21st Century School Librarian

Right now is a time of change, and as such, a great opportunity for teacher librarians to take a leadership role in their schools.

NSW primary schools will start implementing the new curriculum starting with English in 2014, Maths and Science in 2015 and History in 2016. The new curriculum differs from the current NSW syllabus in having three cross curriculum priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture; Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia; and Sustainability. There are also seven general capabilities: Literacy; Numeracy; Information and Communication Technology capability; Critical and Creative Thinking; Personal and Social Capability; Ethical Behaviour; and Intercultural Understanding. I think that there will be a lot of teachers starting to realise that they need support in implementing and preparing for this change. Of course this is coinciding with the cuts to the education consultants in the NSW DEC with the recent budget cuts by the O’Farrell Government.

With “out of school” experts likely to be unavailable this is the time for the “in-school experts” to step forward. Who is the person in the school who knows most about available digital and non-digital resources, who knows how to incorporate technology into lessons, who knows how to define questions, select, authenticate, organise , present and assess information (NSW ISP)? It is your teacher librarian!

Very few teachers and principals realise the skill set of teacher librarians who have both a teaching degree and a Masters of Education in Teacher Librarianship. Have a read of the Standards of Excellence for Teacher Librarians. Teacher Librarians are super-teachers and your “in-school experts” on how to incorporate these cross curriculum priorities and general capabilities. They are trained to collaborate with other teachers to produce units of work and create professional development opportunities for staff. Utilise these talents and pay someone else to reshelve the books. This Education Week article describes a similar situation in the US where teacher librarians are stepping up to provide the in-school experts for implementing the Common Core StarStandards.

This is also a good opportunity to rethink what is the function of the school library. Some principals have taken the short sighted step of disbanding the school library because “everything is on the internet”. Even ignoring the fact that not everything is on the internet, there is a big difference between having access to the internet and being able to effectively able to think of deep questions, select authentic, unbiased information, organise it, create something new with it to solve an authentic problem, follow ethical procedures in attributing sources and self assess the learning that has occurred. What these principals have done is mistake a library for a supermarket where you collect information. Joyce Valenza in her Manifesto for a 21st Century Librarian says that You understand that library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!

Lyn Hays (2010) Shift Happens: It’s time to Rethink, Rebuild and Rebrand is a good article to read about the 21st C library although I don’t agree with her that we need to rebrand as an iCentre. The library is a learning centre not only for students but for the staff at the school.

If you are a teacher librarian and you are not sure that your skills are quite up to this can I encourage you to join us on PLANE. Teacher Librarians are the second most common group on there after ICT/Computer Coordinators. Do a couple of courses and then teach them to staff at your school. Establish yourself as the technology expert and when the rest of your school realises the changes that are coming and needs support-put yourself forward.



  1. ReadingPower1 09/30/2012 « READINGPOWER

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