An international school library perspective

Balinese dancerThis week I am delighted to be immersed in international perspectives on school libraries and teacher librarianship as I participate in the 42nd annual conference of the International Association of School Librarianship. IASL conferences provide a gathering point for leaders and practitioners in the field of school libraries, and has allowed me to meet some amazing and inspirational people over the years. This year, the IASL conference “Enhancing Students’ Life Skills through the School Library”  is hosted in Bali, Indonesia by the Indonesia Association of School Library Workers, an independent organization facilitating school library workers to improve competencies and develop school librarianship in Indonesia.

After preparing the conference paper “Building a Vibrant Future for School Librarians through Online Conversations for Professional Development” I was fortunate to be able to present a lively presentation and discussion session (translated into Indonesian) about digital environments and the work of the School of Information Studies to support online conversations as part of the personal learning networks in this context.

School libraries in safe hands

School libraries are vital
Last week was magical – because I had the chance to meet some of the great people that continue to want to be teacher librarians, and who make the commitment to take up studying as an option in quality professional development in order to do the job well!

It doesn’t matter what anyone says – I KNOW that a good school library can only be run by a qualified teacher librarian. A good teacher and ICT leader can do a lot – but they are not versed in the discipline of library and information studies and there is just so much that they can’t know.  No fault of their own – they just haven’t ‘learned the trade’.

Don’t believe me?

Then ask the 60 wonderful people who attended the training days that I ran with my colleagues for the Department of Education and Community Services in NSW. Every one of them is a quality teacher.  But every one of them left the two days of workshop activities stunned by what they were now going to be learning as they study to become quality teacher librarians.

Here in NSW we are fortunate that a school library is an essential, and a qualified teacher librarian is also a required position in each school!

In this year’s cohort at the DECNSW we had teachers of all ages and experiences. We also had a few geeks, who will be able to help the group get up to speed with Web 2.0 environments and online tools.

In the last few weeks we have also been traveling to different capital cities, meeting our new students entering the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) program at Charles Sturt University.  Our degree is delivered fully online, and can be studied at a pace to suit individual needs.  While many of our students are located in Australia, many more are located in city and country areas around the  world.

March will see the commencement of Session One for all these new students.

Welcome to you all!

If you missed enrolling for the start of 2013, it’s not too late to start your new career option later in the year. Visit our information pages at CSU.

Strategic directions for school libraries

Perhaps one of the most challenging conversations to have in libraries and learning communities as we move towards 2013 is the arrival of RDA.  Yes, here is a new acronym that needs to be embedded in our thinking. 2013 will be a year of living dangerously when RDA arrives. Don’t know about RDA yet?  Then it’s time to get excited, and up-to-date!

As we  close off 2012  many school librarians are busy with their annual stocktake (at least those who haven’t adopted a rolling model of collection maintenance). These same librarians and their staff are perhaps oblivious of the exciting developments that are taking place that will impact on how we manage collections and how we support curriculum in the years to come.

For my money, this is where the rubber hits the ground.  Its where the need for proper professionals in schools becomes more important than ever.   Here we have innovation happening under our very (information professional) noses – yet we have staff in school library senior positions who have no qualifications in the field or who have not done any further academic training to keep up with the changes needed to manage collections in the digital world that is the 21st century.  The next few years are going to be very exciting and challenging making it doubly vital that school leadership understand the importance of having  well-qualified teacher librarians and school librarians leading information services in schools.

These very issues were highlighted at the recent SCIS ASKS Forum held in Melbourne recently. How will education libraries best serve their communities in 2015? Support for the new Australian curriculum makes it imperative that we include emerging technologies and global understanding of information organization in the knowledge matrix that we support. It’s no longer about organizing those container of information that’s important – it’s the connections and access pathways and interpersonal learning experiences that a good school library can facilitate.  It is a teacher librarian’s job to empower students and teachers information access needs, and to manage systems that support this.   We are very lucky in Australia that  Education Services Australia, and the Schools Catalogue Information Service have their eye on this for us.

School library systems, media systems, LMS systems etc need to become the 24/7 structured access point for meaning connections. Here we have the key issue in that our multiple systems need to draw on as well as contribute to a knowledge matrix – one that connects to the various information repositories beyond our schools as well.

Old Questions: New Answers

How can this be done? Is there a vision for this? Enter the search and access power that is driven by Web 3.0 developments and the semantic web.  What’s different about school libraries now is that collections are really no longer about Dewey, or silo catalogue systems. In a world of API and open data, libraries ( particularly school libraries) are faced with a significant conceptual challenge.  Tim Berners-Lee introduced linked data in 2006 and unleashed the future! In 2007 the joint steering committee for Resource Description and Access said that RDA

would be a new standard for resource description for the digital world.

The point of it all is to provide a consistent, flexible and extensible framework for both the technical and content description of all types of resources and all types of content – everywhere, anywhere, always!  When search engine collaboration in 2011 added schema.org, we knew that the future was here. Traditional library data has had its day – and this century we are all about linked data ontologies that facilitate computer communications and  interaction for the benefit of human knowledge.

