As a sole charge librarian, my daily routine before involvement in this project would have included any or all of the following tasks:

  • Cataloguing and processing of resources
  • Issuing and returning of books
  • Planning and setting up displays
  • Shelf tidying and general maintenance of the library space
  • Talking with teaching staff about their research topics, including what resources the library had to support those topics, and how I could provide instruction to students around accessing them (as well general research processes and tips)
  • Showing classes how to use the library WebApp/catalogue
  • Selecting and book-buying, either online or by meeting with book sellers
  • Responding to professional emails
  • Responding to student requests for help with printing
  • Coordinating and supervising student librarians
  • Interval and lunchtime library supervision duty

Conversations with teachers sometimes led to more structured research instruction sessions at the beginning of a research assignment but were very ad hoc and only two or three teachers usually asked for my help. I struggled to initiate conversations with groups of staff, and definitely would not have spoken to the whole staff regarding information literacy skills (ILS) and how I could help with research. I was comfortable working with those particular staff who actively sought my input or with whom I had worked with in the past, but I had no idea how to extend that beyond a 10-15 minute session at the start of a topic. My ILS knowledge I guess you could say – in Ken’s words – was “fragile”. I had an idea of what to show the students but didn’t know how to explain what to do in a structured way.

As a member of the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) I have attended several professional development opportunities and conferences, so I was aware of the importance of ILS and good research skills. I knew that I should be doing more, but unless you have teaching staff on board who understand ILS it is very hard because you work, in a sense, in isolation. Because of this research project I have learnt such a lot.

And This Is Now…

As a result of the collaboration with the two teachers who are part of the project, I have become much more confident in showing their Year 12 & 13 students how to use databases, Advance Google search, identify fake news, use APA citation, and also how to use the library WebApp/catalogue. The support of these teachers has also helped my confidence to run more in-depth sessions than the one 10 -15 minute session I had previously done. I have also gone into their classrooms and run sessions there (really outside of my comfort zone!!!!). The converse of that is that two teachers in particular deliberately booked their classes into the library for the whole research topic because then I was available to assist as and when the students needed. In fact, they were actively encouraged by the teachers to ask for my help. In turn, I’ve gained more in-depth knowledge of not only those particular Achievement Standards but also some of the processes for teaching them. Whilst I don’t pretend to be familiar with all aspects of NCEA, it is much more helpful being part of the process and seeing the end result.

I really enjoyed the second year of the research project. I have a practical hands-on personality so the opportunity to actually ‘do’ stuff and not just hear about the theory behind it, made it much more meaningful. Getting feedback from the teachers involved that the students’ work was much better than in previous years for the same Achievement Standards has made me feel that the ILS work I did actually helped to make a difference.

Year three of the project has seen the ILS instruction sessions increase across the whole school, especially the senior classes but some junior classes as well.  For some teachers and departments it is starting to become the norm to include me at the start of their research or critical literacy standards. I’ve also noticed that students I worked with last year are confidently using the skills and resources I showed them.

My variety of tasks can now also include working collaboratively with a teacher and class for a whole period at a time, and in some cases for the duration of their Achievement Standard research. More teachers have been approaching me to work with their classes too, as a result of the flow-on effect from discussions either directly or indirectly between other staff – suffice to say I can be extremely busy every day!

One thing I am struggling with since our school has gone BYOD (bring your own device) is the fact fewer junior classes are using the library. I worry that those students are not learning to develop good ILS. In the future I would love to see the ILS we are teaching through this project become embedded in the school at Year 9 – 11 not just Year 12 & 13; and have the library, rather than a laptop, at the centre of that work.

Jay Shaw

Librarian, Central Southland College, Winton, Southland