The Roles of Professional Organizations in School Library Education:: Case Studies from around the World

Article excerpt

International guidelines for school libraries and teacher librarians exist. However, the role of professional library associations in teacher librarian education has been largely overlooked. This exploratory study examines the role of professional library associations in Brazil, Honduras, Nepal, and the United States (specifically California) relative to teacher librarian pre-service education and in-service professional development. The associations are analyzed in light of communities of practice and the contingency theory of socialization. The findings demonstrate how professional library associations provide culturally relevant professional development that melds professional expertise and socialization.

Introduction

In 1999 the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved a School Library Manifesto. Titled The School Library in Teaching and Learning for All, the document asserts that "The school library provides information and ideas that are fundamental to functioning successfully in today's information and knowledge-based society. The school library equips students with life-long learning skills and develops the imagination, enabling them to live as responsible citizens" (p. 1).

The manifesto states that the mission of the school library is to "offer learning services, books and resources that enable all members of the school community to become critical thinkers and effective users of information in all formats and media" (p. 1). School Libraries link to the wider library and information network in accord with the principles in the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto.

To that end, school library resources should complement textbooks, and include a variety of formats. Services need to be provided equally - and free - to all school community members, and accommodate individuals with special needs. The manifesto concludes that collaboration between teachers and librarians, as well as partnerships with outside entities, result in improved student literacy and communication. School libraries must have adequate and sustained funding for trained staff, materials, technologies and facilities.

Trained staffmust be provided to achieve the goals of the manifesto. However, the definition of trained is leftunsaid, as are the provisions of such training. In an ongoing study of experiences of beginning teacher librarians (TL) and expert TLs to ascertain the factors that predict practitioner success, the author has compared southern California TLs (and their academic preparation) with the experiences of TLs in other representative countries (e.g., Australia, Brazil, Canada, European Union, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan, and Turkey (Farmer, 2008). Factors were identified that link to TL preparation, with the intent of determining: 1) at what point in the academic-practice continuum identified skills, knowledge, and dispositions should be addressed; and 2) what pre-service activities optimize learning. In the process, the author tried to uncover universal and culturally determined practices. For the most part, the author used an online survey to collect data. However, she conducted face-to-face observations, interviews, and focus groups in Southern California, Brazil, Honduras, and Nepal. In all cases, the need for librarian and library standards - and professional development to support those standards - has become a strong desire among librarians.

In the process, the author discovered the importance of professional library associations in the pre-service and in-service training of TLs. This paper discusses those findings in light of two applicable theories: contingency theory of socialization, and communities of practice.

Standards

Examination of IFLA's book on library science education (Schniederjürgen,2007) and their book on access to libraries (Bothma, 2007) reveals that TL education and school library practices have been very uneven. …