The Teacher-Librarian in the Learning Commons

March 26, 2012 (1 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC

In our February 23rd post on What is a Learning Commons, Lissa and I ended the post by asking readers to think about how the role of the teacher-librarian plays in the learning commons. I thought for this post I would continue the conversation by attempting to answer the question: As school libraries move towards the learning commons model how has the role of the teacher librarian evolved?

I have been a teacher-librarian for four years now so being relatively new I can’t talk about the far past but I know when I first began, my job was finding books and resources for assignments teachers developed. We would both work in isolation--the teacher developed an assignment, I would then find the supporting materials. The students would come to the library and I would introduce the resources through a pathfinder and then the students would get to work. Very seldom was I out of the library in the classroom with students; rarely was I involved in the developing of the assignment and I was never in the classroom working with the students prior to the research phase of the assignment. The library was open from 8:00 until 4:00 Monday to Friday and that was when I was available to help students and staff.

I think the biggest change is philosophical and the idea of schools being a learning community where the learning commons and the teacher-librarian are key in seeing this big picture and bringing the learning community together. Sometimes this occurs in the library...sometimes in the classroom...and sometimes in a virtual space. Learning is no longer isolated by subject or space.

Now, I have a virtual library, that not only allows students and teachers access to our resources, this virtual space allows for conversation and participation for the community through twitter feeds, our book blogs and tutorials on how to use web 2.0 tools. As well, it showcases our student work through book trailers, student created comics, glogsters and student blogs. The library resources are now embedded in many classrooms as I work with teachers building inquiry units. I am now in the classroom working with both students and teachers incorporating new technologies and resources in the work they do. I am working with teachers linking subjects together in inquiry assignments so subjects are no longer being learnt in isolation. Now, some of our roles remain the same and I think they need to. I am still responsible for being up to date on the best and latest resources, sharing this knowledge with students and teachers, ordering the resources, maintaining the collection and providing readers’ advisory. But my role has expanded and grown as we move towards a learning community. Anyone who says that the teacher-librarian is a dying breed is wrong!!

I am giving a high school perspective of how the role of the teacher-librarian evolves in the learning commons model. I asked Fern Rierson, an elementary teacher-librarian for her take on the role we have and here is her response:

For me, being a teacher-librarian is many things:

  • It is about …being a Change Agent….who helps envision and shows the way to change through places and in learning/teaching pedagogy. 
  • “I can’t believe what we have learned as teachers in such a short period of time. Ididn’t know what I didn’t know.”
  • It is about… Empowering Others.... to learn in ways they hadn’t considered before and teachers, in risk-taking to learn with their students, instead of being the expert. “Can I make an Animoto about other topics Earth Day, now that I know how to use Animoto?” 
  • It is about …Leading the Way by example even if you don’t know exactly where it will take you and others. “I’ve never done this with Grade 1’s before, but would you like to try this with me”
  • It is about…being a Lighthouse Keeper …..Lighting the way to literacy…in many formats. “We have the best books in our library commons!” “Can I show the book trailer I made about my favourite book?”

Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto of a 21st Century Librarian really hones in on the role of the Teacher-Librarian in the Learning Commons and is something I definately use as my check list as I continue my evolution.

I hope that you will join in the conversation this week. What is our role in the learning commons? Can you give examples of how you facilitate learning? Build community? or Perhaps you have a question about the topic of this week’s post?

by Kelly Reierson



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