From my recent Slideshare presentations, I have had a number of questions about what my thinking is about the role of teacher-librarians? Here is the slide that has generated some discussion on this and the one I use to explain how we, in West Vancouver, are trying to support digital literacy and move forward with inquiry-based learning:
We don’t have the ‘middle layer’ of support for our schools that some districts have; we have no district coordinators, helping teachers, district support teachers or other similar positions that many, particularly larger districts, have to support the work of the teacher and schools.
In part because of size, and in part because of vision, we have made commitments around school-based staffing; thus, we are required to develop a model to support digital literacy and other innovative learning relying on the work in schools with limited outside support.
I call this the “Just in Time” solution, where we have principals and vice-principals who are learning leaders. Regardless of their technology skills, they know their pedagogy and find ways to connect learning goals to technology and, more importantly, provide leadership around curriculum and assessment. We have also been overt in recent years with our postings and our hirings — having digital skills is an expectation for new principals and vice-prinicpals. They are our first circle of support, and we need to continue to support them to lead the learning (including digital learning).
Teacher-librarians are our second circle of support. In a recent interview with Dr. Paul Shaker on Your Education Matters, I said that as we move forward “teacher librarians are more important than ever.” My experience has been that next to the principal, the teacher-librarian is often key in moving the learning agenda forward. In schools that are moving forward, it is very often the teacher-librarian, working side-by-side with teachers on staff, who find new ways of working with students.
The third ring of the “Just-in-Time” solution is key staff members; they are formal leaders like secondary curriculum coordinators, or informal leaders who have an influence on staff, who are able to help in the moment to support digital literacy. Teachers cannot wait for a workshop in six weeks, when they are stuck now; they rely on our network of staff — formal leaders, teacher-librarians, and key teacher leaders — all working together.
I saw the power of the teacher-librarian working with Gordon Powell (click on his name to check out his great blog), when I began my teaching career at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond, and then later in Port Coquitlam, as Principal at Riverside Secondary working with Sue Kilpatrick and Ron Haselhan, who simply “got it” in their roles supporting and working with teachers and students. I am hardly an expert on teacher-librarians, but I have now seen first-hand — in three school districts — the important leadership role they play.
My thanks to Moira Ekdahl, a teacher-librarian from Vancouver and a recent winner of the CLA Angela Thacker Memorial Award who, in her recent post here, did a much more articulate job of pulling together my thoughts around teacher-librarians. On the topic of library transformation, the BC Teacher Librarians Association have a wonderful document: The Points of Inquiry.
As we lament that little change has taken place, or how slow the change has been, many teacher-librarians have transformed what they do to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. We have many who are seeing their roles, as Seth Godin does, “as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario” (Later, in this post, Seth stole my line about librarians being more important than ever).
Finally, one more place worth reading on the topic is Gino Bondi, Principal at John Oliver in Vancouver, and the work they are doing on a Learning Commons. Thanks to Gino and Moira, Building a Learning Commons, is now on my summer reading list.