ETL507 – Critical Reflection and Portfolio

To draw comparison between July 2013 when I had been working as Temporary Teacher Librarian (TL) prior to enrolling in this Masters Degree, to now, I summize that although my intent is still the same, I now have a deeper understanding of elements which define Teacher Librarianship. Having completed six subjects, and gaining a permanent high school TL position through merit selection, I now have the opportunity to implement on a daily basis what I have learned through my studies. This challenges me to analyse how the knowledge I have gained is guiding my development as a responsive information service leader and TL.  Critically considering ‘What Do TLs Teach?’ by Joyce Valenza (2011) as one example of disciplines TLs teach and model, then it quickly becomes apparent how broad and encompassing the role of a TL is.


Prior to enrolling in studies I wanted the library to be there for the whole school community, to loan books and manage the collection, to work with teachers who book the library for their classes, and to offer a range of activities for students during the breaks.  I was all intent with not much know how or understanding of what was really possible, and how to bring the library to a pedagogical position within the school’s curriculum.

I had a feeling that there was more to it (Kay, 2013) and within the first weeks of study I was introduced to the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and  Australian School Library Association’s (ASLA) Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians  (2016), and from this point I could clearly see how the multi-faceted role of TL as presented by Herring (2007) could be implemented. And although I was aware that I had much to learn in order to meet these standards, I respect and acknowledge standard 1.1, knowledge of the principles of lifelong learning (ALIA & ASLA, 2004), and consider that as TL, I will continue to learn in this role throughout my career.


Herring’s possible roles (fig. 2.1) – Teacher, Librarian, Information Service Manager, Information Literacy Leader, Curriculum Leader, Information specialist, Instructional partner, Website developer, Budget manager, Staff manager, Fiction and Non-fiction advocate. (Herring, 2007)

In the 18 months as TL, I have started making inroads towards developing the library as a learning hub. There have been some initial successes and failures, but always learning and planning how to make it better next time. The journey of developing this critical reflection has challenged me deeply to evaluate what I have learned, how I am currently implementing this understanding, and, for the most challenging part of this analysis, where to go from here.

I now know most of the staff in the school, and have worked with some of them. The library has many student patrons visiting during the breaks, and recent new furniture makes for attractive and comfortable, yet, pedagogically adaptable learning spaces. We have two defined learning spaces and a multimedia room computer lab.  This Prezi (n.d.) shows some examples of how the learning spaces may be used.

A Community Learning Space  (click here) (Kay, 2016a)

With learning spaces defined and enhanced by new furniture, the biggest hurdle that now needs to be overcome is that the learning community has yet to understand the library and TL offer more than book boxes and setting up innovative learning spaces. Purcell (2010) presents the role of the TL as a media specialist and this aligns with, and supports, the benefit of teachers collaborating with the TL towards implementation of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2016).  The process of change towards an inclusive collaborative culture in curriculum planning between teachers and the TL will contribute to the development of the library becoming part of the curriculum and student learning, rather than being considered an ‘add-on’, or supplementary activity.

Reflecting on what I have learned over the last three years of study, from the processes involved in applying for a position, and from being in the role of TL, I now look to the future and how I will apply this knowledge and experience for the benefit of students.  Matthews (2014) shares one of the hardest parts of doing strategic planning is just getting started. Where to begin? What approach should I use to pursue strategic planning for my library? How do I create a process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation? (Blanchard & Hodges, 2005).

In response to these questions I have developed this mind map using the Bubbl.Us (LKCollab, LLC. 2016) Web 2.0 tool.   Teacher Librarian as a Leader… (Kay, 2016b) places the TL at the centre of key initiatives which are designed to promote leadership for learning (Macbeth & Dempster, 2008) with teachers and students.

10teacher-librarian-as-a-leaderIn response to Nelson’s understanding, that there is no way to develop an effective strategic plan for your library without planning to plan (Nelson, 2008), this mind map represents my initial proposal of where I, as TL, plan to lead learning initiatives.

