Monday, February 2, 2015

LIBR 200 Post 2 of 8: California Teacher Librarians as My Information Community of Focus

This past fall, I was fortunate to be hired as a Teacher Librarian in my school district with the condition that I earn my California Teacher Librarian Services Credential in the next couple of years. While I have previously worked as both a regular classroom teacher and as a classified school library staff member, my inclusion within the Teacher Librarian community is new. As a result, I am curious and eager to learn more about how California Teacher Librarians function as an information community, and in the end, I hope to personally engage more effectively as an official member.

As defined by Fisher and Durrance (2003), information communities are similar in nature to any general type of group, but with a central unifying focus on information. Information communities form based on the needs of members to “use information from distributed information resources,” and they are share a “common interest in creating and increasing access” (p. 658) to these resources. 

When thinking about California Teacher Librarians, I can immediately think of shared needs for information related to a host of topics such as education, libraries, curriculum development, literacy, technology, reading, and research. In my own short experience as a Teacher Librarian, I find that this need is unique when compared with other classroom teachers because Teacher Librarians are commonly the only person with the role at a school site. A core subject area teacher will have a department to collaborate with, a counselor may be one of a whole team, but Teacher Librarians are usually alone in their immediate work environment. In this respect, I believe that there is an even stronger need for Teacher Librarians to connect with a more distributed, and thus likely virtual, information community of like professionals.

In defining information communities, Fisher and Durrance further outline five characteristics that all share. Let us take a brief look at how California Teacher Librarians relate to each of these characteristics.
  1. “Information communities anticipate and often form around people's needs to access and use information in ways that people perceive as helpful” (p. 660). Despite the fact that Teacher Librarians are relatively few in number and located far apart from one another geographically, I get a sense that the community is well organized and supportive of its members. One example that stands out to me is the California School Library Association (CSLA) CALIB12 Listserv that I have been following. The discussion threads consist of a mix of information requests and offerings, and while I have only been lurking at this point, I find the information to be helpful in furthering my professional practice.
  2. “Information communities exploit the information sharing qualities of technology and yield multiplier effects for stakeholders” (p. 660). As mentioned above, Teacher Librarians who seek out information sharing within the professional community will most likely rely on virtual connections since they are nearly certainly located in physically disparate areas. Just with the immediate example of LIBR 200, I can personally attest to the multiplier effect that these types of technology-facilitated connections may enable. With the ability to reach out to various professionals online, I have been able to contact multiple individuals across the state of California who have agreed to serve as interviewees for future blog posts.
  3. “Information communities emphasize collaboration among diverse groups that provide information and may share joint responsibility and resources” (p. 660). With Teacher Librarians, increased diversity among members may allow for the existence of an even stronger resource base. When a member poses an information inquiry, diversity allows for a wider range of responses to select from and that may be combined to create a most appropriate solution. When a member is seeking information, there is hope that someone in the community will step forward with a resource to share, or in the least, a lead for further investigation.
  4. “Information communities remove barriers to information about acquiring needed services and participating in civic life” (p. 661). As already mentioned several times, the ability for Teacher Librarians to share information online removes barriers to access that may otherwise exist due to physical distance. At the same time, I hope to touch some on the role of in-person information sharing in a future blog post, and I am also interested in considering what barriers persist. For instance, one issue that comes to mind is the reality that California school libraries may be staffed with classified employees or even volunteers as opposed to credentialed Teacher Librarians. In these situations, who is included or not in the broader school library information community?
  5. “Information communities foster social connectedness within the larger community” (p. 661). While Teacher Librarians may share information among themselves, the role is by definition tied to greater communities. After all, the information that Teacher Librarians seek is generally intended to benefit others, whether it is for sharing with teachers who serve students or directly for students themselves. Furthermore, I have also witnessed the way that Teacher Librarians will share information intended for wider stakeholder distribution. An example of this is the series of advocacy videos produced by the CSLA. These videos are distributed to the California Teacher Librarian information community and members in turn link to these videos for more expansive sharing via individual social media networks. Below is a sample video that I have noticed linked on Facebook, Twitter, and embedded on individual library websites.

Having decided to focus on California Teacher Librarians as an information community, each of the remaining blog posts in my eight-part LIBR 200 series will take a closer look at a particular aspect of the information community. Stay tuned for Post 3 of 8, which will look in greater depth at the information-seeking behavior and information needs of California Teacher Librarians.


Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from


  1. Wow, Suzanne! You've chosen such an interesting community. I'm excited that you'll be researching a community that you're already so active in. I'm sure you're right in assuming that this work will help you become even more engaging with your professional peers. This post was very well written. You're setting the bar for the rest of us!

    1. Thanks for you encouraging words, Megan! I am looking forward to learning more!