Friday, 3 July 2009

Summer Read

I just preordered The Innovative School Librarian: thinking outside the box. According to the back cover summary, the author team, Sharon Markless (editor), Elizabeth Bentley, Sarah Pavey, Sue Shaper, Sally Todd, and Carol Webb present a strategic look at some of the issues currently of concern to school librarians. It is not a "how to run a school library" guide. Instead it raises important questions about the role of the school librarian and the push-pull struggle to be innovative.

Terry Blacker, in his piece entitled Independent, points out that that prisoners have a statutory right to a library, but not school children. In order to survive, teacher-librarians need to critically examine their philosophy and its effects upon professional practice and student learning. Visionary leadership and action is needed to develop effective practitioners in schools librarianship.

Teacher-librarians continue to strive for recognition although they are constantly under threat. They are a mainstay on the endangered list and battle identify theft as the budget encourages non-qualified employees to manage the library. To move forward, teacher-librarians must shed the binding models that interfere with student learning. The book presents three models and the models are reminiscent of a Joan Frye Williams' podcasts for the Arizona State University:
  • The Managerial Model - The role of the teacher-librarian is to catalogue and deploy resources. The effectiveness of the teacher-librarian is measured quantitatively - circulation statistics, size of collection, and number of class visits. The quality of student learning is not a factor.
  • The Technical-Rationalism Model - "Emphasis on the mechanics of the role: cataloguing, issuing books, display work, sending lists of new books to teachers, organizing author talks and providing user education on how to use the library systems to locate items." The priority and sole responsibility is to place the "right resource in contact with the right person".
  • The Social Democracy Model - This model is characterized by the attempt to provide equitable access to information through the design and market of services that appeal to all the school library's users. Developing relationships is a priority
    parts of the school community.
Where does this leave school librarianship in the 21st century?
Teacher-librarians must develop a professional sense of identity to avoid confusion, disempowerment, and de-professionalization. Professional identity is a complex entity that cannot be explained by one model. However, teacher-librarians must raise a critical lens to develop a clear sense of self, vision, and ethics. It is then that teacher-librarians can impact student achievement.

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