The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association’s (ASLA) Statement on Teacher Librarian (TL) Qualifications (2009) highlights the dual role of the TL as an educator and an information manager. This dual purpose can be clearly demonstrated when examining the TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach.
Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) define Guided Inquiry (GI) as, ‘an integrated unit of inquiry planned and guided by an instructional team of a school librarian and teachers, together allowing students to gain deeper understandings of subject area curriculum content and information literacy concepts….” Quite clearly, GI requires school community support and close collaboration with teachers.
From my experience, this close collaboration between teacher and TL can be quite superficial. As a Relief from face to face TL I am certainly left with the impression that some teachers are disengaged from the ‘Library Program’ for whatever reason. This is not to say that they do not want to see student outcomes achieved but more that they do not understand, or cannot see the contribution that digital and information literacy skills can make for student achievement. This perception means that TL’s need to be cognisant of Principle 3 , ‘Professional Commitment’ and specifically, ‘Leadership’ Standard, 3.3 of the Australian School Library and Information Association’s ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (ASLA, 2004).
For GI to be successful, the TL must raise the profile of the Library, research, provide evidence and create a whole school approach to information literacy. They must establish and nurture collaboration with all key stakeholders, especially the Principal and teachers.
Recognising that these steps must be taken, how does the TL become the champion of information literacy? The answer to this question is intrinsic to the GI approach itself – provide the stakeholders with evidence of the improvements in student achievement, firstly in Library projects, then transferred to the classroom. For example, Kuhlthau et. al, (2007) reported that a follow-up survey of teachers and librarians who had implemented Guide Inquiry projects found that the resultant student learning was ‘richer and deeper and more personalised over time’ (p133).
The GI process clearly achieves the dual purpose of the TL’s role as both educator and information manager. The TL as educator role, or, “every subject expert” (Michigan School Library Initiative Group, 2009) is evidenced in their curricular knowledge and is reflected by their collaboration with other teachers in the focus of the Guided Inquiry, whether students are investigating the immune system or the history of jazz. The TL as information manager reflects the TL’s capacity to integrate information literacy throughout the school, mentor teachers to ‘push’ technology into the classroom and ensure that traditional and digital resources meet the changing needs of the curriculum to best prepare students for high school and eventually employment. As Herring (2007) suggests, TL’s need to mentally and strategically move away from the notion of the library as just supporting the school, towards the vision of the library as a vital part of the school. As TL’s, we need to embrace our leadership role and be prepared with evidence of the improved student achievement to effectively implement Guided Inquiry in our schools.