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2000 Niki Kallenberger: Infocus- Linking people and information

1998 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy at grassroots.

1992 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy through IT: Teacher development project.

1991 Gwen Gawith: Information skills and school libraries.

1990 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-Librarianship and NZ: A short and personal account.

1990 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-librarianship and missing links.

1986 Gwen Gawith: School libraries: Bridges or barriers.

1986 Gwen Gawith: Teacher-librarianship: New Zealand's quantum leap.

1986 Gwen Gawith: A future information generation or a professional squabble?

 

information literacy:
school libraries and teacher-librarians

Notes for a paper entitled 'A future information generation or a professional squabble: Listening to Liesener'

I'm not sure where this came from or whether it was ever presented or published -I severed all connections with the NZLA for a few years! I'm quite sure that the last paragraph wasn't published! Now, 14 years after the event, the truth about New Zealand's first teacher-librarianship training programme may as well bounce around in Cyberspace. Some belated professional reflection might undo some of the damage it did to health and happiness.

Gwen Gawith

It was heartening to hear Maurice Line refer, in the final plenary session of the recent 19th NZLA seminar, to the need to consider 'why' issues before we get bogged down in 'what' and 'how'.

Th 'why' issues of school libraries and staffing which have underpinned the design of the new New Zealand course in Teacher-Librarianship, and consideration of these 'why' issues must precede discussion of the 'what' and 'how' if it is to be informed discussion rather than discussion based on ignorance, professional bias and prejudice.

Many articles have lamented the absence, in the 1983 A nation at risk... report on American education (1), of significant mention of the role of the school library, or, in American jargon, the school library media program.

Few, however, have attempted to ask why this should be? James W. Liesener (2) in a recent article in School Library Media Quarterly has not only grabbed this 'why?' problem by the throat, but expanded on the context with relevance to current developments in teacher-librarianship in New Zealand that cannot be ignored.

The omission of any substantial recognition of tile role of the school media program in "Producing individuals who will be able to function effectively in an information age" is linked to one of the key problems which has been identified in numerous surveys and articles (3), that is, inadequate defintion of the role of the professional in the school library, and inadequate definition of the function of the library (program) in the school.

Liesener says:

The role of library media programs and their potential for significantly contributing to the solution of information problems must be perceived clearly by clients or their potential will not be realized and others will have to perform the critical information intermediary function. (op. cit, p.11)

He goes onto say:

It doesn't take much of a perusal of the literature to discover a diverse and rather confused panoply of perceptions of the roles and functions of school library media programs. This confusion and total lack of consensus creates a serious problem in attempting to develop programs. (p.15).

My suggestion is that it creates an even more serious problem in attempting to develop the professionals who are the key elements in determining whether a library in a school is an educational function or a place of storage.

In the New Zealand context there seems to be some "creative tension" between the view of the professional in the school library as a catalyst of this educational function, and that of a manager of the school library and its resources.

These are two perfectly valid roles, and both, no doubt, necessary, complementary and certainly not mutually exclusive if the library is to fulfil its potential in the school. However, what we need to do is stand back from the destructive and divisive stereotypical association which cling to the labels 'teacher' and 'librarian', and look beyond the library, beyond the school, to the community and social context in which the

school functions. Liesener says:

We believe that knowledge, understanding, appreciation and skills in the critical and discerning use of information in its different forms are fundamental to a democratic society as well as to effective functioning in an information world. A much greater emphasis however needs to be placed on developing an analytical posture toward ideas and the capability of critically evaluating information from different perspectives. It is also important for students to develop an interest and positive attitude toward the vehicles that express ideas if a lifelong positive relationship with ideas and information is to be achieved. The independence of mind that comes with a personal, free and independent interaction with ideas also kindles the kinds of appreciations and understandings that permit the enjoyment of the subtleties of life and the aesthetic aspects of our world (p.14).

We also need to consider the perspective from which we are

defining professional roles and library functions. Is it a service perspective or a management perspective?

Librarianship is notorious for its reluctance to abandon its traditional allegiance to the management of resources and information, the service perspective being superimposed by the provision of reference services and in largely futile attempts at 'user education'.

Teaching is equally notorious for its reluctance to accept that education is not the transfer of "facts" from the knowledgeable to the ignorant, but two-way communication as part of becoming informed.

Liesener highlights the need to develop a user perspective.

