mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian


Information literacy

Is reading for meaning dead?

(Critics) are not recognising or do not want to recognise that the former traditional approaches to alphabetic literacy through reading print are not meeting the needs of young people who read texts much differently than the generations of teachers and educators who are teaching them.(p. 42)

Zipes, J (2009)

Zipes 2009 Relentless progress: The reconfiguration of children’s literature, fairy tales, and storytelling is rightly confounded by the consumeristic nature of the publishing industry and the denigration of children’s reading to elements of decoding information alone. Essentially, he laments the lack of critical literacy infused in reading programs in schools in America.

I am unable to comment on the state of the education system in America as I have only taught in New South Wales, Australia, however, in the 6 years since Zipes wrote this text, much has changed here. The Australian Curriculum was introduced in all Australian States and Territories in the last few years, with new English and Mathematics curricular now implemented and Science, History and Geography in various stages of implementation throughout the States and Territories.

One of the most significant changes in the Curriculum that poses the most challenges for implementation by teachers, aims to address Zipes concerns about the continuing focus on alphabetic literacy through reading print. In fact, I would argue that here, in Australia, teacher training and professional development has consistently aimed to embed new technologies and literacies, at least for the past five years. This is further strengthened by the Australian Curriculum’s incorporation of information and communication technologies as one of the seven general capabilities that are applied across subject-based content (Toner, 2011).

Teacher Librarians have a significant role to play in addressing multimodal and multiliteracy teaching and learning practices. We are well-placed to lead teachers in technology enhancements for their current teaching. We can improve access to a wide range of print, screen and manipulative resources and promote these for integration into teaching and learning experiences. We can locate and source multimodal resources and provide LibGuides for teachers to integrate with their own units.

However, one of the most significant areas that Teacher Librarians can impact on children’s critical literacy skills is in the general capabilities which run through all content areas. Capability ‘Critical and Creative Thinking’ is really our bread and butter. The essential skills for critical and creative thinking closely match information literacy skills. As Toner (2011) suggests, these skills include:

  • “posing insightful and purposeful questions
  • suspending judgement about a situation to consider the big picture and alternative pathways
  • generating and developing ideas and possibilities
  • analysing information logically and making reasoned judgements
  • evaluating ideas, creating solutions and drawing conclusions
  • assessing the feasibility, possible risks and benefits in the implementation of their ideas
  • reflecting on thinking, actions and processes
  • transferring their knowledge to new situations.” (Page 2).
Wild Things by geraldbrazell
Wild Things, by geraldbrazell. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0). Retrieved from

In Kindergarten through to Grade Two there is a strong focus on high quality stories from a wide range of cultural perspectives, using complex characters and motivations. This is the beginning of explicit inferential comprehension of characters, language features, story structure and ethics. It is the teacher Librarians’ role here to ensure that the school library is well-stocked and the catalogue has easy access to a wide variety of print, screen and multimedia resources to meet these aims. Similarly, as the concepts become more challenging and complex so too must the resources.

Will this refocus on ‘meaning’ and the purpose of the writer mean that the reduction in reading for pleasure as adults will be stemmed? It is too early to say. But one thing is clear. Far from Zipes suggestion that we are neglecting reading without meaning, teaching and learning practices in Australia are very focused on engaging students through their preferred modes of instruction and explicitly teach critical literacy skills.



The cloak of invisibility (ETL 505)

Cloak of Invisibility
The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 Image by Karen Roe. CC by 2.0

It seems apt to make a literary reference from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (Rowling, 1997) when discussing the future of the description and organisation of materials in school libraries. As users’ preferences for how they find, identify, select, obtain and navigate information, change, professional description, rather than becoming obsolete will transform under a cloak of invisibility.

The implications of the information age, as it has become widely touted (Castells, 2010), apply across disciplines and contexts. The resultant information overload means that information management- the organisation of information so that it is useful for users, but more importantly, so that users can access it effectively- has become even more important. Similarly, information quality is an important consideration. As Hider (2012) states, “…like air, some information resources may be better than others. Their content may be more accurate, more relevant, or more intelligible” (px1).

We are, of course, talking about metadata – the theme that runs throughout my most recent studies in ‘Describing Educational Resources’. Hider (2012) defines metadata as organising information by describing the process and the product and as I have stumbled through the basics of resource description tools, applying metadata, describing and classifying resources, I have gained an enormous appreciation for the work required by professional cataloguers. But we are now at a point in history where cost and scalability are increasingly impacting on the perceived value of professional description as a profession.