There is so much to learn, and so much to deploy. Essentially we need to create a new roadmap of open access and interoperability, to allow RDA new standards in schools to take us out of the confines of traditional library services, and to engage with the Semantic web.

Metadata has been changing everything, and information professionals have been leading these developments, mindful of  the semantic web and linked data.  There is a lot to discover and learn about.  If you are a teacher librarian, please make this part of your professional learning agenda for 2013. We are on the web and of the web, and our opportunities to improve the information and knowledge matrix in schools is fantastic – if we know how!

Visit SCIS Asks Forum, and check out the information from the Forum –   even add to the discussion via the survey forms.

Thanks to SCIS for allowing me to kick-start the day with some provocative ideas about Strategic Directions for School Libraries.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki

Hands on the future – spotting Web 3.0.

I recently returned from an outstanding conference in our region, hosted in Singapore by the International School Library Network. I have not had the opportunity to previously attend this conference, but with nearly 300 delegates  and 46 workshop presenters the Hands on Literacy  2012 conference was certainly a success. I was there to present the Keynote to round up the conference day, and I hope that Preparing our Students for Web 3.0 Learning did that in some small way.

But first we started with school library tours the day before, visiting all the various libraries at  Tanglin Trust School, the Singapore American School, and the United World College of South East Asia. What wonderful ideas and new design ideas were captured in each of these schools! Sofa seats with bookend designs, book-swap bowl,  painted designs on chairs, the most gorgeous story corners, the cleverest display and promotion ideas, and so much more. If you ever have the time to join a conference in the future, and take the tour you won’t regret it!

My favourite was the huge sign outside the entrance to SAS – asking for contributions to the annual year book.  Cool huh? Particularly since I hear that some students spend a lot of time on Instagram, even in preference to Facebook.

Learn and learn and then learn some more – I think that was perhaps the underlying message throughout the conference. Hands on literacy took many shapes and forms, and the challenges were equally met by enthusiasm and a willingness to share. Joyce Valenza set the day perfectly with a bucket-load of challenges, so even before anyone hit the workshops their heads were spinning.

My message is really that today’s novelty is tomorrows norm, whether we like it or not. And tomorrows norm is going to take a shape and direction that many have not even considered, even thought the shift is already taking place before our very eyes.

Our personal information age may well have been launched in 1993  when the Mosaic 1.0 browser made the World Wide Web available for contribution and participation by anyone with access to the Internet.  It was a revolution. The future possibilities are likely to be just as different to those initial experiences – so are we ready prepared? Now in the “Internet of Things” anything imaginable is capable of being connected to the network, be come intelligent offering almost endless possibilities in human/technology interaction. Information and learning are at another cross-roads, and I like to think that teachers and teacher librarians are going to meet these developments with their eyes wide open.

Today we are surrounded by interfaces for discovery.  What do we want from technology? How can we create better experiences?  Our new networked society is going to fundamentally change the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and sustain. Come with me on the journey. Now!

Image: Faces cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Leading the Learning Revolution

Last Friday I ventured down south to Melbourne to join a vibrant and amazing conference on Global e-Literacy: Learning the Re-invention of Learning put on by SLAV – The School Library Association of Victoria.

Great venue, great people, great program! These great Victorian innovators gave me a wonderful welcome, and allowed me the honour of kickstarting the day with a presentation on Leading the Learning Revolution.

The MCG Members Dining Room was a great place for a smaller sized group of a 100-200. No footballers or cricket players, but the size of the venue, and reminder of the many victories and losses at that ground was just the right kind of razzle for discussing the conference topic of Global e-literacy: leading the reinvention of learning.

The day included  my globe-trotting friend Jenny Luca discussing multimodal literacies, and drawing on her vast experience of working with students and leading a school in integration of technologies. The round-table workshops were a fantastic idea – moving from one curation tool to another. I had great fun showcasing Diigo with my cheeky friend and podcast hero Tony Richards from the EdTech Crew.

Short sharp presentations on LibGuides (Di Ruffles, Melbourne High School). Apps Swap Meet (John Pearce), Curation Tools (Cameron Hocking) and Library Design (David Feighan) topped off the day. We had a wrap from Cecilie Murray, who kept us on our toes with challenges to take away for tomorrow and the future.

Fab day!  Loved catching up with old friends, and making a few new ones.

What a new teacher librarian can make!

One of the ongoing joys of working in Higher Education is the opportunity to work with those entering the profession that you have been passionate about for many years.

We’ve nearly all of us been tantalized by that wonderful What librarians make. Or Why Should I be More than a Librarian? from Joyce Valenza on Vimeo, inspired by Taylor Mali and his poem What Teachers Make. When aspiring teacher librarians encounter her vision, they are overwhelmed on the one hand, but exceedingly excited on the other.

So I get really excited when I hear the stories from recent graduates, who start making a difference – almost straight away. One of these new graduates – now a friend and ‘sometime’ coffee shop partner nearly burst out of her seams when she landed her first job. That enthusiasm has been going non-stop, the result of which has been library transformations on a shoestring, with flair!! Welcome signs have been crafted. Poles have been decorated. Girls have been crowding back into the library – and now they are going to have information literacy in the curriculum too!  Not bad for less than 6 months.

