ETL401 The Critical Synthesis challenge

BLaKC pic

Balmain Library and Knowledge Centre 2015

My challenge here is to achieve a “critical synthesis” and assess my progress in understanding the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools. To be perfectly frank, I don’t know that I am yet capable of fully realising that goal. This course has expanded my view of the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools, increased my knowledge of the expectations and details, but has also found me acquiring scepticism that the role will ever truly be appreciated in schools, and a realisation that the frustration levels involved may yet overwhelm me.

My career as a teacher has already spanned three decades and provided me with experiences in a wide variety of education systems and pedagogical approaches – yet I find myself under pressure to be able to fulfil the TL role. Achieving success at interview and being offered a placement as TL in a NSW DEC school was a significant challenge.  I bring to this role an acceptance of the change process, a deep love of literature and information literacy, expertise in the vast array of tools of the 21st Century educator, a background in database management, and training in school leadership… and yet I find myself in a school where the role of the Teacher Librarian has a long, dark shadow and significant baggage, and I wonder if I have sufficient resilience to meet the challenge of realising the potential of the TL role. Thankfully ETL401 has provided some clarity for me but TLs must work within the staffing structure of their school and I am yet to be convinced that it is possible to establish a shift in how other staff perceive the role, or accept a change that allows change.

Since first being offered, by a secondary Principal, an opportunity to act as Teacher Librarian in 2013, and another position in 2014, I have been fortunate indeed to connect and collaborate with a large group of Teacher Librarians serving in a wide range of schools – both in NSW and internationally. I have listened and read about the issues they face – the challenges of advocacy and accreditation, the importance of “Teacher” in TL, the treatment by school executives, the budget constraints, the push for change of usage and design of Library spaces and so on, and I began this course with what I realise now was a chaotic view of the Teacher Librarian profile in schools.

My description of the role as a “Project Manager’s nightmare” (Hogg, 2015a) was an accurate assessment of how I saw the role at the beginning of this semester. Thankfully some clarity has been achieved as the course has progressed, and especially through exposure to and discussion about some of the support literature that provides greater definition of the TL role. The ASLA website and materials have been significantly useful in this pursuit of clarity and their analysis of “What is a teacher librarian?” (, 2014) has provided me with a framework as a foundation for the development of a Strategic Plan for my new role. What I described as the “ubiquitous and indispensable” (Hogg, 2015a) features of the TL role are in fact examples of critical and creative thinking – two important facets of what the Australian Curriculum describes as General Capabilities of the 21st century (Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2014) and are a foundation for the role of TL in schools.

This course has also highlighted the importance of the role of the School Principal in achieving a shift in perception amongst teaching staff regarding the use of the Library and the role of the TL. The course forums gave many examples of how Principals and TLs interact in schools. As I noted in my blog post, the literature has shown me that “Supportive principals also communicate an understanding of the value of the library program and make Information Literacy an agenda item in school planning” (Hogg, 2015b) and I recognise that I have much more “collaboration homework” to do (Bush, 2003) in order to achieve a supportive relationship, and the resulting access to teaching staff that can be made available in the collaborative process.

Most importantly, though, I come away from this course with a much more detailed understanding of the importance of Information Literacy – what it looks like and how it can be explicitly taught in schools (Hogg, 2015c). In addition, through the Interact2 forums, completion of assignments, and connection and collaboration with other members of my MEd(TL) student cohort (especially through connecting via Facebook) – I have come to understand the importance of the Information Literacy models and the process of inquiry, and look forward to creating opportunities for students at my school to improve their Information Literacy and be better prepared for the challenges of lifelong learning in this information dense landscape of the 21st Century.

Information literate students, who are learning how to learn and using a 21st Century skill set, should be the focus of the TL role. Teacher Librarians have a pivotal role in teaching their students how to broaden their literacy horizons and love of literature, how to have a passion for learning and how to the acquire the metacognitive processes involved – constructivism in action. Essentially this means that TLs are teaching students to access, process, organise, create, and present their learning in meaningful, purposeful ways (Abilock, 2004). For me the fog has cleared and the challenge is revealed – I will continue to learn how to adapt and change as my participation in the role of Teacher Librarian focuses on the students of my school and the learning challenges they face, in a world where success, reading and Information Literacy are inexorably linked.

While I remain sceptical… I will face the hurdles with renewed vigour, now that the challenge has been well articulated.

Mindmap Role of TL

Role of TL

[click image to enlarge]

[Images in this post created by D.Hogg 2015]


Abilock, D. (2004). Building Blocks of Research: Overview of Design, Process and Outcomes. Available at:

ACARA Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2014) Foundation to Year 10 Curriculum [online] Available at:, (2014). What is a teacher librarian? Available at:

Bush, G. (2003). Do your collaboration homework. Teacher Librarian, 31(1), 15-18.

