I am presenting to teacher-librarian colleagues about ‘digital communication tools’ this week. I’d rather say we are ‘collaborating’ than I am ‘presenting’ and have used survey monkey to collect data from the delegates prior to the conference about their needs and yammer to seek advice about the perceptions of what ‘skills’ and ‘knowledge’ are needed in our contemporary libraries to engage students. This ‘data’ makes for very interesting reading and reveals some strong opinions.
The topic I was set – ‘digital communication tools’ – seems straight forward but the more I think about how to structure the hour the more it seems essential to establish a philosophy and acknowledge (my) paradigm. As always, context is everything and I am not a teacher-librarian.
The photo below is me, on the first day of kindergarten, squinting into the sun with my library bag in hand. My first tooth fell out, lining up for a library lesson, as I chewed on that string. I can still taste the drawcord. The other photo is the view from my office at school. I am located near the fiction shelves and often chat to students about what they are reading, suggest a book or website and browse the shelves myself. I found A Game of Thrones last week. Couldn’t believe my luck that Di, our librarian, had this series, currently adapted for television by HBO and having rave reviews in the US.
From my first day at school until today, libraries have been central to my life. I fondly remember all the school and municipal libraries in the several towns I lived. (Teacher) Librarians, more often than not, were kind and accommodating. Mostly they were happy to have a young male avidly reading and borrowing so regularly.
My daughters love reading, particularly enjoying ‘story-time’ at our local library. Both Miss 5 and Miss 7 count a trip to any library as a highlight of even the most exciting or adventurous week. They read books, e-books and websites with little discrimination. A good story told is a good story told.
However, having a library bag in kindergarten, kids and a partner who love reading or an office upstairs in the school library does not make me particularly qualified to pontificate – it can allow me to make some provocations, suggestions and provide an opportunity for the professional teacher-librarians to discuss ideas.
The Future & the Past
This blog has often featured my thoughts on the central importance of reading, my favourite books, the future of books, disruptive technologies, e-books and e-readers. Like you, I am thinking about the future of learning, reading, teaching, schools, libraries and teacher-librarians. It is a favourite topic.
What ‘digital communication technologies’ do teacher-librarians need or more importantly, do their students need? This is the heart of the contemporary challenge. How do teacher-librarians nurture the best of the past with an eye on a future that has already arrived?
ALIA says that:
A teacher-librarian supports and implements the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services and programs that contribute to the development of lifelong learners.
What exactly is that vision in 2011?
The recent findings of the parliamentary Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools arrive at the heart of the current challenge:
While the teacher librarians’ role appears to be rapidly changing in an ever evolving digital, online and e-learning environment, it is not always clear exactly what role they should and could play in schools to those outside, and even within, the profession.
My personal and professional opinion can be stated making these points:
1. Kids who read succeed; kids who have the skills to access and deploy knowledge effectively – win!
2. Professional people must be the change that they want to see in others and model behaviour that assists students and colleagues to become powerfully multiliterate and critical thinkers!
3. Teacher-librarians have the important role of assisting students to become culturally literate citizens. They need to be digitally savvy and enthusiastic about the widest possible world around them…
4. Developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is essential for teacher-librarians to be engaged with professional learning and continually updating knowledge and skills.
We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.