Working with students individually

In the role of TL you support students in many ways.  This may range from ICT, resource search, loans, or assessment tasks, but in most circumstances each student is at a certain stage of their Information Search Process (ISP). This is where I implement my understanding of Carol Kuhlthau’s ISP Model to identify at what stage a student is at on this ISP model, and consequently how to offer them the most relevant and appropriate support and guidance.


One of the learning areas within General Capabilities (ACARA, 2016), is for students to develop Personal and Social Capability.  It is intended students to learn to understand themselves and others, manage their relationships, lives, and work and learn more effectively.  Students are involved in a range of practices including recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for others and understanding relationships, establishing and building positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams, handling challenging situations constructively, and developing leadership skills (ACARA, 2013).

As TLs, we can support students individually towards achieving these outcomes by creating learning environments and experiences which allow students to explore their emotions, understand relationships and develop their teamwork skills.  Students may use Web 2.0 tools to share their responses as a presentation. An example is where students used Animoto, a presentation tool, to give their response to a day workshop on the topic of ‘Power in Relationships’.  Images and music were ethically sourced, individual guidance was given on how to use the Animoto tool, and great presentations ensued.  This task encouraged students to develop empathy, understand emotions, and learn to understand and recognise power in relationships.

Information Literacy (IL)

To consider most primary school learning programs include scheduled library sessions, then it seems a possible natural flow on to commence high school with year 7 having scheduled library time. This allows students to participate in a wide range of learning experiences, and develop information literacy skills through subject related learning sessions.  This opportunity to develop IL skills through the library is also available to other year cohorts. However, the opportunity of initiating the library as part of curriculum at the beginning of high school has past.

One of the first skills to teach students is how to access the school library catalogue.  Available through the Student Portal (DoE, 2016) there is a link to Oliver Home page (Softlink, 2016), as seen below.


Students may search using a range of headings, see their loan status, reserve books, and receive messages.  There are links to other libraries and several banners on the home page.  The banners are changeable and may be developed to support learning programs.

In my experience, this, and its forbearer Oasis, are underutilised learning tools. To change this by creating opportunities for students to use Oliver, I envision simple guided inquiry tasks where students search resources from various sources based on direction of the lesson, i.e. Online, non-fiction, fiction, or reference resources, with students reporting back as per the required criteria. Students may use web 2.0 tools to present information, or contribute to class forums, but fundamentally the learning is how to search in the school library database for resources.  Through collaboration with teachers the searches can be targeted towards curriculum outcomes so library time is also class learning time.

For example, a class may be set a specific research task and the TL, working with the class teacher, is brought in as an information specialist to guide students in effective search strategies. Students learn respect of intellectual property and use of ethical sources.  They learn how to evaluate online information, and then how to communicate findings using Web 2.0 tools.  Students will be introduced to Creative Commons and the National Library of Australia’s TROVE (NLA, 2016) as ethical sources, and Cool Tools for Schools (2016) and Google Apps (2016) as databases which contain a wide range of Web 2.0 tools.

This lesson template presents a platform for students to search, evaluate, create and present information related to the curriculum for that class, and through this process will be developing their General Capabilities as presented by ACARA (2016).  The learning is guided by the Teacher and TL, but also, the library is becoming embedded in the learning process, which is one of the goals – Working towards in the future – featured on the mind map.

Students of today are faced with a world which offers exponentially growing sources of information and data, and we as teachers and TLs, are given the responsibility to guide student learning through high school and prepare them for their working life.  Whether they go to university, take on an apprenticeship, or go into the work force, they will need collaborative skills, information and technology  (IT) skills, evaluation skills, and understand the principles of lifelong learning.  The NSW Department of Education (DoE) Futures Learning team asks the question – Are we giving young people the best chance of success and happiness in a changing economy and society? (DoE, 2016), and offers this clip Redesigning Learning and Teaching: A Case for Change (Mar. 14, 2016) produced by the Futures Learning Unit (DoE, 2016), in response.


Leadership styles

My introduction to research on current theories of leadership conducted by Avolio, Walambwa and Weber (2009) broadened my understanding of the concept of leadership.  I recognise that today the field of leadership focuses not only on the leader, but on the followers, peers, supervisors, work setting / context, and culture (Avolio, Walambwa and Weber, 2009).

