(2b) What would be its primary responsibilities and functions to meet the learning goals of schools?

Present your views using the Comments box (below).

 When submitting your responses, please indicate:

·         your position, and/or type of group (if a group response) e.g. principal, or teacher librarian network

·         your sector, state or place, and type of school/organisation e.g. NSW government high school


8 thoughts on “(2b) What would be its primary responsibilities and functions to meet the learning goals of schools?

  1. I see the ‘furture’ of school libraries changing in the different types and styles of resources. One of the main roles of a librarian is to supply up to date and relevant materials, and I don’t see this role changing in the future. One of the problems that I am experiencing at the moment is the cost of ‘modern’ resources, especially online ones, it’s much cheaper to buy a book than pay for a years subscription; the only problem is, more students will use the online resource than read the book. I think the thing holding back librarians from ‘the future’ is the lack of funding and finding good ‘modern’ resources that do not cost the earth.

  2. I have just come across this piece of research and development initiative of the Canadian Education Association (CEA). It is called What did you do in school today?: Transforming Classrooms through Social, Academic and Intellectual Engagement It is a multi-year research funded through collaboration with the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) and a number of Canadian school districts. Launched in 2007, the initiative was designed to capture, assess and inspire new ideas for enhancing the learning experiences of adolescents in classrooms and schools. It is using a variety of data collection instruments. Its findings are very interesting, and I believe ask to think very carefully about the kinds of instructional activities that are part of the school library’s initiatives.

    The study is available at:

    Central to its findings is the importance of developing intellectual engagement, and this revolves around instructional interventions. The study talks about the key dimensions of instructional challenge, characterized by:
    • Curriculum as discipline
    • Exploration, understanding of concepts
    • Development of ideas through the disciplines and through work on authentic problems
    • Individual and collective knowledge building
    • Effective learning time
    • Positive classroom disciplinary climate
    • High expectations for success
    • Positive relationships with teachers.

    It also places emphasis on the development of confidence as knowledge-builders, problem-solvers, conceptual thinkers, self-motivated learners, including orientation to original work and often collaboration.

  3. Prime role would be to research and outsource materials needed by clients to enable them to follow their learning journey. Secondary roles of maintaining resources – archival material, digital, print and equipment.

  4. This is a group round table response from the Northern Tablelands Teacher Librarian group. The school involved are a mixture or rural Public, Central and High schools plus a few Private schools in the area who meet every term.

    – School Libraries have an integral role within the school to support and facilitate student and staff learning
    – School Libraries are the ONLY facility in a school where ALL learning goals of every student and teacher of every KLA and school initiative is supported

  5. Alison makes an excellent point re “the cost of ‘modern’ resources, especially online ones”. For most NSW DET schools, it is very difficult to justify the expenses of specialist online subscription databases, especially when many topics might only get revisited every two or three years in a cyclic teaching program. Hence we tend fall back on free online material (.com, .org, .edu) and the ubiquitous Wikipedia (although the advantages and disadvantages of such material can be useful teaching points). And, of course, books… which remain viable even in a power blackout.

    I perceive a move to more schools sharing campus library facilities. I assume studies are being done on the successes of the NSW “education precincts” already set up. It would be interesting to hear how those experiments are faring. (Did these end up being “libraries of the future”?)

    Challenging students to research widely – via collaboratively-planned, taught and assessed Guided Enquiry activities – would seem to be a most effective way to ensure that students will be able to achieve success, especially if the pool of relevant/available resources is already limited by budget. I like the strategy where the students agree they must use a variety of resource types as they research a topic.

    Making time for teachers and teacher librarians to plan their collaborations would seem to need to be a high priority, too: ie. one of the school library’s current and future primary responsibilities and functions to meet the learning goals of schools.

    But… a school library can’t be setting up its responsibilities and functions in isolation. The addition of outcomes and indicators in all syllabuses puts the learner first. How often do some of us put the learners first in other considerations? Furthermore, individual school communities articulate expectations which can and should inform the learning goals for each school. The trained teacher librarian is an invaluable human resource in ensuring that learners, educators, resources and technology come together in an organised way to achieve the goals.

    If the school of the future is not clear as to its learning goals, the school library of the future can’t be expected to be helping to achieve them effectively.

    Ross, I really like those “What did you do in school today?” findings. Our school has now had numerous sessions on the “development of ideas through the disciplines and through work on authentic problems”, including an excellent one-day session here with Jamie McKenzie, but I think we’d all agree that finding that little bit of extra planning time, to make lessons more focused on authentic problems is the hardest bit. The school day goes by so fast; not to mention finding more time to assess the work before students move on to create their final product. The more “authentic problems” become embedded into our syllabuses and teaching strategies, the more things will improve, but for many staff it’s a challenging hurdle. The way of the future, but we’re not there yet.

    I find that a lot of what happens in my school’s library program fits with that idea of “individual and collective knowledge building”, especially in a PSP (Priority Schools Program) school. Teacher librarians seem to be well placed to help students – and teachers – to make connections, and I encourage the ongoing development of field knowledge constantly. Although my IWB has only just arrived, I have seen glimpses of amazing programs that can be used on it during brainstorming and synthesis sessions to take that knowledge building so much further. There’s just so much to learn! The way of the future, but we’re not there yet.

    The IWB being placed in the library is certainly also challenging me to maximise the “effective learning time”, since each class only visits for 45 minute sessions, and our semi-flexible timetable has fewer gaps than would be ideal.

    Our school has worked hard to ensure we have a positive classroom disciplinary climate” and we have regular, weekly meetings where students who slip through the learning and disciplinary cracks are monitored, discussed and reevaluated, and this helps keep everyone on track. The previous teacher-librarian was always a regular part of this committee, and I made sure I kept up that participation as part of my role when I moved back into the TL position. It’s constantly enlightening, and I know I bring a unique perspective to these meetings.

    Our school also tries to have “high expectations for success”. Again, very important, and often very, very hard to maintain, especially in the face of disappointing test results. Inevitably high expectations won’t always be achieved. But you’re unlikely to achieve high results without aiming high in the first place. (But, sadly how often do we hear students, student teachers – or even TLs undergoing their post-grad work – saying, “I only need 51% to get a pass”.)

    The importance of “positive relationships with teachers” is also paramount to the survival of future school librares. I do seem to put a lot of energy into that. It pays off, so I keep doing it (Pavlov’s dog.) I think some teacher-librarians still allow themselves to become marginalised in a school staff. That old adage of finding one person you can work well with, then presenting your successes as a team to the other staff, then slowly working with more and more people, is so important.

    I know there are some TLs that feel they are unable to do this. (It’s never been my personal experience, and I’m sure it’s not just that I’ve led a charmed life as to what TL appointments I’ve ended up in. Building positive relationships with other staff is a crucial responsibility and, if it’s unable to occur, then it becomes a whole-school problem. Again, this is sometimes that needs explicit training for the participants – in this case the learners are the staff, not the students.)

    As Lee Cutler’s group suggest, “school libraries are the ONLY facility in a school where ALL learning goals of every student and teacher of every KLA and school initiative is supported”.

    Sounds good to me. “Developing intellectual engagement” (re the Canadian Education Association’s findings) may well be a good umbrella term for what future school libraries will be able to do best.

    Ian McLean,
    Penrith PS

  6. Robin Pulver, Teacher Librarian at Moorefield Girls High School (NSW DET) and Committee Member (15 yrs) of St George Teacher Librarian Network.

    Primary goal would be to make information and information skills training available to all as well as focussing on the value of literature in its many forms. The library should remain proactive, engaging students and staff and providing a stimulus to intellectual development and to meet learning goals.

    Collaboration with staff to set assignments and create proformas to include higher order thinking skills would be encouraged. Utilising the library space for conferencing, book talks, debates etc would enhance the library’s role as leading in literacy and learning.

  7. As an aid to meeting the learning goals of the school a library can
    1. can set up personal interest, research group.
    2.Can allow research to be presented using all the latest ideas and equipment.
    3. Allows a space for all students to work at their own level in a positive environment.

  8. Primary functions?

    Same as for any teacher or learning space – support students on learning path. Closer links with specific curriculum to be able to teach content as well as processes or skills

    June Wall

    Past President
    Vice President – Association Operations
    Head of Library
    St Ignatius College, Riverview

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