Magazine article Teacher Librarian

Why Institutionalization Has Failed. (Teacher-Librarianship and Change)

Magazine article Teacher Librarian

Why Institutionalization Has Failed. (Teacher-Librarianship and Change)

Article excerpt

IN HIS EDITORIAL IN THE SEPTEMBER, 2000 EDITION OF Teacher Librarian, Ken Haycock (2000) expresses concern over what he perceives to be backsliding in the field of teacher-librarianship. Dr. Haycock is in a position to make such observations.

As a leader in the field of teacher-librarianship for at least three decades, he has been instrumental in the creation of the modern role of the teacher-librarian (Haycock, 1999). Specifically he is concerned that the use of a school-based continuum of information skills and strategies as a reference point for collaboration is no longer the normal experience of teachers. Haycock points out that he observed this to be the case even in schools with strong support for teacher-librarian programs and in schools where this practice had been well established in the past. The purpose of this article is to explore some of the reasons why such backsliding may be occurring.

A review of the professional literature revealed a glaring lack of, discussion surrounding this problem. There is, however, much dialogue concerning the role of the teacher-librarian, the need for advocacy and the importance of a process approach to teaching information literacy across the curriculum. There is a significant body of knowledge about what teacher-librarians should be doing and literature to support that this has been done, and done well, in the past. It appears that the initiation and implementation stages of bringing resource-based learning and information literacy into schools, along with the corresponding development of the role of the teacher-librarian, was successful, at least initially. How then can the failure of the third stage of the change process, institutionalization, be explained?

The backsliding identified by Haycock (2000) cannot be explained by a linear cause and effect chain of circumstances. To understand how this point has been reached it is necessary to examine the processes of change and consider the inter-relationships between the different aspects of the educational organization that have ultimately resulted in the current situation.

Shared vision: the foundation for initiation and implementation

The movement towards resource-based learning and information literacy as cornerstones of the educational process in Canada was founded in a deep-shared belief in their importance. This shared belief is reflected in all provincial policy documents relating to school libraries. Doiron (1998) found that provincial policies "when taken together, painted an active, vigorous, and dynamic vision for school library resource centers that appeared to be shared across Canada" (p. 3). However, the existence of relevant policy does not ensure implementation. The level of implementation of these policies and their evolution into the dynamic programs that were evident in the early 1990s, and to which Haycock (2000) refers, required more than just compliance to policy; it required commitment.

Commitment occurs at the individual level. It cannot be mandated, bribed or forced. Hargraves and Evans (1997) point out that teaching is a profession built on caring. It is a profession grounded in moral purpose (Fullan, 1993). This underlying moral purpose fosters a common caring about what is taught and how it is taught. And it is this caring that translates shared beliefs into a shared vision of what teaching and learning should and can be. Senge (1990) posits that such an intrinsic shared vision infuses tremendous energy and commitment into striving for the vision. It is just such an energy that sparked the dynamic changes to library programs not only in Canada but throughout North America. What has happened to that vision and energy?

As Senge (1990) points out, vision is long-term, and purpose is often abstract (p. 225). People live in their daily realities. How have these realities affected their vision and aspirations? Senge uses the concept of creative tension to explain the relationship between vision and reality:

      The juxtaposition of vision (what we want) and a clear picture of
   current reality (where we are relative to what we want) generates what we
   call creative tension: a force to bring them together caused by the natural
   tendency of tension to seek resolution. … 
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