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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 2, October 2004

You and your teacher-librarian

by Lynn Turner

Are you looking for new ways to interest your students in reading? Would you like some unique resources for your classroom? Do you want to include research or enrichment in the curriculum? Are you looking for a different way of presenting information?

Your teacher-librarian can help.

Teacher-librarians are aware of the importance of free voluntary—recreational—reading and its role in the development of reading skills from Kindergarten through Grade 12. To that end, teacher-librarians can help students with their choice of library books--with appropriate reading levels, with favourite genres or authors, or perhaps with bibliotherapy.

Your teacher-librarian is your partner in promoting reading at all grade levels. While you are working on an individual basis with students, the teacher-librarian’s approach encompasses groups, classes, and frequently the entire school. Throughout the school year, teacher-librarians engage in a variety of activities, all with the goal of promoting reading, of encouraging students to become aware of and interested in books. From the most basic of promotions, such as bulletin boards and new book displays, to organization and implementation of long-term reading programs, teacher-librarians are constantly encouraging reading. Through story reading, storytelling, book talks, and book fairs, they present quality literature to the students.

Are you planning a thematic or curricular unit? Do you need posters, pictures, maps, or charts for your classroom to help with that unit? Ask your teacher-librarian, as most school libraries have a poster file that is available to teachers as well as to students.

The development of a quality collection is another aspect of a teacher-librarian’s role. That involves the selection of literature to promote recreational reading, the addition of resources in a variety of media to support the curriculum, and the elimination of outdated information and seldom-used materials. Declining budgets and increasing costs of resources make developing a quality collection a very challenging task.

Your teacher-librarian works co-operatively with classroom teachers to plan, teach, and evaluate units of study. The units might be organized around a central theme or might arise directly from a curricular topic. Co-operative planning and teaching, a central focus for teacher-librarians, involves several main steps.

During planning, the teacher-librarian and the classroom teacher meet to determine the topic to be studied, the learning objectives to be addressed, the procedure for the unit, responsibilities of the teacher and of the teacher-librarian before and during the presentation of the unit, the form of the final product, and evaluation. Planning meetings are not always lengthy or formal; many take place over lunch in the staffroom.

Gathering resources
The teacher-librarian ensures that there are enough resources in a variety of media and at a variety of reading levels for the group or class participating in the unit of study.

Teaching or presenting the unit
This is a team-teaching effort, with both the classroom teacher and the teacher-librarian assisting students with the unit of study. The classroom teacher will be oriented toward the subject material, and the teacher-librarian will be assisting students with the research process.

Both members of the teaching team can and should be involved in evaluating the research process and the final product.

Teacher-librarians are specialists in information literacy, usually referred to as the research process. This involves training students to access relevant resources, to evaluate the selected resources, to take notes from all types of media, to organize information into a logical sequence and present it in the student’s own words, and to cite sources of information and write bibliographies.

As school libraries become more computerized, and as the Internet becomes an increasingly important resource for research, teacher-librarians—exemplifying lifelong learning—have developed technology skills. In many schools, it is the teacher-librarian who is the computer expert.

In addition to the roles they fulfill in school, teacher-librarians provide leadership roles in education. Many have served on district and ministry committees. Some have been responsible for the development of curriculum, either at the local or at the provincial level. And many have made presentations to parents, to teaching colleagues, to administrators, and to student teachers.

In a number of districts in British Columbia, staffing of school libraries has been drastically reduced over the past few years. The cuts have made it difficult for teacher-librarians to do the job to the standard they would like. Nevertheless, they have worked through the challenges to try to accommodate staff and students.

If you would like more information about the roles of a teacher-librarian, or about the ways in which you and your teacher-librarian can work together to enhance students’ learning and perhaps make your job a little easier, speak with the teacher-librarian in your school. The B.C. Teacher-Librarians’ Association can also assist with any requests.

Lynn Turner is a teacher-librarian at Thornhill Junior Secondary School, Terrace.

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