What have I learnt about school libraries and leadership?
For Assignment 2 I had to think carefully about creating a vision statement for a school library and ask myself how I would envision the library beyond 2013. Frantsi (2002) suggests that ‘A good school library is the present and the future of the developing learning culture.’ This reinforces the importance of developing a strategic plan to bring about change and how important good leadership is to the school library context. Researching for this subject and assignment significantly reconfirmed for me how important it is for students to be learning in a school library which is relevant to the 21st century.
Working closely with my colleagues in this course, visiting numerous innovative school libraries, receiving valuable professional development from teacher librarians experiencing success in the field and also working closely with my mentor librarian over the past 12 months, has allowed me to envision how I want to view school libraries and where I expect my school library to be by the year 2016. Strategic planning, strong leadership and sharing a vision is essential to enable a vision to happen.
The major issues that affect these changes made this assignment complex, but gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of 21C learning and reconsider the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes of a teacher librarian.
Considering how technology could enhance the library as a teaching and learning environment is exciting, and considering radical changes that I would like to see take place with the library teaching and learning program will ensure that my school library will develop into an exciting learning hub, central to the needs of its users learning in the 21st century. Learning today in a digital world is complex and the leadership challenge placed before teacher librarians is both exciting and challenging, encompassing all aspects of literacy, meta-literacy, technology, and professional development in collaborative partnerships with students and teachers (Crotty, 2013).
Researching the role of a teacher librarian as a leader and leadership styles within a school context has enabled me to realise the vital role that teacher librarians have in educating children. Leadership in a library needs to be proactive, not reactive or reactionary and visionary leadership is essential for change. As stated by Fullan (2006) it is unfavourable to adopt a leadership style that will negatively impact on performance. A leader who forecasts into the future and considers the needs of its users is necessary and risk taking is a part of the process. Along with change comes the task of ensuring policies are constantly revised and updated and old established ideas are replaced with new ones. (Winzenried, A. 2010)
Elmore states (as cited in Fullan, Hill & Crevola, 2006) that professional learning for teachers is important and must occur in context. This assignment highlighted the importance of educators engaging in continuous and sustained professional learning about their practice in the setting they work. (Fullan, M., Hill, P. & Crevola, C. 2006).
Over the past ten years there have been major advances in thinking about the nature of classroom instruction and interconnectedness of teaching and learning and ways of assisting teachers to be reflective practitioners. (Fullan, 2006). Fullan discusses the notion of instruction rather then teaching which is very relevant to our role of teacher librarian where we are facilitators of learning, guiding students through research by scaffolding their learning. Our role is to develop critical thinking skills in students rather than focussing on imparting knowledge on them. This relates closely to a quote I have always liked:
‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’ Plutarch
As a teacher librarian, resource provider, information specialist and educator of children it is important to continually maintain and seek to improve the physical environment of the school library and student workspaces within. This facilitates enhanced teacher and student satisfaction and reduces dissatisfaction (Dinham, 2008) This assignment provoked many thoughts about the school library as a physical space and the importance of its arrangement of furniture and workable areas for students and teachers to benefit student learning.
Educational leadership, focussed school improvement programs and quality teaching practices are central to delivering changes in school settings to cater for the ever changing needs of its clients and to ensure students are moving forward in 21st century learning. David Harding discussed in form ETL504 forum posting (5/8/13) how all teachers are leaders but asked the question ‘Are all teachers effective leaders?’ I agree with David that effective leaders find solutions to problems, enthuse and direct people to find solutions.
Donoghue & Clarke (2010) reflect teaching in that teachers who are working with collaborative staff with strong leadership, a shared vision, relationships and support will become strong learners themselves.
Throughout this course I have learnt that my role as the teacher librarian is to ensure the school library is a thriving centre of learning, an inviting, learning hub of the school which is engaging and promotes interest amongst its users. In developing a quality school library service I need to ensure that the library is integral to the way the whole school functions by carefully considering the following questions:
What are my school’s current identified learning priorities?
What do the teaching staff and students need from the library and the teacher librarian as a quality service to achieve the vision of the school?
How can I contribute to the school’s learning culture?
How does the library vision contribute to the vision of the school?
Through a quality library teaching and learning program I aim to provide effective inquiry and resource based learning incorporating the use of technology and 21st century learning principles. I aim to tap into my imagination to establish a visionary plan for my library space, creating solutions to bring about change that will benefit its users. I can achieve this through ongoing active networking with professional library associations and working collaboratively with teaching staff and the wider school community to improve the library service for all its users.
Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009). Statement on teacher librarians in Australia Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/teacher.librarians.Australia.htm
Australian School Library Association, & Australian Library and Information Association (ASLA/ALIA) (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm
Crotty, R. (2013). Leading into the Future. Retrieved 2013, from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL504_201330_W_D/page/2179fa2f-bbfd-4f13-803d-da9d7fd8c83e
Dinham,J (2007) The Leadership Challenge-Improving Learning in Schools. Retrieved from Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Dinham, (2008) How to Get Your School Moving and Improving: An evidence-based approach. Dinham, S. ACER Press: Victoria.
Donoghue, T. A., & Clarke, S. (2010). Teachers learning and teachers leading. Leading learning: process, themes and issues in international contexts (pp. 87-99). London: Routledge.
Frantsi, H. (2002). A good school library. The school library association in Finland.
Fullan, Hill & Crevola (2006) Breakthrough. Corwin Press.
NSW DET (2006). School Leadership Capability Framework.
Winzenried, A. 2010) Visionary Leaders for Information. P.78 Centre for Information Studies: Wagga Wagga, NSW