Is there value in Teacher-Librarians?

Cross posted from doug — off the record.

The annual People for Education’s Annual Report was released this week.  You can read about it here.  The report attempts to give a snapshot of attitudes and statistics from Ontario schools for the past year.  The report has been produced for a number of years and indicates elementary school data goes back to 1997 and secondary school data to 2000.

The survey questionnaire and methods are laid out in the report as well as conclusions and recommendations from the group.  It makes for some very interesting reading.  I’ve been through it a number of times and find myself asking new questions each time through it.  A thoughtful document should do that.

I had a convergence of a couple things recently.  At the front of the document, there is a Quick Facts section designed to provide some highlights of what is to come.  There are some statistics quoted about school libraries.

LIBRARIES

• 56% of Ontario elementary schools have a teacher-librarian, compared to 80% in 1998.
• 98% of elementary schools in the GTA have a teacher-librarian, compared to 11% in Northern Ontario and 25% in Eastern Ontario.

“Annual Report on Schools 2012.” People for Education. Web. 01 June 2012. <http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/research/annual-report/>.

You can draw whatever conclusions you will from the data and drill into the document for a deeper explanation and conclusion from the results reported.

And, Mashable just published this infographic.

“Featured in Social Media.” Mashable. Web. 01 June 2012. <http://mashable.com/2012/05/31/information-literacy-infographic/>.

Before I go any further, I’ll declare my slant.  I’ve always had access to a great Teacher-Librarian who really helped make the connection between my Computer Science classroom and the Resource Centre.  I’ve also come to work quite closely with some very inspirational Teacher-Librarians and have co-presented with some of the best at OTF and Minds on Media events.  Bottom line; I’m probably not terribly objective on this topic.

So, I look at the statistics from People for Education and I have to ask…

  • Are students in Northern and Eastern Ontario inherently disadvantaged by not having access?
  • Are the 2% of schools in the GTA or the 44% province-wide equally as disadvantaged?
  • Can a school pick up the slack and achieve the same sort of results without having a Teacher-Librarian?
  • Are the schools without a Teacher-Librarian as effective as ones that aren’t or have they found a better way?
  • Are the numbers generated due to financial reasons versus some other educational reason?
  • Is it true, as quoted in the report from a school principal that “the library is no longer the hub of learning?”

With all the slicing and dicing of data done in the report, there’s one thing that I think would be very valuable in helping address the statistics and the value that we can infer from them.

Since Ontario puts so much value into EQAO testing, how do schools with a Teacher-Librarian perform on the tests versus schools that do not have a Teacher-Librarian in place?  Can a library / literacy program be addressed without a Teacher-Librarian in place?

3 Comments

  1. Nancy /

    To answer some of your questions:
    Canadian School Libraries and TeacherLibrarians: Results from the 2003/04
    Information and Communications
    Technologies in Schools Survey

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2005028-eng.pdf

    Yes there is value, but teacher librarians, like other support staff are treated as the fluff. I blame it directly on the stakeholders within the education system. School libraries requires books, and as such, as the number of books are reduced, in a wink of an eye the teacher-librarian soon is leaving the school door exits, out of a job. Very much like the SE teachers, who are no longer needed when the number of children are no longer identified as needing remediation.

    I have observed this especially in the last 12 years, seen it in the stats – how support staff has been reduced due to the many agendas within the public education system, and always at the expense of the children’s education.

    I know you may object, but why is the large part of fundraising by parents concerns books, and where the annual purchase of books by schools, is just a wee percentage, where some schools can only afford 10 books? On the flip side of the coin, parents either paying for tutors or doing it themselves, for remediation because the sole SE teacher nor the teacher in the classroom can be expected to take of the many mild to moderate learning difficulties, because there is no money to purchased the materials, and rules against parents to buy the materials.

    The answer to your question, a school that has a well stocked library, the teacher-librarian, and processes the support staff needed to tend to the students’ learning needs, as well as a full teacher line-up. and more importantly the number of computers and access to computer technology plus the library, will run along the income line. The lower the income level versus the number of students, and where the high income group always wins, and everyone else becomes the losers in some shape and form.

    I blame the stakeholders of the education system and the structure of the education system, that promotes the repetitive cycles, and where the focus is to cut or reduce the inputs, and discount the outputs, and where the school becomes ground zero to be expected to educate children without the resources and staff to do their job, without the resources and staff to do a proper job.

    But you’re right, it is in the data streams, and an education system that is loath to examined the outputs and the same patterns that are being consistently reproduce, year after year. Patterns of the 60-40 split or the 1/3-1/3-1/3 split or the split of the 40-60 split at the secondary level.

    How ironic it is the students that become the scrap-goats, and if not them, the teachers. The data streams are telling a much different story, of educating children according to social-economic status.Teacher-librarians are considered fluff, and in the same way, as SE effective remediation is considered fluff for the dyslexics.

  2. mharding /

    I am not inclined to discuss the political and economic ramifications of T/L’s in schools. I speak from experience when I say what an incredibly valuable asset the T/L is to a school community. The role is made even more valuable by the nature of the person filling it. I can’t speak glowingly enough about the attributes a teacher/librarian brings to a team of teachers that is interested in planning units of study that are challenging, stimulating and offer advanced opportunities for students to acquire research skills. I am saddened by the fact that in today’s era of collective bargaining the teacher/librarian, and the FSL teacher, are perceived as the “planning time” fillers. Not that the T/L is any less valuable to the students but I wonder if teachers are interested are in pursuing a “partnering” relationship with the T/L. “Being able to dump my kids off at the library for 40 minutes is more important to me than how much more “in depth” my units might be if I stayed with the class and worked with the T/L in helping the kids find relevant resources for their projects”. I have strong opinions about planning time and using the T/L for this purpose is…well…it’s wrong. Some boards have planning time teachers but still use their own valuable internal resource people to fill the planning time schedule. Another rant for another time.

  3. Nancy /

    “I am not inclined to discuss the political and economic ramifications of T/L’s in schools”

    Not to acknowledged the political and economic ramifications is letting the school board and ministry having another free pass at taking another whack at decreasing school staff based on the ‘fluff’ principle.

    Mharding, your experience and what was stated, are on valid grounds, and as a lot of good solid, rational reasons that have put out to the school boards and ministries of education. However, I learned a long time ago, my rational reasons that were used to obtain education services for my child were ignored by the school board, because I never added the additional connections of why my child was not receiving the additional education services. When I did, the school board was no longer getting a free pass to ignore me, The practices and policies of the school board, are in reality based on political and economic considerations, and never what is the best interests of the students and the school or the teacher.

    Valuable assets, and I agree, but in the current model education structure, what should be best practices and should be adopted are not adopted because of the political and economic considerations.

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