Sunday, June 6, 2010

FNO on TLs and School Libraries: Yay, Jamie!

When district management and trustees consider the projected impact of cuts to non-enrolling staffing, including teacher-librarians, for the upcoming 2010/11 school year here in Vancouver and other BC school districts, we need to ask that they please consider this article by Jamie McKenzie: Why We Still Need [School] Libraries and [Teacher-] Librarians (FNO 19:4, March 2010) and the changing role TLs have in the new equations for learning. The article describes the role of the TL in relation to staff and students, with so many new tools, sources of information and resources.

The tech-savvy, highly engaging and engaged school-library supporter McKenzie writes,

Those school librarians who hold stubbornly to a 1950s definition of the job are likely to pass and be forgotten - extinct before their time. While many of the tasks that were important back then remain important in this decade, new challenges must be firmly placed at the core of any survival strategies. By embracing these new challenges and offering expertise not held by any staff members, teacher librarians can make themselves indispensable.

It is a terrible irony that, at the very time that what they do is so very important in this district and in relation to learning, there will be fewer who are enabled to:

  • support adult learning about using new tools and resources to learn how to how to engage in and teach about finding good information and making good new ideas; to beyond the tools and information to deep understanding and knowledge; build inquiry skills and connect literacy development to authentic research; and lead teachers in creating resource-based learning opportunities

  • support colleagues in building new approaches to curriculum, both by modelling and by providing quality resources and support

  • partner with teachers and work alongside them as peer coaches to integrate new tools, resources, and ideas that make learning more engaging for students

  • guide colleagues and give them the skills, support, and knowledge to become independent users of technology and digital resources, to connect with others about the best use of these resources, and to sift the information for what is best

  • play a lead role in selecting, organizing, and developing technology and information applications, structures, and systems that work in classrooms with kids at appropriate times and levels and maintain congruence between digital and print collections of resources
  • collect and display appealing and appropriate resources that have been collected
    for the particular purpose, including heritage

  • lead teachers in collaborative communities of learning to shared understandings about purpose and direction

  • share in the development and communication of the organizational account of a school as it develops its sense of itself in a rapidly changing world

  • lead by "cooking stone soup" and moving beyond the tools and information to places of critical thinking and creativity, despite constraints of time and money

  • continue the traditional roles such as encouraging the love of literature and reading, broadening interests, offering great resources in a variety of formats, staying current in new resource formats, making questioning and inquiry important, and working cooperatively with teacher colleagues

  • lead the inventive effort in trying times

  • be the best reading teacher in the school

  • augment student performance and achievement where comprehension is important
McKenzie concludes that TLs must also be politicians and, by extension, engage in the politics of school libraries by supporting others in the promotion of school library programs as a key factor in the new learning equation that includes both teachers and students); he raps TLs on the knuckles for being polite in their advocacy and gives an example of powerful community support:

As a group, teacher librarians have been a bit too polite and reserved while their jobs and positions crumbled under the onslaught of school leaders intent on reducing force and programs. In many districts facing tough budget restrictions with the disappearance of stimulus funds, TLs and their programs are very much at risk. In many cases, administrators hand over the tough choices to staff members, forcing them into cannibalizing.

McKenzie writes that TLs:

  • cannot afford to be silent
  • cannot wait until administrators ask
  • must be tireless advocates for smart, balanced, well-funded information literacy and reading programs as well as adequate and qualified school library staffing
  • must build partnerships within broader community with a focus on those who mold, move and shake opinions and direction at the highest levels
A success story worth emulating, McKenzie continues, is the two year effort by Moms in Washington to convince the state legislature to formalize a commitment to school library staffing and funding. For the full story go to the article in the School Library Journal describing their campaign.

But then we TLs know all this. We are the converted. Share this with others.

AND be sure to share Jamie McKenzie's with colleagues. This month's issue (May 2010) looks at teaching complex concepts like beauty and at teaching that integrates meaningful understanding of history with skills in the literacies and the best use of technology for the educational goals.

Jamie is the keynote speaker at the Fall BCTLA KelownaFresh Conference . See Al Smith's Comment for more details.

1 comment:

Al Smith said...

Thanks Moira! McKenzie has many good things to contribute to education- not just the passionate causes of teacher-librarians. His point about irony, as we need the skills of TL's we are cutting them, has been echoed all over. Why BC Government continues to be on the trailing edge of public education is also an irony.

Love your blog...

Heh everyone, subscribe to Moira's TL Weekly. You can easily browse her post index...

Jamie McKenzie is not only presenting two(2) Friday keynote addresses at BCTLA Conference KelownaFresh 2010, he has also been contracted by SD23 to deliver a full day workshop on Saturday Oct.25.