Hogg, D. (2015a) ETL401 blog task 1 – trying to understand the TL role

[blog post] available at

Hogg, D. (2015b) Principal support in a 21C library [blog post] Available at:

Hogg, D. (2015c) Am I information literate? Is information literacy more than a set of skills? [blog post] Available at:


Principal support in a 21C library

The core business of a School Principal is to maximise the positive effect on student learning outcomes. To this end, the effective use of school resources – human, physical and technological – must combine to optimise the opportunities for students to engage and learn. Within this framework, the utilisation of the Teacher Librarian is key to the knowledge economy of the school.

Collaboration quoteFor a Teacher Librarian(TL) in a NSW DEC High School, both Head Teacher and Principal support are crucial to the efficient execution of the TL role. A supportive Principal will incorporate the Teacher Librarian’s participation in the School Plan; raise the profile and importance of the role of the TL and the library within the school; and model, support and enable collaboration between the TL and classroom teachers (Oberg, 2006). Without the support of the Senior School Executive, the library will be relegated to under-funded and ineffectual and have little impact on the learning outcomes of the school community.

This support from the Principal is manifested in a number of ways. It is important to recognise that the physical isolation of the library can be the Teacher Librarian’s biggest hurdle to overcome in terms of being a vital participant in the school’s learning community (Lamb, 2011, p14).  Lamb (2011) posits that such isolation can lead to “occupational invisibility” for the Teacher Librarian, and goes on to suggest that supportive principals will provide an outline of their expectations for library use and the classroom teachers’ participation in the library program (p. 14). TL’s have a vast arsenal of ICT tools that can be utilised to overcome these issues of isolation and build bridges to empower other teachers to utilise collaboration mechanisms. Supportive principals also communicate an understanding of the value of the library program and make information literacy an agenda item in school planning.

Support from the Principal becomes evident when they create the “context and structures” that enable the Classroom Teacher and the Teacher Librarian to work collaboratively, allowing some opportunities for flexible scheduling which ensures the library program is integrated into planning and evaluation structures. A supportive principal will also encourage the TL’s personal and professional development (Oberg, 2006, pp. 8 & 15).

An appropriate role for the TL in curriculum planning and development includes being a facilitator in ICT, educating staff on new technologies and programs, and resourcing the curriculum. Teacher librarians should collaborate with classroom teachers “to combine knowledge of the curriculum, knowledge of individual learners’ needs and competencies and knowledge of information sources, resources and technologies” (ASLA, 2009). Without the support of the principal of your school, none of this is possible.

Mattesich et al (2001) write that the arrangement between the Principal and the TL should “include(s) a commitment to mutual relationships and goals; a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility; mutual authority and accountability for success; and sharing of resources and rewards” (in Haycock, 2007). This is not going to be achieved quickly and easily, and requires effort from both the Principal and the Teacher Librarian to establish and maintain common goals for student learning outcomes in their school.

Lastly, Bush (2003) adds that professional satisfaction derives from collaboration with colleagues. This desire to practice a collaborative approach and insert the TL role as a support mechanism for classroom teachers, has the added benefit of developing the collaborative skill set of all involved… including the Principal.


Bush, G. (2003). Do your collaboration homework. Teacher Librarian, 31(1), 15-18.

Haycock, K. (2007)  Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning.  School Libraries Worldwide, Vol. 13, No. 1, p.26

Lamb, A. (2011).  Bursting with Potential:  Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette.  TechTrends Vol 55: 4.

Oberg, D. (2006) Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.




Am I information literate? Is information literacy more than a set of skills?

Search survey capture

Search survey 19 April 2015

A simple survey – posted one evening in two closed groups on Facebook, and then also on NSW DEC (tafe) yammer. A straight forward, single question… “How do you search for information?”

Does it surprise anyone that out of a total of 48 participants, as of the moment that I am writing this blog post… 100% of respondents chose Google as their preferred research tool?! 

The added point of interest is that the two closed groups are MEd(TL) students and yammer is significantly populated with school teachers… and no-one chose the library as their go-to place for information.

So does being information literate these days equate to being able to use the Google search engine? Is it just a set of skills needed to find information using Google? Is Google the guaranteed way to finding the answer to any question posed? And does that mean the user is information literate? Is information literacy just a set of skills?


Tweet from April 19 2015

There are certainly challenges involved in using Google efficiently. In the hands of a novice, the information tsunami can be just as devastating with Google’s help as without! If you don’t have the skills to use it then the information you are seeking will remain hidden… but being information literate requires something more than being able to use Google search efficiently.

