Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Social Network Analysis for School Librarians to Evaluate and Improve Teacher Collaboration

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Social Network Analysis for School Librarians to Evaluate and Improve Teacher Collaboration

Article excerpt


Since the first professional standards and guidelines for the school librarian in 1988, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has included some form of instructional partnership as one of the roles of the school librarian (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1988). Not surprisingly, teacher and school librarian collaboration is a main theme in the professional literature, as well as research, focusing on: the role of the school librarian as instructional partner (Ballard, 2009; Loertscher, 2014); views of collaboration (Asper, 2002; Bush, 2003); encouraging teachers to collaborate (Brown, 2004; Gess, 2009; Hylen, 2004; Morris, 2015); theories of collaboration (Montiel-Overall, 2005, 2008, 2010); impact of collaboration on students (Dadlani & Todd, 2016; Vermillion & Melton, 2013); and how to collaborate effectively (Buzzeo, 2010; David, 2008; Harvey II, 2008; Husid, 2013; Johnson, 2010; Lankau, 2015). Yet, school librarians report that one of the major challenges they face is teacher collaboration. They complain that "it does not happen often enough, and the collaboration that does take place many times does not approach a level where the school library media specialist would be considered an indispensable member of the instructional team" (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 48). The answer to this problem is often tantamount to build it and they will come. School librarians are urged to start small, work with the teachers who are willing to work with them, continue to communicate, and hope that eventually the other teachers in the building will see the value of collaboration (Gess, 2009). Although this is necessary and useful advice, it requires a large investment of time and energy and has an uncertain result. Some teachers will respond to this approach, while others will not. Additionally, a school librarian that is new to a school may not be fully aware of the existing collaborative structure of the school. He or she may waste time in rebuilding relationships with the library that already existed or focus energy in a haphazard way. Although school librarians must reach out to teachers to build collaborative opportunities, this by itself, without a holistic and systematic approach, offers a murky and unknown result.

In this study, I investigated the question "How can social network analysis be used by school librarians to evaluate and improve the collaborative networks in their school?" In order to answer this question, I developed a method titled the Social Network Analysis for School Librarians (SNASL) Process using social network analysis and then pilot tested at two schools in a mixed methods approach utilizing participatory analysis by the school librarians.

Literature Review

A review of the research suggests that the tools and information provided through social network analysis offers schools a means of systematically analyzing their existing collaborative networks. School librarians can then use this information to strategize their collaborative attempts and better understand the collaborative structure of their building. With a basic understanding of social network theory and using social network analysis to investigate networks within a school, a school librarian that is new to their building - regardless of their years of experience - can quickly get a picture of how much collaboration occurs in their building and establish an intentional plan for increasing teacher and school librarian collaboration that allows them to manage and leverage their interactions with colleagues.

Social network analysis is grounded in social capital theory, which is defined as "features of social organization, such as trust, norms, and networks, which act as resources for individuals and facilitate collective action" (Lochner, Kawachi, & Kennedy, 1999, p. 260). For example, in a network of friends where everyone is connected to everyone else, all members tend to exchange information and resources, trust each other, and share similar attitudes (Coleman, 1988). …

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