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.


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