During my eighteen year teaching career, I have nervously observed the age of ‘Infowhelm’ (Price, 2010) as it stealthily entered my classroom in the late 1990’s, taking a front row seat beside my students in a generational challenge to my front and centre stance (Morrison, 2014). The attention of my students excitedly turned to this ‘new arrival’ who promised them the informational world without a concern for quality or safety (Hough, 2011). New student demands for interactive, multimodal and relevant learning experiences began (Prensky 2001). I battled against my own lack of knowledge in regard to the opportunities the digital age presented. I was challenged to my core as an educator, unaware at the time of the new state of the informational landscape and its consequences for both teacher and student. I now realise from the conclusion of my research, just down the hall, positioned in the library and prepared to assist me with the exponential growth in information and communication technologies (Samuel 2011) stood, (and continues to stand for all teachers in this new learning environment), the answer to my 21st century informational teaching and learning conundrum: a teacher librarian who understood the opportunities inherent within learning in the 21st Century, who would have assisted me to improve both my teaching and student learning experiences.
Challenges abound for teacher librarians at a whole school level, including a role that is both multifaceted (SLASA 2015, IASL 1993, IFLA 2015) and broad in its capabilities. Early in my research evidence suggested teacher librarians appear to be operating under no formal role description, poor staff perceptions and ignorance of their crucial role in the inquiry learning process. In spite of these challenges my research into the role of the teacher librarian revealed the importance of communicative, cooperative and collaborative abilities to work with classroom teachers (Lamb, 2011), the need to garner principal support (Oberg, 2006), and connect their school community in both the real and virtual world (Shenton, 2014), amongst many other abilities.
Opportunities presented in my research directed my attention to the importance of conversations, displays in the library and opportunities for advocacy that must be raised across staffrooms, meetings, classrooms, parent nights, school community events and online platforms. Library spaces must evolve from “SHUSHHH” spaces to become active inquiry driven spaces whether they encourage flexibility, maker projects, or opportunities for student led inquiry. My research also revealed inquiry learning and technological tools support student learning (Bell, 2010) and as such, teacher librarians must be prepared to tweet, post, share and tag. As my research drew to a close, a clear picture of 21st Century Libraries as community centres guided by an inquiry learning approach was represented across blogs, journals, webpages, social media platforms and online communities. “Ding Dong!, is the cranky librarian stereotype heralding over a dusty “SHHH!” space finally dead? Those in the know appear to be confirming that teacher librarians are perfectly positioned to support inquiry learning in the age of infowhelm, from within inspirational learning spaces (Kelleher, 2013).
At the conclusion of this research journey which has allowed me to reflect on my own practice, I realise the teacher librarian down the hall was a vital yet ignored resource, for enhancing my curriculum knowledge and understanding, a collection manager, a promoter of lifelong reading, a teacher of information literacy skills and technology tools, a policy developer and a leader. I missed it all, right when I needed it the most. Indeed all of these opportunities inherent within the teacher librarian role are held up by a constant quality that all teacher librarians must possess: the ability, opportunity and desire to collaborate with their whole school community.
Bell, M (2010) What kids know (and don’t know) about technology. Connections 74, 4-5
Hough (2011). Libraries as iCentres: helping schools ASLA pp. 5-9. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access/acces-commentaries/icentres.aspx
IASL. (1993). IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.iasl-online.org/about/organization/sl_policy.html
IFLA. (2015). IFLA School Library Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/school-libraries-resource-centers/publications/ifla-school-library-guidelines.pdf
Kelleher, T.(2013, May 30) The Library can inspire [Web log post] Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/may/30/school-library-digital-age
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. TechTrends (pp.27-37).
Morrison, C (2014) From sage on the stage to guide on the side: A Good Start, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Vol. 8, No. 1, Article 4
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13
Prensky, M 2001, Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon, 9, 15-18
Price (2010, August) InfoWhelm and information fluency. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWkQq5qmdmc
Samuel, J (2011, August 9) Infowhelm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexrbgiNnJI
Shenton, H (2014, Dec 3) Collaboratories and bubbles of shush- How libraries are transforming Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHdlWQ28gE8
SLASA. (2015). The Role of the Teacher Librarian. In Teacher Librarian Role Statement. Retrieved from http://www.slasa.asn.au/Advocacy/rolestatement.html