In 2004, the Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy developed the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework and published a set of standards. These standards provide a definition for the information literate person

  1. The information literate person recognises the need for information and determines the nature and extent of the information needed
  2. The information literate person finds needed information effectively and efficiently
  3. The information literate person critically evaluates information and the information seeking process
  4. The information literate person manages information collected or generated
  5. The information literate person applies prior and new information to construct new concepts or create new understandings
  6. The information literate person uses information with understanding and acknowledges cultural, ethical, economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information

We begin to realise that information literacy is a framework for learning which not only includes a skill set but also includes ways of thinking and being.

On further exploration it is revealed that the meaning of Information Literacy (Herring, 2006; Thomas, Crow, & Franklin, 2011; Informationliteracy, 2015) hasn’t reached consensus and settled on a single, static definition. However, the concept is a constantly evolving idea and this reveals the current importance of the ability to seek, retrieve, record, analyse/evaluate and correctly use any information (Thomas, Crow, & Franklin, 2011; Informationliteracy, 2015). Being information literate has become a requirement for living and learning in our information dense world. When using information literacy as a framework it also allows for other skills to be integrated such as computer and technology skills (Eisenberg, 2008).

However, if we misinterpret information literacy and use it as just a framework to follow, and explore it no further, the Teacher Librarian loses an opportunity to provide their students with more than just a set of skills, it is, as Herring (2009) defines it… a way of thinking.

The Billion Dollar Gram

Information is beautiful

The advent of the Internet has had a significant impact on the access to and presentation of all manner of information. The modern learner has many challenges in accessing, understanding, synthesising and evaluating the information they require in both their studies and in daily life. The Teacher Librarian role should be utilised in schools to support the acquisition of the skills involved in Information Literacy… but also be expanded upon to realise that it requires more than just a skill set… it is an opportunity to address the thinking and understanding that is needed before a student can confidently identify themselves as information literate.



Bundy (Ed), A. (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework – principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. [ebook] Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL).  Available at:

Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the Information Age. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47

Herring, J. (2006). A critical investigation of students’ and teachers’ views of the use of information literacy skills in school assignments. School Library Media Research, 9

Herring, J, (2009) A Grounded Analysis of Year 8 Students’ Reflections on Information Literacy Skills and Techniques,  School Libraries Worldwide, Vol 15, no. 1, pp. 1-13

Informationliteracy (2015). International definitions | Information Literacy. Retrieved from

Thomas, N. P., Crow, S. R., & Franklin, L. L. (2011). The Information Search Process: Kuhlthau’s legacy. In Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library(3rd e.d.). Libraries Unlimited

Copyright 4 Educators

Once again this year, the National Copyright Unit will be conducting the Copyright 4 Educators course via P2PU ( Having completed this online course last year – I highly recommended it for all educators… Beginning through to Highly Accomplished.

P2PUcourseThe course runs for seven weeks and covers a great deal of content regarding the complicated world of copyright, Creative Commons and Open Education Resources.

“The Copyright 4 Educators course is not taught; the course leaders facilitate it. The course is student participation focused. Students are divided into small groups in which they organise their online communications/discussions (via email, Google docs, Skype, tokbox etc) and jointly submit answers to each week’s task.” For communication in this course last year, my group and I set up a Google+ community so that we could share our learning and connect and collaborate about the materials and content involved in the course.

With this style of presentation, this course gives participants an opportunity to both learn the material and also apply new skills to achieve the learning, with a group of like minded educators. It is an excellent example of a 21st Century approach to skill acquisition in an important area of knowledge construction.

“Enrolments for the course will open on April 27 and will remain open for one week or until the course reaches 60 enrolments. In the last cycle of the course, enrolments filled in three days.”

For more information and to enrol in the course…

27 things your Teacher Librarian does…

27 things Teacher Librarians do

I’ve inserted this infographic here in my CSU blog so that I can reflect on this analysis… and return to it as I learn about the facets of this role… and add to the skills that I currently present with.

Like all roles in schools – the idea is to get better at the job as you face it day-to-day. I am beginning to see how this particular role has enough variation in it to keep even the most multi-tasking hungry of Teachers completely satisfied in the short and long term. The Teacher Librarian role is somewhere to explore a wide range of teaching and learning opportunities. The important thing to remember is “to grow is to change”!

Deb Hogg

ETL401 Blog Task #1 – trying to understand the TL role

Like all roles in schools, that of the Teacher Librarian (TL) exists within the confines of industrial legislation, leadership planning, and student learning and supervision. While that may seem like a bland set of parameters for any role in a school, it is very important to understand the constraints within which this role in schools is confined. Advocacy for teacher rights and defence of working conditions has always been the boundaries within which teaching role descriptions haveIamaTL been established.