At various stages of life I have been in the position of leader of sporting teams or in business situations.  On each of these occasions there was a process of learning, gaining skills, understanding and experience, which then lead to the capacity to succeed in these leadership roles, and I see this journey of learning towards leading a school library as no different.

Research conducted by Arvey (2007) found that although approximately 30% variation in leadership style and emergence was accounted for by heritability; the remaining variation was attributed to differences in environmental factors such as individuals having different role models and early opportunity for development. Subsequent research for men and women across cultures revealed similar results leading Avolio, Walambwa and Weber (2009) to conclude that the “life context” one grows up in and later works in is much more important than heritability in predicting leadership emergence across one’s career.  I reflect on my studies of Teacher Librarianship, the skills and understanding I have gained, and now take on the challenge as teacher librarian to lead the school in creating a library culture where students embody purposes, values, norms and obligations in their everyday activities (Sergiovanni, 2005).

Browning (2014) makes a cross case analysis of four highly trained transformational leaders revealing 10 key practices. These are, Openly admit mistakes, Offer trust to staff, Actively listen, Provide affirmation, Make informed/consultative decisions, Be visible around the school, Remain calm and level headed, Mentor and coach staff, Care for staff, and Keep confidences.  These practices are great advice and I use them daily in the workplace.

Reflecting on my learning about leadership I can see the benefit in understanding leadership styles, personalities, and analysis of processes. As TLs, we are involved with many individuals at different management levels, so understanding of role and place will support positive interactions.

Resource Development

The east coast low weather event in March 2015 caused inundation of water into the library. This resulted in significant water damage to 971 books. Insurance agreed on a value of seventeen thousand dollars to replace the damaged books. The books ranged from 640 – 880 Dewey decimal system, with the only stipulation from the insurers was replacement books needed to be ‘like for like’ in title.

At the time I was studying ETL503, Resourcing the curriculum, and later in the year ETL505 Resource description, and to reflect on the 15 month process it was a wonderful opportunity to put into practice skills and understanding gained from these two subjects. It was almost a case of be careful what you wish for, and I consider this to be my resourcing and cataloguing apprenticeship.

The first step was to evaluate the damaged books from this shelf.  What a great opportunity to engage in collection evaluation. Kennedy (2006) proposes collection evaluation is a process of determining the worth of a collection in terms of its ability to satisfy the wants and needs of clients and fulfill the goals of the library. This parallels well with Arizona State Library’s (2015) definition of collection development which states collection development (also known as collection management, materials management, or information resources management) involves the identification, selection, acquisition and evaluation of library resources for a community of users.

When evaluating a collection, and particularly when planning weeding, it is important to ensure the library’s collection policy is in place. Official written documentation that provides the rationale to inform collection development functions and processes for the benefit of library staff members, library governing boards, and the user community (ASL, 2015). The web site Resources for School Librarians (2016), maintained by Linda Bertland (2016), offers a wide range of collection development policy advice.  This site not only offers collection development policy advice, but covers many topics of all things library. Teaching and learning, information access, program administration, technology, education and employment, and continuing education are the topics covered, and I have placed the address in my Diigo account for ready use.

I examined through the wall of books, the content, purchase price, relevance to our community, how often and long since it had been borrowed, and overall assessed should it be in the collection. It was a great experience, although hypothetical, because after all, the process was to actually find, remove and document the water damaged books.

Once I developed the spread sheet (Kay, 2015a) listing all the damaged books, it was time to embark on a seventeen thousand dollar spending spree, and time to employ my learning on how to make sound book purchasing decisions. The South Australian Department of Education and Children’s services (2004) recommends in order to resource a school library to meet the needs of a school population, one needs to consider the range of home backgrounds, diversity of values and beliefs, and consider the changing nature of Australian society while attempting to offer equitable learning outcomes for all of these students. While the condition of ‘like for like title’ to replace the damaged books did exist, there was no stipulation on which books from the list would be replaced. This allowed for some flexibility of choice, and the ability to consider the school community’s population.

