Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Collaborative Role of the Teacher Librarian in the Provision of Information Services

Whew! What a mouthful. Topic 7 of ETL501 concerns the importance of aligning information services to information needs, using collaboration with teachers to accurately identify these needs. We are focusing mainly on the provision by teacher librarians of mediated and annotated information resources in print and electronic form to teachers and students. Now that schools have websites and intranets, and often school libraries have their own websites, or at least a page or two on the school website and/or intranet, teacher librarians have the perfect platform on which to present information resources.
This can be achieved in a few different ways.
  1. Lists of resources/Dewey numbers can be provided for particular topics.
  2. Online reference sources (databases, encyclopaedies, dictionaries...) can be gathered on one page for easy access.
  3. Lists of links to web sites can be provided for particular topics.
  4. Pathfinders can be written for topics, combining lists of print resources with links to online reference sources and web sites.
  5. Webquests can be written for topics, which take the student on an interactive adventure in which a particular task (the quest) is undertaken.

For the purposes of this subject, we are concentrating on Pathfinders, and have to write one for a topic of our choice as our next assignment.

There are plenty of example pathfinders and webquests (which contain a similar combination of resources) already on the net, as well as websites designed to provide teachers and students with lists of resources by topic. Why re-invent the wheel, when you can get great ideas and links from others? It's just a matter of finding them...I'm now a fairly experienced internet searcher; I know to try different search (or meta-search) engines, use Boolean logic, quotation marks and the like! So I'm finding that I can lose hours and hours hopping from site to site checking out possible resources for my pathfinder. There's so much out there, and you can only really evaluate any resource's usefulness by looking at it. As well as electronic resources, I must include print ones too. I have been trawling through library catalogues and bookstore websites, but often the sort abstract or review provided is just not enough to help me to decide whether or not to list the resource. So I've also been visiting libraries and bookstores in person. Very time-consuming.

A little voice inside me is wondering whether I'm supposed to be so thorough? Is everyone taking pains to make sure that the books and websites that they list are helpful and relevant? At first glance the obvious answer is YES, but I'm not so sure...let me explain...

Topic I have chosen is from the Stage 4 (Years 7 & 8) Science Syllabus, and concerns the water cycle etc. Now I am not a science teacher. We can expect that not a lot of teacher librarians are science teachers. But in completing this assignment, I am educating myself on the water cycle enough that I can make an educated assessment of the value of resources. I need to know what must be covered in order to know whether or not the resource covers it. Now is everyone going to such pains? (Or have they chosen topics that they already know like the back of their hands? Or are they just assuming that their general knowledge is enough?)

I think that this issue raises a very important point about the necessity for collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. Unless they work together, the results will not be satisfactory. Heaven help the teacher librarian that is creating a pathfinder for Stage 6 (Years 11 & 12) physics students on wave mechanics! They will certainly not have enough time in their day to educate themselves to the point where they can adequately select resources. The teacher's input will be vital.

The problem for me, in terms of this assignment, is that I don't have a science teacher to collaborate with! I think this highlights a bigger problem - that I'm trying to learn how to be a teacher librarian without being in a school (or a library). Challenging! I think it's why I tend to do better with my more theoretical assignments rather than the practical ones. (Either that, or I'm just a bit strange, and prefer thinking about things to actually doing them!)

So, if the teacher is a vital component to the making of a topic specific pathfinder, what does the teacher librarian bring to the table? Firstly, the librarian can make sure that information literacy skills are integrated into the pathfinder. Secondly, the librarian can coordinate pathfinders from all the different subjects and stages in the school, making sure that they have a consistent format, and are easily accessible to students. Thirdly, they can make sure that they regularly check pathfinders for dead links, and update the lists of electronic and print resources as needed.

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