Final Reflection


I am not in a library yet, but when I do have a library of my own I will draw on all the ideas I have gained on this journey.

Theme 1: Community Analysis


This first theme introduced us to what seems like an obvious idea: we must understand who is using the library collection and how they are using it. “Effective collection must be based on reliable knowledge about the collection's users (in the case of a school media center-students, teachers, administrators, and perhaps parents being served).” (19) This consists of understanding the whole community: our students, staff and the community at large. With the assistance of administration staff and the Ministry of Education web site, I was able to generate information about our demographics so to better understand who the users are. Collingwood School is situated in one of the most affluent postal codes in Canada. Our students are from wealthy families. They have easy access to technology and they have very high expectations of post secondary success.
Besides our clientele, it is essential the teacher-librarian understand the needs of teachers and the expectations of the curriculum for all subject areas. While this may seem like an obvious part of the teacher-librarian’s job, in school like ours, we offer so many subjects, it is daunting for teacher-librarian to familiarize herself with all of the learning outcomes for so many courses.
In terms of the library program itself, the teacher-librarian must use care to organize a schedule. Should the library have a fixed, flexible or mixed schedule? Once the teacher-librarian understands the community and its needs, she can decide how best to meet them. As our school library must service a Middle and Senior school program, flexibility is a must. A fixed schedule works very well in an elementary school where the teacher-librarian often provides prep time for the classroom teacher. “In flexible scheduling, classes are scheduled as classroom teachers and the media specialists define a need.” (26) This allows for more students to make use of library resources as they need them and importantly, according to Bishop, develop as “independent users of resources.”
The teacher librarian must also consider what other services she must offer including booktalks, assistance with research projects, offering copying and printing services and presenting professional development opportunities for staff. The list of programs the teacher librarian may offer is very long, but of course comes back to full circle considering the needs to the community of users to help make the library as useful as possible.

Theme 2: Collection Evaluation


Once the teacher-librarian has developed a solid understanding of the needs of the clientele, she must now ascertain where or not the collection is meeting the needs of the community. The evaluation of the collection can be done in a variety of ways, and so to start “one must identify what information to collect, how to record it, how to analyze it, how to use it, and with whom to share it and why.” (142)
The teacher librarian at my school assisted me by print several reports regarding the collection. The average age of the collection was 1995. I was very surprised to find the collection as old and in poor shape. Spending time wandering the shelves was rather disappointing. I found so many yellowed and unused books just filling up shelf space. However, most surprise where the actual circulation stats: as of February 4th, 2011 only 821 fiction works had been checked out. There are just over 600 students from Grade 7-12, so they were averaging 1.37 novels per student (and we have a mandatory private reading program in our all of our English classes.) Whatever students are reading, sadly they are not picking it up from the Collingwood Library.
Bishop offers a variety of techniques for evaluating the collection both qualitative and quantitative. “The collection evaluation process provides an opportunity to work with students, teachers, and administrators to ensure that a collection meets their needs.” (157) All of the stakeholders need to be involved in the process and take ownership of the data. Then together with the teacher-librarian, the community can build the collection to best suit their needs by filling its voids.
Theme 3: Weeding the Collection
I approached this particular theme with much trepidation. Weeding sounded so scary and so final. Bishop analyzes weeding as: “Psychologically one of the most difficult tasks.” (124) I dutifully read up on what makes a book a “weed.” I asked our teacher librarian to outline our school’s weeding policy. She offered me the criteria including: items that were 10+ years old, damaged, last circulation date is over 5 years and where the content is no longer current. I read about the benefits to further build me confidence. Weeding helps the collection by creating more space, make sure that material are accurate and relevant, and making the sure of resources more efficient.
Removing that very first book is daunting. But looking at it more closely, examining its yellowing pages, smelling its musty scent and finding the due date tab in the back demanded its return by April 15th, 1995, I suddenly had a feeling of relief come over me. Not relief that I would be able to complete this assignment, but relief that I had begun to save the library collection from itself. The more I pulled, the most cathartic the whole experience became. It actually felt great, that is until the teacher-librarian made me actually through the books I weeded into the dumpster. That was a very uncomfortable feeling.
Sometimes a necessary evil, sometimes a therapeutic thrill, weeding is a necessary part of the ebb and flow of the collection and yet another responsibility for the teacher-librarian.