I broke the list down into sub-groups of Key Learning Areas (KLAs) and collaborated with teachers. My initial approaches were not so successful in deciding resources, not from the intent, but the approach. To approach a teacher with a list of titles to replace required some guidance. What I quickly learned was that teachers are not specialists in book resources selection, and while they may have skills to purchase targeted resources they know and use, they benefit from clear choice options.

With teachers already time poor, the two most successful approaches were to present them with a list of books that were available for purchase, or sit with them while on book purchasing websites guiding searching with them. This process accounted for approximately a third of the new books purchased. For the remaining books to be replaced, I utilized the Decision-Making Model for selecting resources, and access points that support learning developed by Hughes-Hassell and Mancall (2005), which carried the extra criteria of falling within the required Dewey number range, and having a like title to match.

The final stage to complete the project was to accession, catalogue and get 640 new books onto the shelves. This is where the knowledge and understandings I gained in the subject of ETL505 were used. At the time of studying this subject last year it was all a bit of a blur. Resource Description and Access (RDA) standards, Metadata sources, management, and sharing , Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD), and the role of Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) to create subjects headings and metadata, and although these concepts are clearly explained by Hider (2015) in Information Resource Description – Creating and Managing Metadata, I was still wondering how it all pieced together in the library.

Now, to reflect back on this time of information overload last year and compare with my current understanding, having now used these understandings to process 640 new books into two different library management systems, firstly OASIS and then the new Oliver, can share that I can now see how it all pieces together.

The Oliver system works with (SCIS) who utilises RDA standards to create the metadata for an item. Metadata for an identified item is accessed by Oliver and imported into the library management system.  This process is simpler than Oasis, which required independent download and storage of the metadata.

This journey has given me the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and understandings gained from study in ETL503 and ETL505, resulting in effective resource procurement and efficient cataloguing to best serve the students, teachers and patrons of the school and wider community (Kay, 2015b).


To consider that learning about Teacher Librarianship does not finish at the completion of this degree, then how will my learning and career development be guided and informed from here?

The NSW Department of Education (DoE) has developed a  School Libraries website which provides curriculum and policy support for school libraries towards meeting the needs of future learners (DoE, 2016). It offers information regarding policy support, teaching ideas, resources, professional learning, SCAN, and SCIS.  The website is updated regularly and is an encompassing information resource.

With all teachers required to achieve BOSTES accreditation by 2018 through consultation with the  Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2014), and develop programs which respond to criteria outlined in the Evidence Guide for Teacher Librarians in the Proficient and Highly Accomplished stages (ASLA, 2014), clear standards and outcomes have been set to guide program development.

Although I initially lacked understanding of the concept of a Personal Learning Network (PLN), I embraced the recommendations presented in ETL523 and ETL504, and now I have an ever growing network of professional associations which confirms to me the benefits of connected learning.  For example, I follow many librarians and educational professionals on Twitter, rely on my Diigo library for cloud based storage and sharing with groups, and am a member of several Facebook library groups. I also look to YouTube and TED talks for inspiration, knowledge and understanding.

Libraries have for many years been considered the place of all knowledge, but with the relatively recent evolution and development of the internet, and with the changing nature of information availability and access, libraries have also required change in the approach to teaching students how to gain knowledge and access information.  Now it is the TL’s role to guide students in how to effectively search for, and qualify information, so they may continue to be effective learners after they leave school.  Doug Johnson (2010), School Library Media Specialist, draws comparison between libraries of the past and future and proposes how learning has changed.

Libraries past – libraries future (click here)


As part of education reform the DoE  has developed the Futures Learning Unit which is rethinking learning and teaching in NSW public schools.  Advice and information regarding learning spaces, professional learning, evaluation, and resources, partnerships and research is available on the Futures Learning (DoE, 2016) website.  This site is an initiative designed to support teachers in developing strategies supporting students needs in the current learning environment.

In my ongoing journey towards delivering a school library which is innovative, inspiring and effective I will implement what I have learned, update my knowledge and understanding through professional learning, and look to the unique learning needs of my school community.  I will lead collaboration with teachers to develop library learning programs designed to facilitate student development of their General Capabilities.


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