It is critical at this time to have a clear and comprehensive concept of how school library media programs blend into this scene. The abstract and ambiguous conceptions of the past will not be sufficient. The conception of the function and services of a school library media program that will be used in this discussion was developed by the writer over a period of years as a critical part of the development of a systematic planning and evaluation process for school library media programs (Liesener, 1976). It was discovered early in this work that the conceptualizations and definitions of school library media programs were very inadequate when it came to trying to apply more systematic and rigorous approaches to the planning and evaluation of programs. In order to be able to analyze programs more carefully it was necessary to develop a more comprehensive and cohesive definition. This approach attempts to define from a user's perspective the function and services of school library media programs as comprehensively as possible. This definition is used to illustrate the role of the school library media program in developing the kinds of learners required in our striving for excellence. (p.14).

Looking at the users of school libraries, there are two distinct groups: Students and teaching staff. Again Liesener' summary is excellent; presented in the context of the conclusions of the A nation at risk report :

The so-called information revolution, driven by rapid advances in communications and computer technology, is profoundly affecting American education. It is changing the nature of what needs to be learned, who needs to learn it, who will provide it, and how it will be provided and paid for. Liesener says:

The knowledge and skills required to survive and succeed in the technologically and stress-oriented society and world we presently live in are quite different from those required in less complex times. The development of higher level thinking skills is clearly not achieved by concentrating on a rather limited view of basic skills and on drill and practice. Both teaching and testing have to concentrate on higher level skills as well as on the more basic skills... These kinds of skills are not developed and nourished in a passive lecture/recitation mode. The active and constant opportunity for the application and practice of these skills in an information rich environment with knowledgeable and accessible assistance is a necessity for success (p.12).

The next challenge highlighted by Liesener seems to relate to all libraries and information professionals, not just school libraries and professionals. He says "The challenge to teach higher order cognitive and problem-solving skills more effectively cannot be responded to succcssfully with a naive view of information use and users"

This is crucial to the question of "who is the professional in the school library?" Does our view of the role reflect the traditional organized-room-of-books image of the school library or do we see the role in relation to the information world and the need for users to gain adequate information handling and analysis skills?

An overly simplistic view of the information world and information use has dictated our past approaches to the provision of library and information services and the teaching of information seeking skills.... Simply 'preaching' the wonders and benefits of using libraries in the traditional manner and exhorting users to reform when nothing in the last twenty-five years gives us any encouragement that they can or will seems to be a futile and nonproductive exercise (p. 2).

Summed up, all this translates into several concerns and issues key to the planning of the education of the information professional in the school:

• We need a user perspective. Users are not just school library users, but information users (adult teacher /child student) in an information society.

• A naive and simplistic view of information and the cognitive skills and strategies need to access and use (analyse, synthesise, interpret, communicate) information in all forms and formats cannot suffice today.

• School libraries are not diluted, simplified forms of 'real' libraries, public libraries. The needs of the school community are different from, but no less complex, specialist and challenging than the needs of a postgraduate university community. The professionals concerned with information and the school have an obligation beyond the management of the school library and its resources, and this area of 'obligation beyond' clearly relates to the "development of higher level thinking skills" relating to "the learning of information seeking and utilization skills" - what I call information literacy.

However, specifying these skills is one thing. This has been done well, and frequently (3).

Showing how these skills can be developed and supported by the educational functioning of the school library is far from clear and documentation is scanty.

"How I does it good" testimonies generally emanate from America in the guise of books titled "Implementing the school library media program" and the like, but analysis reveals an overwhelming emphasis on the contents of the program, not the implementation in other than the most limited managerial sense. Research in the area is, likewise scanty. There is very little documentation of failure, of problems, of ongoing struggles in the form of case studies except in the battleground of censorship. What we have are numerous tomes on the role of the school library media specialist which paint a daunting picture of this multi-legged, multi-armed wonder (Wo)man as curriculum planner, and consultant, information manager, information consultant, counsellor, reading and literature promoter, provider of an individualized reference and reader guidance services for some fifty teachers and 500-1000 students, provider of an SDI and current awareness service for the academic staff, teacher of so-called bibliographic education programmes, I.T. expert, producer of teaching resources, storyteller, curriculum and literature expert, resource reviewer and filter for all curriculum-related resources, and not least colleague, chum and bundle of enthusiasm etc.

Spare me! Look instead that the realistic studies - some 20 in the last decade - emanating from or supported by the British Library. Chaning some of the negatives into positives is a real, and more realistic, challenge for our new course (4).

Canadian Ken Haycock, is adamant that "The school resource centre serves quite a different function from other types of libraries, because of an emphasis on teaching young people to process and use information" (5).

The English 'LISC Report', School Libraries: the foundations of the curriculum (1) defined the school librarian as "a teacher whose subject is learning itself".