Theme 4: Issues in Collection Management


Given that my school is independent and not governed by a district, it is up to our school librarian to develop an appropriate set of policies and procedures. Because we are a lone entity, I think Bishop’s suggestion applies especially to our situation: “A library advisory board comprised of teachers, administrators, parents and perhaps students can assist with the development, approval, and implementation of both policies and procedures.” (35) Giving the stakeholders a voice allows for many more people to take ownership and can provide unique insights.
There are so many topics that require policy statements including: selection criteria, weeding, gifts, maintaining equipment, internet/technology use, and intellectual freedom. (39) Bishop believes policies and procedures should exist in a written format, but I believe publishing them on the library website makes for a more clear and open approach and would make it very easy for the community to completely understand expectations.
A selection policy is among the most important to establish. It is essential that the needs of the community are first and foremost. The criteria for selection my include meeting the needs of the curriculums, relevant, appropriate and “have a high degree of potential user appeal.” (44) Much of this is quite straightforward. An issue that is not as straightforward is controversial material. “You need to include a statement that your school media center supports the principle of intellectual freedom and explain why it is important to maintain.” (45) Having an established policy to deal with parental concerns over materials can make an awkward situation be resolved more smoothly. Intellectual freedom must be protected. According to the Canadian Library Association: “It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.” In a school library, the teacher librarian must be responsive to the age range of students and consider their sensitivities. The former teacher librarian took this to an extreme as she kept what she considered “mature” novels behind glass in her office. Students could see the books, but could only check one out if she felt they were mature enough for the material. Interesting, this created animosity. Students do need guidance in selecting appropriate material, but adolescents need the freedom to chose for themselves.
The one type of conventional resource that still has a place is the novel and the teacher –librarian must take a lead in promoting literacy in her school. The teacher-librarian must visit classrooms or welcome classes for booktalks, can offer reading programs, and promote reading every chance she gets. Something as simple as a recommendation to a student can go a long way to getting a book in a child’s hand. Working with teachers and administrators to promote reading can be difficult, but essential.

Theme 5: Acquiring Resources for Your School Library


Selecting appropriate resources can be challenging. If a major criteria is that the items are well-utilized by students, then a great deal of research needs to go into selecting material that is appropriate and of interest to them. From my research of the selection assignment, I found journals to be the most effective source for recommendations and reviews like the School Library Journal.
The format is an interesting issue with the advent of so many new technologies. Bishop’s text becomes out dated here as it makes references to purchasing cassette tapes, CD’s and DVD’s. He does look at electronic materials and finds advantages and disadvantages to e-resources. His issues with access to technology is becoming less and less a problem. In fact, it is unlikely that our students will use conventional resources at all in post-secondary learning, or in a very limited manner. And eventually, our libraries will be completely digital. Our selection policies need to focus more on the future of resources for the sake of all our students, especially our struggling readers: “Students "with differences" want safe places to search for and acquire knowledge, rather than depositories of physical books. We want to know, from the minute we begin searching, what forms this book or information is available in, and how to access it.” (School Library Journal)

