Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Information Literacy at the School Level : Role of the School Librarian

I will be posting my paper which I read during the lecture-forum sponsored by the Philippine Association of Teachers of Library Science (PATLS) in three or four parts. It was, for me, a great honor to have my mentors and teachers listen that afternoon. The experience prompted me to finish graduate school so that I could teach in the academe as well. And maybe, do research too since the profession is ever changing, ever growing.

I. Introduction

Practicing the profession has given me an abundance of insights and has taught me many things about life in general. Above all else, being a librarian in this day and age affirmed my relevance to the school I work in, likewise, to the society at large. It is exciting, if not challenging, to be a librarian.

We are constantly in a changing milieu where in our expertise is necessary to enrich the learning community that dwells in this evolving landscape. We have a role to play in this community. We have a contribution to make in the development of the (digital) environment. We have a responsibility to facilitate learning to the members of the community.

My lecture for today will focus on the roles of school librarians as teachers and educators; the impetus for updating library skills instruction to Information Literacy Skills instruction (ILSI); and, the presentation of two ILSI programs and the report of IFLA-UNESCO funded project on the development of Information Literacy in Southeast Asia.

Roles of the (School) Librarian

Traditionally, librarians acquire and preserve informational resources. With technological advancements and its application in library operations, librarians can now provide for physical and virtual access. However, due to developments in practice and research, librarians are prompted to include programs and services that will enable library clients to become effective and responsible users of information sources, thus, the inclusion of user education programs. In several US based studies on bibliographic instruction, the stress of the program changed from informing clients of the available resources to locating and accessing library resources, to teaching information skills (Thomas, 1999). In this regard, instruction is not only a program, but doubles as a library service.

In the school level, it is called school library instructional program. It can be integrated in the curriculum. In the grade school level, it is best taught in context with in the Reading block of the Language Arts curriculum.

Reading is a unitary skill divided in three global skills namely; Word Recognition, Comprehension and Study Skills (Hermosa, 2002). Under Word Recognition, Reading teachers facilitate the mechanical function of reading. In building comprehension skills, reading for meaning is the emphasis, as well as, developing metacognitive strategies for learning content. While these two are the widely known and recognized global skills in Reading, Study Skills complete its definition as an integration of (all three) skills. It is not enough that young learners are taught the mechanical, meaning and metacognitive aspects of reading but also the ability to locate, access and gather information from different references and information sources; to alphabetize; to use dictionaries, indexes and card catalogs; to skim and scan newspapers; to cite sources and make bibliographies; to understanding graphs and visual representations, etc. Such skills are not merely for studying. These are life skills necessary to become critical, creative and independent learners (Hermosa, 2002).

The Reading teacher can teach these skills. The school librarian lends expertise as team teacher and partner in the teaching and learning experience. In a compiled study about library instruction in basic education and tertiary levels, Thomas (1999) enumerated the following insights and themes relevant to the role of school and academic librarians with teachers and college professors:

1. The librarian is teacher, advisor, consultant and information provider;
2. The need for pedagogical training as a prerequisite for “teaching” librarians;
3. There is relevance and value to faculty and librarian engagement in planning instruction;
4. There is importance of teaching library skills in context;
5. The librarian is an identifier of relevant resources and;
6. Librarians can assist with research products and the evaluation of its results.

Christophers (2004) identifies four significant roles of librarians as facilitators of information skills.

1. Teacher and Consultant – one who designs instruction; one who collaborates with teachers in the planning and implementation of lessons; one who ahs a grasp of the curriculum able to match and fill the needs of clients;
2. Instructional Technologist – a provider of different technology for teaching and learning processes;
3. Manager of computing services – a creator of databases and knowledge resources;
4. Manager of learning resources collection – content managers of information systems that facilitate the efficient and effective storage, retrieval, use and communication of learning resources and instructional media.

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