Professional description, using controlled vocabularies creates high quality resource description. It is highly effective but very costly. Compare this to computerised content-based (CB) retrieval and social metadata (SM) tools and it is clear that these latter two are considerably cheaper and highly scalable, plus, users, especially primary school students, are very familiar with them. However, they may seem attractive on the surface but the trade-off is in quality. If they do not produce quality resources for the information seeker, they are not effective. This is most important when considering the age and intellectual capacity school library users. If users are seeking conceptual information, especially in a non-text medium, CD and SM tools provide little assistance. If users have a general idea of the topic they need information about but do not know all of the terminology associated with it, CD and SM tools are not yet able to uncover the full range of associated information (Hider, 2012). However, professional description and its tools could meet the requirement of quality as well as effectiveness in retrieving the full range of information required by users. Through subject headings and cross-referencing, professional description tools offer users alternatives to narrow their search and they manage conceptual metadata concerning multi-modal mediums exceptionally well using controlled vocabularies. Rather than having to teach the skills of OPAC searching, internet searching and social curation separately, being able to teach one system that combines all three would produce the most effective results. As McCutcheon (2009) suggests, “the one with the most tools wins”, and whilst it would be unnecessary to explicitly teach students controlled vocabularies, this complementary approach could use a cloak of invisibility over controlled vocabularies connected seamlessly to user-preferred CB and SM tools, providing the necessary quality and effectiveness of information resources to meet our students’ needs.


Castells, M. (2010). The rise of the network society (2nd ed., Vol. 2). West Sussex (UK): Wiley and Blackwell.

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet.

McCutcheon, S. (2009). Keyword vs controlled vocabulary searching: the one with the most tools wins. Indexer, 27(2), 62-65.

Rowling, J. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

My, oh my, how time flies…. (ETL401 wrap up – Assignment 2, Part B: Critical Reflection)

Coming to the end of my first Semester of the Teacher Librarianship Masters Program, I have had an exciting personal, professional and pedagogical journey.

My first blog entry for this subject was enthusiastic about searching databases and organising information in preparation for the tasks ahead. At the time I remember thinking that maybe I could just learn that as I go, but am I glad I took the time then. I can’t imagine the time saved by saving searches and filing articles into Folders. That got me thinking about what it’s like for our students, and I realised that I had been information literacy-d! I was engaging in an authentic, practical experience (organising research), to fulfill a real-life problem (assignment writing) (Abilock, 2004). This was evidence of just how important the real-world context of information literacy is and this realisation has changed my teaching forever! More importantly, it made me realise the importance of never assuming that students know how to do research – some may be in upper primary but still have few skills in efficient research strategies. It’s definitely changed my approach to information literacy.

After examining the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association’s (ASLA)’s Statement of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians (2004) in my earlier post, I had a whine. Let’s not mince words. I whined about the limitations that I had placed on myself because of, what I saw as, the perceptions of the Principal and Teachers. But the only person that was limiting me was me. Yes, my Library was somewhat “disconnected” from the rest of the Curriculum. Yes, the Library Program was, and still is, Relief from Face to Face. Yes, my skills as a Teacher Librarian are developing, BUT my only limitation was me! Up to that point had I ever considered that the TL was a Leader in the school? Never!

One of the turning points for me was Purcell’s (2010) Time Study Observation. I realised just how much time I was wasting on administrative tasks and “fluff” based on others priorities and how much more effective I could be if I shared the load of information literacy and defined my role more effectively.

Armed with my Standards I set about creating a ‘learning organisation’ (Cibulka, Coursey, Nakayama, M., Price, J. & Stewart, S. (2003). I sought out like-minded people (Lamb, 2011) to identify where I could make a difference. We worked cooperatively on Programs, identifying opportunities for integrating information literacy skills through information literacy process models (Kuhlthau, n. d. ; Big6, n.d), in the classroom and embedding technology skills throughout the curriculum (Hay and Todd, 2010; Lamb, 2011). We talked about what it means to be a life-long learner. I often referred to Boss and Krauss’ (2008) statement about reinventing Project Based Learning: “When teachers facilitate well-designed projects that use digital tools, they do much more than create memorable learning experiences. They prepare students to thrive in a world that’s certain to continue changing” (p.13). We looked at critical thinking opportunities, and started working out the types of evidence we might need throughout the process to show the extent of student’s learning. Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2007) and Brown (2008) were particularly useful resources.

Overall, the short answer to how my view of the role of the TL has changed during this course is ‘enormously’. But, to be more specific, the major “shifts” (Lamb, 2011) in my understanding of the role of the Teacher Librarian are:

From reactive to proactive – Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto (2010) and video (2011) is empowering and inspiring. It has made me realise just how vital our teaching role is, just how important it is to take a leadership role and be able to effectively balance the wide range of responsibilities that we have.

From professionally disconnected to world wide support – As a result of research into information literacy process models (Herring, 2011) and Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau, 2010) I am now connected to experts from all over the world through Diigo Groups, mailing lists, blogs and e-newsletters.

