Monday, October 14, 2013

Title talk: Librarian + What? Teacher? Facilitator? Curriculum Leader?

The last time our school posted a library job, it asked for a Teacher-Librarian (TL).*

This time it says we need a Library Facilitator.  (Apply by October 23!)  Primary or secondary.  (While I'm in secondary now, I'm flexible.)

Jane & Louise Wilson "Oddments room"
Where did the teaching go?  It's still in there, but shifted - from direct to indirect - while retaining learning as the priority.  Read the job responsibilities:

  • Work collaboratively with library staff across the campus and college.
  • Work collaboratively with the curriculum leaders and department heads to develop resources and promote inquiry-based learning and all forms of literacy.
  • Work collaboratively with all members of the community (whether students, parents, or staff) to support teaching and learning.
  • Manage the library as a learning environment and public space, including patron services and library staff.
  • Manage and develop learning resources, physical and digital, both for the library and classrooms/departments.
  • Lead the development and promotion of the library as a centre dedicated to the spread of ideas, information, and learning.
  • Other responsibilities as determined by the Head of Libraries and Head of Campus.

 The issue is our librarian-student ratio.

With only two teacher-librarians, one in the primary library and one in the secondary library, and 2,600 students total, the ratio is challenging (to be euphemistic).  We  have roughly 1,000 students in primary and 1,300 students this year in middle/high school (secondary) - and will be adding another 300 students in secondary next year, for a maximum of 2,600 on this new campus.  (And we have a mirror campus across town with 2,900 students, K-12.)

How can one person "teach" 1,000 students?  They can't.  At least not regularly.  Instead they must focus on developing teachers' capacity (as a coach, modeling lessons and acting as a consultant) and learning resources (from pathfinders via Libguides to videos, podcasts, slide presentations), not to mention running a facility that is a learning space by default (the environment as the 3rd teacher), hosting events and initiatives.   Our libraries are in prominent well-trodden paths.  There's no danger of students not coming into them.  Two major pillars of support are the stalwart library staff and the motivated and multi-talented parent body.  Both are critical to maintaining library sanity.

Did I mention that, at this campus, the library is also responsible for the processing and management of all teaching resources?  This includes textbooks for secondary (where we have them) and reading/writing workshop resources for middle and primary (i.e., literature circles and class libraries).  In addition, the secondary library works closely with departments to ensure multiple copies of great books for each age and subject are available (imagine "Hot Reads for High School" across disciplines).

In this situation, we decided that the librarian half is more important than the teacher half in recruiting a new person.  Hence the word "facilitator" over "teacher".  We played with several others.  Coach? Curriculum Liaison? Curriculum Developer?  Curriculum Leader?

We have great teachers.  And we have a great number of resources, digital and physical.  What we need is someone dedicated to connecting the two efficiently.  Perhaps we are just looking for a TL committed to the Flipped Classroom -- who is also excited by metadata.  Because that's what the librarian end should be focusing on -- ensuring easy, intellectual access to everything (the curriculum++) from anywhere.  And this must be accomplished while living in the center of the library, where the students live each day.   It's a front-of-office job with back-of-office responsibilities.

So consider applying.  Whether you agree with our label or not.  What's important is that you appreciate our situation and feel you could not only cope, but add value.

Head of Library role is another interesting definition to consider.  This is how I describe it at the moment.

  • Develop staffing plans and co-ordinate staff recruitment and deployment
  • Co-ordinate the budget process
  • Represent the library team in a variety of settings
  • Facilitate communication between libraries across the campus and college
  • Develop a strategic plan and co-ordinate goal-setting for the libraries
  • Co-ordinate staff professional development
  • Manage facility planning and development
  • Develop library policies and procedures
  • Liaise with heads of departments & grades about policy and procedures relating to the management of learning resources (e.g., textbooks and class libraries)
  • Oversee the provision of information services

Comments welcome.... as well as sympathy.

Update Oct 15:

I forgot to mention two other very very very important positions that complement the library ones.

The primary school has two digital literacy coaches as well as one literacy coach (in charge of the reading/writing workshop learning).  There are also two digital literacy coaches in secondary.

So five other people in the school are supporting other literacies (digital, traditional, etc.) that in a smaller school would probably fall within the teacher-librarian's remit.  Which helps a lot.

I always draw the relationship like this:


Also note the head of library responsibilities listed above are additional to a basic role.  I have to do that as Head of Library on top of being the secondary school teacher-librarian (or library facilitator).

Update Oct 17:

Several questions keep coming up.

1)  Is this a teaching position, with a teacher's contract and benefits?  Yes.

2)  Is there library support staff?  Yes.  Lovely, hard-working staff.  And we have just been given approval to advertise for a local-hire, administrative librarian for our campus (the other campus already has one - giving them three fully-qualified librarians, including the TLs).

3)  What about the online portfolio that must be submitted?
In addition to the usual requirement for applicants to submit a resume and letter of application, candidates for this position should also submit an online portfolio showing evidence of implementation/innovation in these six overlapping areas of the library:  patrons; resources; teaching & learning; events & initiatives; the library environment as "the 3rd teacher"; library staff/team.
Our campus is moving towards teacher portfolios instead of appraisals, so this seemed a good way to have new staff start off -- by showing us things you've done that you're proud of and that have made a difference to the learning in the institutions you've worked in.  Feel free to interpret the six areas as you will and to fashion a portfolio that suits you.  Just give us something to click.


* For the record, I have always been irritated by the American term, "Library Media Specialist".  Years before I became one, I imagined such a person in charge of just CDs and DVDs (ok, it was many years ago).....

5 comments:

  1. So glad you wrote this, as I've had a couple of inquiries about the wording of "Library Facilitator." I wish the job ad could link to this post but understand that that may not be possible.

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    1. Yes, it would be nice to be able to explain the context - linked from the job ad. I also need to edit the above to indicate we do have two digital literacy coaches in primary and one literacy coach -- whose roles overlap with ones a single TL might do in a smaller school.

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  3. You have my fullest sympathy Katie! If I was a bit younger I'd relish working with you as your campus, teachers and library all amazing. Your job description write-up is very clear, although I can't help thinking a shame not to encompass the all inclusive skills and abilities of a TL! I have forwarded to our network in HK. So great to see you and your space, and experience your wonderful hospitality.....thanks for everything.

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  4. I find your post especially interesting as I am currently struggling to create a Role & Responsibilities Document that best fits what I do and feel I need to do, but at the same time meets the needs of Stakeholders and ultimately is rooted in student learning. I agree with your thinking in that how could we possibly teach all the students in our care and that maybe our role is more like Lit Coach and Tech Coach in our schools. In trying to carve out my role at our school, which also has a Literacy and Tech coach, your description aids in my understanding. I have a couple of fears however, one being that I love the teaching part of my job which comes around less often than I'd like and to of late, and two, if we are not directly responsible for student learning then I'm afraid we will become expendable. A lot to think about!

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