It is revealing to read about the traditions and stereotypes specifically attached to the Teacher Librarian role – visions of twin-sets and pearls with screwed up faces declaring “Shhhh!” (Korodaj, 2011) – and compare it to advocacy declarations of untapped expertise (Gillespie, 2006), potential for professional coaching (Harvey, 2011), and teacher leadership in new skills for a new century (ASLA, 2013). Somehow, the Teacher Librarian has to navigate a path amongst all this expectation, and find a way to value-add to student learning in a new paradigm, and resource the curriculum for other teaching staff. It is, afterall, an expensive undertaking to resource a modern library and provide qualified staff to empower users of this facility to benefit from this significant investment. The modern Teacher Librarian is much more than a keeper of books, and will be compelled to make their presence known – define their own value and inject it into the needs of their learning community. This is the ultimate advocacy – making the role ubiquitous and indispensable while managing it with grace and professionalism.

My participation thus far in the Teacher Librarian role in NSW DEC schools has come about through the mentoring of Principals. At the end of 2012, my then Principal approached me to fill the role of Teacher Librarian for a LSL Temporary Contract for 2013. Ostensibly presented as a fit for my skill set, with experience in corporate database management (from another career), capabilities in inquiry and knowledgable in technology support, proven expertise in innovative practice and a love of literature and literacy improvement reaching back to my own school memories of Brecht, Hesse, Orwell and Sartre. The Teacher Librarian role seemed an appropriate fit. Since then it has become an opportunity to branch out into other schools and now be offered a permanent position based on completion of the MEd(TL).

However, these last two calendar years have also been a revelation regarding the complexities of the role of Teacher Librarian, and the advocacy challenges facing this role in schools. To be succinct, in my view, the TL role is a Project Manager’s nightmare. Constantly responding to demands from all quarters, analysing systems and providing solutions to multiple complex problems each day, while resourcing a curriculum, managing a budget, teaching, supervising and supporting students throughout the day, liaising with staff members, supervising secretarial support, maintaining a collection – nurturing, supporting, teaching, resolving! Quite often the Teacher Librarian role is the stuff of Chaos Theory – a butterfly takes flight, resulting in the arrival of a storm, and the TL steps into the vortex to provide solutions, support learning and make the story have a happy ending – or lend the perfect book that provides one. My hope is that ETL401 will help to provide some clarity within the role description in order that I might develop a Strategic Plan for my new role.

Deb Hogg

Reference list:

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) 2013, Future learning and school libraries. ASLA, Canberra, ACT.

Gillespie, Ann M. (2006) Teacher-librarian contributions to student literacy standards.  pp. 1-85. (Unpublished)

Harvey, Carl A. (2011) The Coach in the Library. Educational Leadership, Vol. 69, No. 2, Oct 2011

Korodaj, L. (2011). Chameleons embracing change: considering the image of the teacher librarian. Access (10300155), 25(4), 16-19.

Please note: image inserted in this post was created by Deb Hogg in the Noteography app on an iPad

So far away and yet close enough to learn with…

keep-calm-and-ask-a-librarian-1Tonight’s Adobe Connect session was a great opportunity to find out more about my fellow students – where they are, what their time challenges are, what their fears are… as we all face the challenge of returning to study, in an online format over vast distances.

Carole from the CSU Library is a model of what we all aspire to be, and her quick wit and gracious responses reminded me that the role of a University Librarian requires a cool and calm approach… must practice those attributes because they surely don’t come naturally! 🙂

Barbara also modelled lots of other skills too that represent how expertise in Information Services has morphed in this new century. Being able to manage a presentation delivered through a browser, managing chat streams and questions, sponsoring audience participation and clarity of response… all done with good cheer and encouragement to the audience in far flung places.

It’s interesting to consider the level of expertise and confidence required to manage participation in a course completed through a distance education model. It’s all very well to suggest that the answers to all questions are provided on an information dense website, but frustration levels can reach new highs when design features don’t meet user expectations… especially those users who are pressed for time and can’t dedicate the amount needed in order to become familiar with the navigation on a complicated set of websites. This mode of delivery certainly does come with a range of mountains to climb.

Having an opportunity to connect with fellow students and find out what level of access they currently have to a library space, led immediately to offers of connections in real life that will hopefully build a real sense of community amongst this current group of Masters students. Meeting over coffee always ends up resolving fears and building bridges that will provide the support we all need for the challenges that lie ahead in completing a post-graduate degree.

All in all… a great session 🙂

Deb Hogg