Are You a 21C School Librarian?

Hands on worldAt the recent Government Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools, there was a rather confronting observation made by the Inquiry Deputy Chair, Dr Dennis Jensen, MP, who commented that teacher librarianship “seems to be a sector that is in decline – in fact, it looks to me as if you are almost in a death spiral.” (Hobart, 30 April 2010, quoted by Karen Bonano in ACCESS magazine Sep 2010)  He also stated that “this is a profession that is being allowed to die. Whether that is passive or active is another question.” Some even go as far as to predict that teacher librarians in Queensland might be non-existent by 2013  (Qld: “Get Rid of Teacher Librarians”) How then do we reinvent ourselves and become a vital and dynamic necessity in our schools?

Joyce Valenza never ceases to amaze me with her limitless energy and her endless vision and passion for the role of the teacher librarian. This article, published in  Tag Team Tech October 2010 sends out a challenge to teacher librarians around the world – it’s time to step out of your comfort zones and push the boundaries in every single area – not only will your students thank you for it, but it will make you indispensable.

Joyce looks at the whole gamut of a TL’s role and what we should be doing to add value within our schools:  reading; the information landscape; communication, publication and storytelling; collection development; facilities and physical space; access, equity and advocacy; audience and collaboration; copyright, copyleft and information ethics; new technology tools; professional development and professionalism.

Finally, she finishes with the essential TL toolkit for surviving the future:

Into the Future (acknowledging the best of the past)

You unpack the good stuff you carried from your 20th century trunk. Rigor, and inquiry, and high expectations, and information and media fluency matter no matter what the medium. So do excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm.

You lead. And you look ahead for what is coming down the road. You continually scan the landscape. As the information and communication landscapes continue to shift, do you know where you are going? You plan for change. Not for yourself, not just for the library, but for the building, for your learners.

You see the big picture and let others see you seeing it. It’s about learning and teaching. It’s about engagement. If you are seen only as the one who closes up for inventory, as the book chaser, and NOT as the CIO, the inventor, the creative force, you won’t be seen as a big picture person.

You continue to retool and learn.

You represent our brand (who the teacher-librarian is) as a 21st century information professional. What does the information professional look like today? Ten years from today? If you do not develop strong vision, your vision will be usurped by the visions of others. You will not be able to lead from the center.

You enjoy what you do and let others know it. It’s always better when you do what you love. (If you don’t love this new library world, find something else to do.)

You continue to consider and revise your vision and feed it with imagination. Think outside the box. Heck, there is no box!

Image from State of Delaware website