"In order to add value to learning, teacher librarians are going to need to build new bridges"
Unpack almost any obstacle that we, as teacher librarians, may face in our professional roles to its core and eventually you get to the fact that the role is not clearly understood by those who need to know, and taking it one step further, this if often due to our isolation - both physical and professional.
Frequently confined by circumstance to a particular space in the school and by being the only one of us in the school, we are often invisible to other staff and students and therefore the value we add to the teaching and learning of our community is often overlooked, if not misunderstood. This is particularly true for those of us in regional, rural and remote areas where there is no like-minded colleague in a neighbouring school with whom we can catch up with for a coffee and a chat.

As part of the commitment of the School Library Association of NSW to reach out to TLs through providing opportunities for professional learning, a team of Three Rs TLs spent a day with Hamish Curry from NoTosh to explore this statement through a structured process called Design Thinking.
Starting with that provocative statement, as individuals we brainstormed who, where and what we thought those new bridges could connect to using the headings networks, people, spaces, resources and processes. Each idea was posted on a sticky note to form the basis of a thinking wall and from which we drew on to eventually come up with a prototype of a plan that we could build on to build new bridges.
Going from this...
to this...
*local TL networks
*state, national and international online networks of TLs
*professional library associations
*children's services organisations and providers
*social networking groups such as iCentre, Three Rs, ALIA, OZTL, CBCA on Facebook and Google+
*networks of other educators
*networks of other library professionals
*P&C and other parent support groups
*local public and specialist libraries
*personal learning networks
*following professional leaders on Twitter
*politicians, principals, peers, pre-service teachers, parents and carers, P&C
*executive staff
*administrative staff
*student leadership & community service
*role models and people whom students admire
*other library staff and volunteers
*classroom-based teachers, cross-KLA and cross-year level
*community experts as resources
*authors and illustrators
*community members
*clientele (direct and indirect)
*"the long tail" - those who believe the library has nothing relevant to their needs, interests and abilities
*beyond the walls - accessible anytime, anywhere
*physical and virtual
*makerspaces for all ages
*take advantage of public institutions including public libraries, galleries and museums
*be where the community's children and youth are
*spaces should be collaborative, welcoming, imaginative, inviting, open, flexible, supportive
*allow for students to think (such as thinking walls) and work
*combine quiet and collaborative areas
*the domain of everyone not just the TL
*a place where the students want to be
*meeting particular, specific needs so services and resources are accessible to all
*inter-library loans
*Pinterest and other curation tools
*contemprorary collection which meets the needs, interests and abilities of its users
*"own" vs "acquire" vs "access"
*acknowledge need for both physical and virtual
*relevant to needs of clients including the "long tail"
*create and build on local community connections and resources
*search for new research and resources to support professional learning and teaching
*open, not locked down to school or department
*support a variety of learning styles and needs
*identify, collect, curate and annotate
*seek support from networks
*keep abreast of new publications and tools
*use traditional and new media to promote library's services and resources
*support parents and parenting
*efficient and effective online connections via working hardware, appropriate software and robust internet connection
*collaborative planning and teaching
*recognising our unique position and being prepared to take on a leadership role
*collection and presentation of evidence of teaching and learning
*publication and promotion of library event and happenings
*encouragement of gaming culture in learning
*being out on the floor, not in the office
*staying up to date with professional learning - know the research that underpins the pedagogy and the practice so you can advocate and defend decisions froman informed foundation
*scheduled and just-in-time learning opportunities
*utlising technology to expand knowledge of library users
*being proactive and taking a leadership or participatory role on a range of committees
*delivering and/or facilitating professional learning for teaching staff
*being visible at staff meetings and contributing to discussions from the library's perspective
*being proactive - go to the mountain
*maintain lines of communication particularly with the principal and the exec
*providing opportunities for student leadership
*having a vision for the future and a detailed plan to achieve it
*having policies, programs and procedures which will take the library into the future
*sharing research and resources for and with all
*strong parental connections
*parental participation programs

This process allowed us to see that while there might already be a number of bridges in place that still had purpose and value, there were many new bridges that could be built and new connections that could be made, each leading to a different destination.
Further conversations that were scribed allowed small groups to hone in on a particular problem that might be solved by a particular piece of the puzzle. Key concepts of that were then written on hexagons which were then linked with each connection having to be explicity explained.
One group focused on the identity of the teacher librarian...

and then rearranged the same key ideas with Australian Curriculum at its centre, providing a different arrangement of links which suggested new ways bridges could be built rather than the more traditional ones of role promotion and advocacy, and a more manageable pathway to success.


From this a big question was developed by the group...
How might we use the Australian Curriculum to lead teaching and learning in the school?Further brainstorming of ideas directly answering that question with everything being accepted using "Yes, and..." rather than "Yes, but..." and the identification of five personal and then five group key concepts enabled the encapsulation of how the issue could be addressed.
Know the Curriculum
Delivering Professional Learning
Collaborative Planning and Teaching
Online Presence
Contemporary Collection Development
Each of these was then given a 1-10 weighting according to New, Useful and Feasible to identify priorities, and from that a graphic prototype for action was created.
Encapsualting how the TL can assist teachers to know, understand and deliver the Australian Curriculum

How to build an online presence and create a contemporary collection.

Creating a prototype allows for both failsafe and a safefail. It's a first draft not a final product. Explanation, modification, adaptation and development lead to a practical, workable solution that can be implemented.

This process enabled
  • a new look at an old issue
  • the translation of a big-picture solution into manageable chunks
  • the input of a range of ideas from a variety of perspectives
  • ownership of the problem and its solution
  • the identification and prioritisation of key concepts that encapsulate an aspect of an issue
  • the development of a collaborative solution which can be adapted and developed to a particular situation and become the basis for a detailed action plan for future growth

Three Rs thanks Hamish Curry from NoTosh for facilitting our learning, Michelle Jensen and SLA NSW for providing the opportunity and Cheryl Thomson for hosting it. A broader account of the process is available in the Winter 2014 edition of Words, the SLA NSW magazine.