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mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian

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resource description

Wrangling worms

As a Teacher Librarian who is also a mother of three, working four days a week and studying a Master of Teacher Librarianship (M TL) by distance education, there is not much time left for reading for pleasure.

How then, do I stay abreast of Children’s Literature so that I can provide the best School Library Service to my colleagues and our students?

business-19156_1280
‘Business, career, depressed, employee’ by Pixabay. Creative Commons CC0. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/business-career-depressed-employee-19156/

I get it when my students, friends and colleagues say, “I just don’t have time to read anymore”. BUT… I yearn to read everything that I process (and sometimes do!), I can’t pass a bookstore without popping in to see the new releases and flick through to see if I should give them a second look and take a snap of the cover so I don’t forget. Gosh, I even buy books when I’m supposed to be grocery shopping!

Besides the invaluable articles, journals and advice gained through the M TL I have a few strategies in place to help me stay on top of things:

Curation tools

Pinterest is my go-to curation tool (check out my Boards) . I like it’s visual layout because I can quickly find what I want (I am obviously a visual learner). I use Pinterest to curate websites to later insert in my weebly and our school library blog. I follow the boards of other Teacher Librarians and have developed a trusted network of like-minded teachers who share the content around.

Diigo is also great for finding new research, new approaches in Children’s Literature and learning about studies from around the world.

Social Media

My school Library has a Twitter account (@BexleyPSLibrary). Whilst it targets parent usage in the school (students are too young to have a Twitter account), it provides an opportunity to retweet from a wide variety of Publishing houses and authors that I follow. At the moment it is somewhat dormant, but I have high hopes for it once I graduate!

My school does not have a public Facebook page, but I do use my private Facebook page to connect to authors,

Publishers, Bookstores, Libraries, Museums, Galleries and professional associations who provide ongoing sources of information and inspiration for children’s literature recommendations and ideas.

Professional Networks

I am a member of the Teacher Librarian Network List Service which is a great source of knowledge about old and new children’s literature issues, research and resources. This group is interactive and provides a wealth of historical information as well as hints and tips about new and upcoming authors, events, talks and materials.

With the support of an inspiring Principal who clearly values the contribution of a professionally-run Library, I also attend Teacher Librarian Network meetings once each Term. These meetings are an invaluable source of information for our professional development on Library administration, organisation and development. Children’s bookstores or suppliers often attend these events with a wide range of new titles to peruse and discuss.

Blogs

Blogs such as ‘Hey Jude‘ and ‘Children’s Books Daily‘ are just a couple of the blogs that I subscribe to for information about the profession of Teacher Librarianship as well as reviews and news on new and old authors and their offerings.

Web

Regular visits to sites such as ‘Goodreads‘ and ‘Inside a dog‘, along with many more provide opportunities to explore children’s literature before spending that tight budget. These sites are also helpful when trying to find ‘the right book’ for those students that come into the Library but can’t find what they’re looking for (a little like me when I’m looking for a handbag – I don’t know exactly what I want but I know I don’t want the one on the shelf). By reading reviews from other librarians and readers I can get a feel for books that might be a good fit for that student. Sometimes I’ll find it on Amazon and download a Sample for them to read off my iPad before I commit to the purchase. It’s little things like this that can make a big difference with the reluctant readers or those boys who say they can’t find anything they like.

Resource Reviews

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities’ School Libraries and Information Literacy website has a resource review tool which can search for general and/or online resources using keywords. The search can be undertaken for specific grades which I find useful when making recommendations to support classroom teaching and learning programs.

Education Professionals

Having a good rapport with other education professionals and developing those through professional networks and associations ensures current and up to date research and resources can be drawn on for my school library. Attending professional development at professional association events such as the Primary English Teachers Association Australia (PETAA) strengthens these links and takes advantage of their wealth of knowledge on children’s literature.

Local Public Librarians

Local public librarians are a great source of information on trends and popular series. They also support us with Book Week visits and competitions to generate excitement about children’s literature both in and out of the school environment.

My Kids

Discussing the books that my children are reading in class and for pleasure is always a great source of interest for me. I have found many little gems that they have been reading that I have then found hiding in my own school library to recommend to teachers for specific units. My own children also enjoy a wide variety of fiction but my youngest (Age 8) is really into information texts, particularly, as the research suggests, animal texts. In trying to meet her voracious appetite for all things cute and cuddly I have come to find some amazing texts, magazines and multi-media sites that are on my wishlist for my own school library.

Other strategies for the future

What else is on my list of ‘to do’s’ when it comes to continued professional learning about Children’s Literature? Here’s just a few:

  • MOOCs: I have had my eye on a few Massive Open Online Courses in this area that I would love to sink my teeth into;
  • Sister Library Program: Setting up a Sister Library program with my school’s local Public Library to leverage database access is one of my targets for the next three years, and finally
  • Formats: Further exploring ebooks, audiobooks and interactive children’s literature following the implementation of our new Library system in late August this year.

Hopefully, all of these activities will help me to wrangle the right book for the right time for each of my little book worms.

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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.

References

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.

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