From piecemeal to embedded – Promoting the role of the TL is vital. Gaining a better understanding of information literacy, discovery learning, problem-based learning and all their variants has given me the confidence to collaborate and cooperate on projects for students, as well as for teachers. Presenting new resources, identifying opportunities for the transference of information literacy skills and technology tools supports the focus of the new Australian Curriculum and better prepares our school for its introduction and implementation. The journey has only just begun!


  • Abilock, D. (2004). Information literacy: an overview of design, process and outcomes.

  • Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, available

  • Big6 Skills overview (n. d.). The Big6: Information and Technology Skills for Student Success. Retrieved  from

  • Boss, S. and Krauss, J. (2008). Introduction and Chapter 1: Mapping the Journey— Seeing the Big Picture. Reinventing project-based learning. Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age. Moorabbin, Vic. : Hawker Brownlow Education, 2010.

  • Brown, C.A. (2008). Building rubrics: A step-by-step process, Library Media Connection, January, 16-18. Available

  • Cibulka, J., Coursey, S.,Nakayama, M., Price, J. & Stewart, S. (2003). Schools as learning organisations: A review of the literature. National College for School Leadership, UK

  • Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30-42.

  • Herring, J. (2006). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9.

  • Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, Information Literacy and Transfer in High Schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 32-36.

  • Kuhlthau, C. C. (n.d.). Information Search Process. Retrieved from

  • Kuhlthau, C. C. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.

  • Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

  • Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0509-3

  • Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do Is Check out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3-), 30-33.

  • Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. Retrieved from School Library Journal at

  • Valenza, J. (2011). What Librarians make. Or why should I be more than a Librarian? Vimeo. Retrieved from

Getting others to join the adventure (ETL504)

As I start to get my head around planning my Programs for Term 4, and how I can lead my colleagues in embedding information literacy throughout the curriculum, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt so far in “Teacher Librarian as Leader”. Particularly Bill Ferriter’s article, “What does leadership on a professional learning team look like?” (Center for Teaching equality).  I believe that being a leader doesn’t mean that you have to hold a particular position in an organisation or school, but you have to have the skills to be able to identify the problem and harness the talents of those around you, those who you can influence and guide, to create significant change. In his blog post, Ferriter discusses the three essential elements of “moving teams forward”. He says that they are: 1) strong relationships, 2) clear vision and 3) translating vision into action.

From my own perspective I have developed strong relationships with some key teachers across the stages but I have more work to do here. Borrowing from Matt Church (“Sell the Problem not the Solution” at Library Lost and Found“), unless I can help my colleagues see that there is a problem with viewing information literacy as the exclusive realm of the Library Program, then I am going to have an uphill battle in my attempts to push information literacy into their classrooms. No one wants to be forced to change. We all like things to go on the way they are. It’s comfortable and easy and change is confronting and difficult, but, as Church argues, unless people can see the problem, they will be very unlikely to want to listen to a solution. They need to take ownership, they need to recognise that something isn’t right and they need to be able to entertain the idea that things could be done differently and it would make life easier.

Given the imperative of implementing the new Australian Curriculum, I can see an opportunity to bundle information literacy into some of the new elements and focus of the English curriculum (and further down the track, the Mathematics, History and Geography Curricular).  I am well-placed, as a member of the English Committee, to be able to influence the development of new practices in English Curriculum development so that information literacy can be embedded in our Quality Teaching and Learning Framework.

But relationship building/collaboration is only part of the planning for my new, great adventure. Elements 2 and 3, suggested by Ferriter, are significant elements. The Vision and it’s associated Strategic Plan for action are vital. If I can’t clearly articulate where I want the Library to go and how to do it, then I cannot expect my colleagues to pack their backpacks and come with me.

So off to develop that clearly articulated Vision and Strategic Plan to inspire my colleagues and provide a pathway for us to follow on our adventure further into the ever-changing digital environment.

ETL401: Assessing Information Literacy and Inquiry Learning

Current literature indicates that the opportunities for Teacher Librarians (TLs) to assess Information Literacy (ILit) and Inquiry Learning (IL) are wide and varied (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2007; Stripling, 2007; Brown 2008), irrespective of the process of ILit undertaken. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007) advocate Guided Inquiry, Stripling (2007) has developed her own Stripling Inquiry Model consisting of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect; and Brown generalises across models of ILit and IL.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007), when discussing Guided Inquiry, draw the distinction between assessment and evaluation – assessment advises what students have already learnt and what they need further assistance with during the unit, whereas evaluation advises what they have learnt and achieved throughout the whole unit (page 111). The Guided Inquiry process requires formative assessment to be undertaken throughout the unit and it is the results of formative assessment that indicate students’ zone of proximal development and therefore intervention required. They also assert that “..assessment should be part of the student’s own learning process”. Becoming self-aware and knowledgable, developing metacognition about how they learn and how to improve their ability to learn is often identified as part of the evaluation process of Guided Inquiry.