Actually purchasing items means dealing with jobbers, bookstores and publishers. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these different types of vendors. According to The School Library Media Specialist, “a positive relationship with your vendors can be very important.” I would image a positive relationship would help with finding resources may require extra time and effort or getting deals on resources. Another thing to consider is how much of the processing would be completed by some vendors and how valuable that is to the function of the library.
Ultimately, acquisitions is about budgeting. One can only acquire the resources they can afford. Danny Callison identifies a variety of traditional budgeting processes, but recommends one where resources can be allotted more efficiently: “A learning resources budget process is based on two important principles. One, the needs of the learner are identified and drive the content description for the budget. Second, dollar resources are shared or combined from as many sources as possible so that these learning needs can be met.” When moneys are allotted based on format or popularity, the most necessary resources are not always purchased. Focusing on curriculum and content allows for flexibility in purchasing the resources the students need and will actually use. And while it seems obvious to suggest that a teacher-librarian must tie budget requests to curriculum, it is absolutely essential to successfully acquiring the moneys she needs to supply her library.

Theme 6: Further Issues and Conclusions


Access
The teacher librarian can now play an even more important role in education as students learn through an inquiry approach. According to the BCTLA, “Teacher-librarians support both teachers and students as they explore multiple sources of information to create new knowledge and learning.” This means that besides the usual issues of keeping information and resources easily accessible for students in a 24/7 world, the teacher-librarian is responsible for assisting students in finding the best information to support their inquiry because: “What students learn to do with information is more important than the specifics of the information itself.” (BCTLA) The challenge here lies in training teachers to let go and allow students to acquire their own knowledge through inquiring about an issue or question the student has. In secondary school, teachers often feel pressed to get through content not recognizing the true value is in the skills acquired through learning the content.
As far as the actual online access to library resources, I don’t believe our school library’s site is easy to maneuver. It is not terribly intuitive as my students complain about not being about to find what they are looking for and needing me to hover over them and point out databases or the catalogue. One of the best virtual library websites I have come across is the Springfield High School library (http://springfieldlibrary.wikispaces.com/). The teacher librarian created a visually appealing glogster poster that links to the library’s resources including databases, ebooks, the catalog, websites, pathfinders and so on. It is the kind of visually appealing design that students can and want to navigate easily.
Copyright and Intellectual Property
As the keeper of the information, the teacher librarian must take on a leadership role in promoting proper use of information. Understanding expectations of fair dealing and Creative Commons is imperative for the teacher librarian. The teacher librarian must teach students how to responsibly use information by citing sources so to give credit to its producers: “With respect to criticism, review, and news reporting, the user must mention the source of the material, along with the name of the author, performer, maker, or broadcaster for the dealing to be fair.” Wikipedia Style sheets and lessons on MLA and APA format in conjunction with completing a research paper will equip students with the ability to avoid intellect thievery.
It is important to teach students to use Creative Common materials on line and to show them where to find these resources like on Flickr. The vision of Creative Commons is “Realizing the full potential of the internet — universal access to research, education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.” The internet is the wild west with easy access to every kind of resource online. Students need to be wrangled into understanding what is protected content. The teacher librarians must be on the forefront of respecting and paying for intellectual content and artistic creativity.

Concluding Thoughts


And so as this journey through the selection of learning resources draws to a close, I can reflect on my own growth in understanding so much more about library resources and beyond. I have been teaching for 20 years and have spent many hours in the library, working with the teacher librarian and introducing students to all the wonderful resources and learning. It is amazing how much information literacy has changed. I recall in my early years the teacher librarian showing me these amazing cd roms that students could use for research. Now, my students are blogging and working on class wikis creating their own content for the world wide web of information.
We have moved into the age of knowledge. It is vast and immediate. My students will be bombarded by more and more information and so the job of the teacher librarian has grown even more important. I will need to stiffer through the information to create a workable and practical library. It will be more and more a virtual place where students may be right in front of me, in another part of the school, or in another part of the world. They will still need me to guide them through the process of using information effectively and efficiently.
We have to discard our old ideas about resources, and look to the digital future. We must equip our students with the skills to maneuver through the fields of information as they acquire knowledge through the inquiry process. Our jobs and libraries will evolve along with technology and information gathering practices. Our work is only beginning.

References

Bishop, K. (2007). The collection program in schools: Concepts, practices, and information sources. (4th ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited