In this blog post, I reflect on finishing my latest teacher-librarianship course, LIBE 467 Information Services. Finishing this course has not been without challenges, most notably the COVID19 virus that has quickly spread around the world affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Finding the motivation to sit down and complete the last few requirements of the course was difficult since I felt like my time would be best utilized supporting my family, friends, and community during this difficult time. If that wasn’t already enough, I have been navigating my own health challenges over Spring Break and coping with the anxiety of not knowing what my job will look like when I return next week, so I’m pleased to be writing this final post. Before I start my reflection though, I’d like to take a moment to thank all healthcare professionals and essential service personnel for their outstanding commitment and bravery during these unprecedented times.
In spite of all these challenges, I decided to reflect on some of the main themes of the course and discuss how they have impacted my current practice, as well as my plans for the future.
The Foundation of Reference Services
This section of the course started with understanding what constitutes as a ‘reference’ item followed by a review of basic student information literacy skills and discussions on how reference collections and services can support the development of these skills. I now understand that reference materials are divided into two main sections:
- “Compilations that furnish information directly (encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, handbooks, yearbooks, biographical sources, directories, atlases)” (Riedling, 2013)
- “Compilations that refer to other sources containing information, merely indicating places in which information can be found (bibliographies and indexes)” (Riedling, 2013)
If one of the primary goals of the teacher-librarian is to assist students in the use of the library and its collections, then I look forward to refining the way I interact with students using the Reference Interview process. I understand that the process is really a conversation that identifies and supports students’ research needs. I feel the more I experience I have, the quicker and more effective my answers and suggestions will be.
Managing and Evaluating Reference Services
This section of the course discussed the skills, processes, and strategies required to effectively select, evaluate and manage a reference collection. I enjoyed this section the most because it afforded me the opportunity to assess my school library’s reference section and make some concrete plans for the future. As a new teacher-librarian, my introduction to the role has been a series of steep learning curves, so up until recently, I had not had the chance to take an objective look at every reference item in both print and digital form. After I did find the time, I determined which print reference items to replace and discovered many under-utilized items in our digital reference collection. In order to evaluate my library’s collection, I used Riedling’s framework as a guide.
The Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada document 2014 also proved helpful in determining where my current practice lies and where I would like it to go. I believe my school library is in the Exploring phase. There are several members of staff, myself included, and administration who feel like we should be in the Emerging phase, but for now are making progress in the right direction.
Standards like the ones found in (Riedling, 2013) and (Canadian School Libraries, 2018) offer suggestions for types of reference material that should be included in a school library. It’s helpful because I’m new to my role, but the standards are also extremely high and out of the reach of most schools in British Columbia. Riedling suggests keeping an adequately stocked print reference section, one that is refreshed every five years or so, but this is unrealistic. Consortiums like BCERAC, however, make digital materials a cost-effective alternative. With access to a wide variety of encyclopedias, atlases, biographies and databases included in BC Digital Classroom they meet the reference needs of most students at an affordable price point.
Canadian Library Association (CLA). 2014. Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. Available: http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/llsop.pdf
Riedling, A. M., Shake, L., & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.
XL 103 Calgary. (2020, March 24). Let’s start the day with some gratitude! – Heather and Buzz [Graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/xl103/posts/3084715111559604