LIBE 467 Information services

LIBE 467 – Course Reflection

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:

  1. “Compilations that furnish information directly (encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, handbooks, yearbooks, biographical sources, directories, atlases)” (Riedling, 2013)
  2. “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.

 “Reference Interview Process” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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.

“Reference Selection and Evaluation” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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.

“Transitional growth of a Library Learning Commons:” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 / A derivative from the original work

Overall

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.  

References

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

LIBE 467 – Managing and Evaluating Reference Service

This latest blog post encompasses a personal reflection on managing and evaluating reference services in a school library – the second theme in my latest teacher-librarianship course, LIBE 467 Information Services.

Managing and evaluating a school library’s reference collection is both challenging and rewarding.  In regards to the reference interview, the act of clarifying and assisting with students’ reference needs has been extremely satisfying.  I have enjoyed developing new questioning techniques in order to narrow down students’ areas of interest, as suggested in Riedling’s Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.  I also found that through these experiences I have become more familiar with the reference section of my library by knowing its strengths and weaknesses. I know what I physically have and have not in my collection, and when I don’t have a particular resource, like information on the pangolin, I have learned to curate some digital resources for students.  I have also started to explore the online databases available through my school district as well as applications like Epic.

In contrast to the joys of discovering students’ interests through the interview process lies the challenge of assisting and facilitating research and resource-based projects.  Even though this is a passion of mine and in spite of spending countless hours reviewing and refining the way I facilitate this kind of learning, I am not completely happy with the process.  The biggest challenge with this kind of learning is helping students generate ideas for research. I am passionate about giving students choice over their research/learning, and for the most part, students respond well to the choice but there is always a handful that doesn’t seem to be able to generate their own ideas.  Luckily, I have the opportunity to spend time with Trevor Mackenzie, author of Dive into Inquiry, this week and dig deeper into learning how a teacher-librarian can best support students engaging in resource-based learning activities.

Over the last month or so, I’ve also enjoyed evaluating and organizing my reference collection.  With the help of the Canadian Association of School Libraries’ Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada, I have been able to critically evaluate the reference section of my library for currency, quantity, and curricula connections.  From a print-based perspective my library’s reference section needs maintenance. From a digital resource perspective, my school district provides a number of excellent resources from which students can develop their inquiry skills.      

Before taking this course the question of print vs digital reference material was an easy choice.  There was only one right answer, but as many of the teachers in my school and school district move away from screen-related activities in favour of less distractive, more mindful, practices I see a need for current, high-quality reference materials in my library collection as well as digital encyclopedias and databases.  

References

Asselin, M., Branch, J. L., & Oberg, D. (2006). Achieving information literacy: standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Association for School Libraries.

Creations Inc. (n.d.). Instantly access 35,000 high-quality books for kids. Retrieved February 16, 2020, from https://www.getepic.com/

MacKenzie, T. [Trevor MacKenzie]. (2016, Sep 16). Dive into Inquiry [Video File]. YouTube.  Retrieved February 16, 2020, from https://youtu.be/gCyW1gLcwF0

MacKenzie, T. (2016). Dive into inquiry. Irvine, CA: EdTechTeam Press.

Riedling, A. M., Shake, L., & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.


LIBE 467C – The Foundation of References Services

My next several blog postings take the form of personal reflections on the topic of information services, which is the next course in my teacher-librarianship diploma. 

“It is human nature to be curious. Throughout our lives, we seek answers to all kinds of questions. Having a healthy curiosity and a willingness to seek answers is a prerequisite for lifelong learning” (Riedling, 2013).

As curriculum moves into more open-ended, question-driven inquiry learning the more important it is to have a framework to guide students through this challenging process.  Having time to evaluate some models that can help in the inquiry/research process was very helpful. I was drawn to the BCTLA Points of Inquiry model because of its simplicity.  As much as I love the inquiry process though, I think many models fail to consider the self-regulated learning (SRL) skills required for students to perform well in these situations. The image below is a model that integrates both SRL with the information inquiry process. 

                                                                     (Lister, 2015)

As we moved away from the information inquiry process into the area of evaluating a reference collection I learned some valuable skills, which I am already putting to good use.  I have to be honest though, when I say that the reference section of my library had, up until the start of this calendar year, been largely forgotten. I knew that the reference section of my library was weak and I was unmoved by the problem because I assumed that all reference work is best when it’s completed online anyway.  How wrong I was! It’s clear that from the readings that school libraries should have access to both print and electronic reference materials. If the rule of thumb is that a good reference source is one that saves to answer a question, then crowdsourced reference materials like Wikipedia (the first port of call for many students) may not be the answer, and instead, a quality print reference may suffice.

Much like the frameworks for weeding I learned in LIBE 461 (MUSTI and CREW), evaluating a reference section is important for the overall health, condition, and usability of the library.  I found having a different framework for evaluating different reference items a little overwhelming. It would be beneficial for me to merge the methods we learned in Chapter 2 of Riedling into a framework that would work for most of the items in the reference collection.  Reidling (2009) says, “In order to create and maintain a school reference collection that meets the informational needs of students, effective selection and evaluation of resources by the school librarian is essential” (p. 25). With this in mind, it is important to consider areas such as content, accuracy, bias, authority, diversity, and accessibility when evaluating one’s reference collection.

References:

Lister, C. A. P. (2015). A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved January 30, 2020, from https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/6950

Riedling, A. M., Shake, L., & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.

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