Similarly, Stripling (2007) suggests that assessment should be naturally included in the Inquiry process. She sees assessment as an examination of students’ information fluency, a term that she says replaces information literacy. Information fluency recognises that students are no longer required to just know the skills of IL but they must also be able to apply them fluently, in learning situations, whether at school or at home. (page 25).

Stripling’s (2007) Inquiry Model consists of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect. She matches three types of assessment to these phases. Diagnostic assessment, such as the K part of Know, Wonder, Learn charts, or other pre-tests, lend themselves to the Connect phase, as students are required to make connections between the topic and their personal, past experiences. Formative assessment suits the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases, where students’ actual research results, predictions, evaluations of evidence and conclusions can be assessed through forms, templates, conferences and portfolios. Summative assessments clearly match the Express and Reflect phases, where students’ construction of new knowledge and creation or use of it in a new way (information fluency) can be measured against their previous knowledge and reflected in their metacognition of the learning process. Stripling’s incorporation of assessment into the various phases of her model also incorporates the zone of proximal development approach. She says, “Formative assessment is the measurement of knowledge and skills during the process of learning (the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases of inquiry) in order to inform the next steps” (page 27).

Brown’s (2008) approach to assessment is a little different. She suggests a rubric approach that can be used from early years learning all the way up to college. Brown says that the benefit in developing rubrics lies in their inherent value as an authentic method for assessment that allows us to clearly identify whether or not a research project has used information appropriately and if conclusions drawn are accurate and useful. Produced as part of the programming process, in collaboration with the classroom teacher, rubrics seem to be most effective as an evaluation, but they can also be used throughout the inquiry process.

Some important considerations must be made: Does the rubric limit us? Are we only looking at those elements pre-determined by the rubric, and if we provide them to students so that they can do ongoing self-assessment, are we limiting their expectations of what’s required? Would we get richer results if it was open-ended, both in our minds and on paper?

On the other hand, rubrics do create an opportunity for TLs to collaborate with teachers on a shared vision of what should be achieved and therefore create a physical and cognitive connection between evaluation and the school library program. They are also a significant element of student feedback – indicating a “0” for achievement level on a specific dimension makes it quite clear for the student that what they have produced is unacceptable. When conducted as a formative assessment, this provides the student with concrete information about where they can improve and therefore allows them the opportunity to reach the final intended outcome successfully.

Whatever approach is used in assessment and evaluation in Inquiry Learning, one thing is true – Librarians are in an excellent position to provide longitudinal assessment of learning over time as they typically see each student in a school throughout their school years. This makes our evidence powerful and creates a sense of urgency in ensuring that assessment and evaluation become embedded in our practice.


Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing informative fluency: Gathering evidence of student learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(8), 25-29.

Brown, C.A. (2008). Building rubrics: A step-by-step process, Library Media Connection, January, 16-18. Available

ETL401 – Exploring Information Process Models

After reviewing the plethora of information process models I am finding myself going through the same process as our students! The uncertainty that Kuhlthau asserts is necessary for the construction of personal knowledge is being evidenced first hand. Unfortunately I do not have a kindly teacher to be my soundboard, to make things clearer and guide my approach as I refine my practice.

Nevertheless, I have found that all of these models have merit and some make more sense than others in particular contexts. The Research Cycle, Focus on Reading, Guided Inquiry, Big6 and all the other variations have many similarities. The old cliche is true – the devil is in the detail. I think that there is great merit in the emphasis of metacognition in the information seeking process. This reflects the new Australian Curriculum’s focus on thinking about thinking and thinking about learning. It also marries well with my current Primary School’s Focus on Reading strategies; Comprehension, Reading and Vocabulary Enrichment (CRAVE) strategies and Mathematical Problem Solving Strategies.

For me, in my current context as a Teacher Librarian, attempting to implement collaborative programming where possible, where teachers are willing to collaborate on shared programs, the simplicity of the Big6 and the revised, Super3 appeals. Like most models, it has a sound metacognitive development framework and can easily incorporate more affective dimensions, similar to Guided Inquiry. Big6 and Super3 require the TL to explicitly instruct students at their zone of proximal development. It is also non-linear which means that specific steps in the process can become a focus if there is an identified need. This approach is also consistent with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s, Information Process Model.

The simplicity of Big6 and Super3 means that I may be able to extend collaborative programming beyond those few teachers who are willing to collaborate on research-based projects. I think that the principles are easy to promote to the Principal and other teachers and tracking transference of skills can be achieved. By showing teachers (through action research), the contributions that Big6 and Super3 can make in student writing, planning and organising throughout school learning, enough evidence should be gained to implement it inside AND outside of the library.

ETL401 Blog Task 1: The TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach

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.

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