Our brand new TL didn’t stop there. Before I knew it she was busy creating a web site for her library. I shared this link to Auburn Girls High School Library on Twitter. What Bec demonstrated with this work is that any school library and teacher librarian CAN have a great physical and virtual learning environment – on a budget – with professional enthusiasm and love for the work.

I couldn’t resist profiling this work of a recent graduate – it shows what a difference a new teacher librarian can make!  Twitter friends also liked the work – and provided some great feedback. Two examples here tell the story –  success is about interface and about content!  Of course, many libraries have big and wonderful sites – but if you don’t have one yet, Bec has shown how a bit of work and produce wonderful results.

Thanks Bec for bringing enthusiasm and professional dedication to the profession.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Kasaa

Is school librarianship in crisis and should we be talking about it?

While teacher librarians and school library services continue to adapt to the needs of their students and school community in response to student learning needs, the future is not always rosy. We have been given comprehensive evidence that in Australia there is indeed a crisis in school librarianship, and that we need to be talking about it.

This was the topic of my short presentation for ALIA BIennial Sydney 2012, which only touched broadly on the actual content of the paper submitted.

If we recognise that there are many forces at play within schools that impact on provision of library and information services, then we have some idea as to why school libraries are caught up in that potential crisis of budgeting as schools continue to adapt to 21st century learning needs. It is when competing constraints are in operation that school librarianship inevitably comes under scrutiny, resulting in adaptations and changes that can have long-term implications.

6.6 It is indisputable that the value of teacher librarians’ work has been eroded over the years and undervalued by many in the community, be it by colleagues, principals, parents or those in the wider school community.

School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia

Perhaps one of the most disheartening conversations that have emerged in recent times has been in relation to the leadership and staffing of a school library. Many have noted the shift that can take place in a school where teacher librarianship is sufficiently undervalued, so that teaching staff are appointed to “run‟ a school library, with little or no qualifications in the field appropriate to the nature of the services that a school and its students deserves. Conversely, staff may be appointed who may have a library qualification, but who are not teachers.

6.7 The profession has unfortunately been subject to the many competing priorities that school principals find themselves contending with in an environment in which education budgets are ever stretched.
School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia

The Australian Government Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarianship provided us with a substantial review that indicates the vital need to continue the conversation about what a teacher librarian is, does, and can do into the future. (Inquiry Report, 6.17). This conversation (i.e. research activities and professional development opportunities) will ensure that individuals, groups and organizations will be better placed to continue advocacy on behalf of the profession.

A good place to gain an overview of the influences in this conversation is in the Learning in a Changing World (2010) series, which addresses how the learning environment and the services to support it are evolving. The series presents the core areas for teacher librarians and school leaders to consider for 21st century learning: the digital world, virtual worlds, curriculum integration, resourcing, and the physical environment. This series highlights key themes that contribute to the ongoing conversation:

1. Successful learning for 21st century students is shaped by the digital environments within society and in our schools
a. Learning involves connecting, communicating and collaborating in multimodal environments
b. Rate of technology change is accelerating as it a teacher‟s responsibility to facilitating learning in current and emerging digital environments
c. Resources are being managed with better technology tools and refined digital integration
d. Curriculum innovation depends on integration with digital and multimodal approaches to learning
2. The scholarship of teaching is influenced and shaped by digital environments
a. Models of learning are being developed that accommodate multimodal learning environments
b. Mobile devices and virtual environments are essential components of learning
c. Learning theories are responding to creative, cognitive and meta-cognitive engagement with literacy and information needs that have emerged as a result of digital environments.
d. Curriculum innovation depends on adopting a teaching and learning approach that is flexible, student-centered, and incorporates a range of tools and devices for digital connectivity
3. School libraries need to respond to a 21st century information ecology
a. Literacy and research frameworks need to be developed to respond to the unique developments in digital environments
b. Action-based research needs to drive the decision-making cycle
c. Guided enquiry is an essential tool for curriculum integration
d. The school library is a virtual and physical learning commons for whole-school library services
4. The teacher librarian must be a curriculum leader with responsibility for supporting whole school learning frameworks that meet challenges that the digital context has created
a. The teacher librarian leads information provision in their schools, with an increasingly strong focus on digital resources and environments
b. The teacher librarian designs the learning environment of the library to respond to the pedagogic and technologic changes in learning and teaching taking place
c. School libraries are hubs of professional development and collaborative action
d. The teacher librarian leads the ethical and responsible use of resources underpinned by the mix-and-match environment of creativity, literacy and knowledge activities that digital environments have fostered.

Working the crisis!

Teacher librarians are already acknowledged as being creative and wholly competent in the traditional literacy and information literacy aspects of their role as well as in all dimensions of the technology/mobile enhanced learning environment. Despite this, the challenges facing schooling and schools today continues to promote or erode the “status‟ of the teacher librarian and the school library depending on a variety of critical circumstances.

The full paper presented at ALIA2012 Biennial Conference is available here.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by robinsoncaruso