacher librarian as a teacher of information literacy. We are supporting the students in the learning and refining of research skills that will best prepare them for their learning lives and responding to the needs of learners through ensuring that they develop confidence in their independent research skills which will nurture and enhance their education and growth as a lifelong learner.

My future as an effective teacher librarian:
I look to the future excited by the prospects of being a teacher librarian. Across the course curriculum I have been challenged and it was through accepting these challenges and working hard to develop my expertise that I have felt my confidence increase. I know that I embody the beginning knowledge of being a teacher librarian, and I look forward to being able to put what I have learned during my degree to practice.
In terms of future professional development, I would like to learn more about the processes for applying for grants in order to be able to compete for resource funding. I hope to have a mentor who can guide me with my first application and teach me how to successfully submit a proposal.
I would also like to learn more about exciting ways to promote our services to the wider community, as I feel so strongly about what we do as library and information professionals and I want to improve our perceived image in the community and be an advocate for the profession.
I hope I can make a positive difference in our profession, teacher librarians do so many fantastic things.

 

 

Reference List:
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx.

Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2009). Advocacy: Reason, Responsibility and Rhetoric. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/advocacy/school-library-advocacy.aspx

Combes, B. (2013). Information Literacy Mind Map. ETL401 Teacher Librarianship, Charles Sturt University.

Eisenberg, M. & Berkowitz, B. (1990). The Big6 Skills Approach to Information Problem Solving. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Hider, Philip. (2012). Information Resource Description: Creating and Managing Metadata. London: Facet Publishing.

Hughes-Hassell, S. & Mancall, J. (2005). Collection Management for Youth: Responding to the needs of learners. Chicago: American Library Association.

Johnson, P. (2009). Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management (2nd ed). USA: American Library Association.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services (2nd ed). Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.

Thorley, J. (2013). The Role of the Teacher Librarian.

Thorley, J. (2014). The Working Gears of Website Evaluation.

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