Taking New Zealand today, the sweeping changes in school syllabus and curriculum, and the implications for styles of teaching and learning,the curriculum must drive the service. Liesener emphasises this curriculum dimension:

Unless there is a curriculum need there is no point in considering resources or organisation. We believe that the educational system needs to focus on the central curriculum issues and that these will demonstrate the need for libraries. Then, but only then, can criteria for resourcing and models for staffing and organisation be developed with conviction.

Greatest emphasis has been placed in many cases on the lower level information locating skills; significant improvement is needed in order to develop the strategies and processes necessary to focus more attention on the higher level intellectual skills. A continuing serious problem is the difficulty of integrating the instruction and application of information seeking and utilization skills into the various instructional areas. (p.15).

This emphasises the clear need to place the educational horse firmly in front of the management cart by emphasising the needs for the learner to be able to handle (select, analyse, synthesize, reject, interpret) information effectively, not just locate it and retrieve it.

As librarians we have to learn that libraries in schools exist to create information need, not just to serve it.

As teachers we have to shift perspective from teaching to learning.

As teacher-librarians our job is to support teachers' teaching, but, even more challengingly, to support learners' learning, not just with resources, but with help (collaborative, team and individualized teaching) to ensure that resource selection and resource use is effective.

The emphasis in our course design and content reflects this

information context - on information acquisition, analysis, selection, rejection, packaging and communication; on "new thinking and new strategics for teaching and learning" in areas related to curriculum, curriculum change, information and resources.

At the heart of this emphasis is the learner, a human being who needs to become confident and independent in using information.

Education in New Zealand is undergoing rapid change. The recent curriculum review, and recent syllabus change in areas related, to health studies, peace studies, economics, agriculture, just to mention a few, have profound implications, not just for what resources are provided, but for the changes in teaching and learning styles they imply and anticipate. Teachers themselves are daunted by the change of

emphasis from teaching to facilitating learning.

Spearheading a future direction has never been comfortable. In a small country like New Zealand the need is even greater for all professionals to accept challenge and change without being threatened, to look forwards, not backwards, and to state a professional perspective based in scholarship, research and evidence - the tools of our trade as librarians and teachers.

I believe New Zealand will, likewise, pay a heavy penalty for ignoring the urgent need for INFORMATION SPECIALISTS, not school library managers, who can spearhead New Zealand's future as an information society. A grandiose aim for the Teacher-Librarian? Maybe, but the children in our schools today will be the adults of tomorrow determining New Zealand's future in a world where information is the new currency of power.

Meanwhile, I have been sickened by the volume of the hate mail I have received from fellow librarians. Yes, I have even received a death threat! I have been vilified in the pages of the NZLA broadsheet by one of our most senior librarians for bringing nothing to the task but enthusiasm! For the record, I have postgraduate qualifications in education and librarianship, and have years of experience in public and school libraries. In New Zealand I have worked for School Library Service for five years and undertaken research. I have also lectured in teacher-librarianship in West Australia for a year. This year provided a useful example of poor teacher-librarianship education, but I met, in West Australia, some of the most dynamic and forward-thinking librarians and teacher-librarians I have ever met. So I have both good and bad examples, and I hope to build these into a training programme which will meet New Zealand's NOW needs.

References

1. National Commission on Excellence in Education. U.S. Department of Education. A Nation at Risk: The imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1983.

2. LIESENER, James 'Learning at risk: school library media programs in an information world. School Library Media Quarterly, Fall 1985, pp 11-20.

3. For example:

HAYCOCK, Ken: Teacher-librarians - continuing to build. Canadian Library Journal ,42 (l) February 1985, pp 27-33.

Letter from Anne Jones, Senior Librarian, Crofton School. Library Association Record, 88 (1) January 1986, p13.

HAYCOCK, Ken: Ten issues in school librarianship. In Kids and Libraries: Selections from Emergency Librarian. Vancouver: Dyad Services, 1984 p. 37.

Editorial. Assistant Librarian. January 1985, p.1.

4. For example:

IRVING, Ann: Study and information skills across the curriculum. London: Heinemann Educational, 1985

LUNZER, Eric and GARDNER, Keith (eds) The effective use of reading. London: Heinemann Educational, 19'79

HARRISON, Colin and SWATRIDGE, Colin: Study sixteen. London: Oliver & Boyd, 1984.

MARLAND, M. (ed.) Information skills in the secondary school curriculum. London: Methuen, 1981. (Schools CouncilCurriculum Bulletin No. 9).