Having worked with school libraries in different capacities for more than a decade, I have been familiar with Loertscher’s work for many years. Steve Montgomery, a colleague and Teacher Librarian at El Cajon Valley High School, introduced me and others to Loertscher’s literature on the Learning Commons concept, and our district used these ideas to help shape the vision of our school libraries.
Needless to say, when I started my studies at San Jose State University’s School of Information this spring, I was excited to see the name David Loertscher listed as my Program Advisor. Fast forward to this LIBR 200 project, and I feel extremely grateful that Loertscher was kindly supportive to be be interviewed. Loertscher is not only my advisor and a professor at SJSU, but has served the greater library community as president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), author of multiple books including The Whole School Library Handbook 2, and more.
Given Loertscher’s established experience and expertise in the field of school librarianship, I was eager to hear his perceptions regarding Teacher Librarians and their use as a community of available resources and services. Regarding availability of information, Loertscher explained, “The opportunity is already there . . . The structure is in place.” He cited sample resources from professional organizations such as the California School Libraries Association (CSLA), which had just held its centennial conference and professional journals such as Teacher Librarian, which he co-edits, to online forums such as Joyce Valenza’s TL Virtual Cafe.
Given the number of resources that exist, there are clearly Teacher Librarians who are actively creating information sources and services to connect members of the information community. A bigger issue that Loertscher identifies is the lack of more widespread participation by Teacher Librarians within their own professional information community: “People just have to join and get busy . . . We don’t need any more channels, just people that are participating.” To support this point, Loertscher referenced how less than half of school librarians in the country belong to AASL, how few in California belong to CSLA, and how a library journal recently collapsed due to low subscription levels.
Thinking about lack of participation leads me to consider two questions that tie back to my previous blog post:
(1) How does lack of time and money affect community participation?
I shared my personal experience with Loertscher regarding how I am currently working as a Teacher Librarian in one our district’s school libraries that no longer has a paraprofessional Library Technician. Reminded of Vakkari and Kuokkanen (2012) regarding how time limitations may impact information-seeking behavior, I wonder how much lack of participation may result from others like me having many competing demands for time. Furthermore, how may a decrease in activity relate to Teacher Librarians likely receiving limited or no financial support from schools to cover costs to join professional organizations, subscribe to professional journals, and attend professional conferences and other programs? Loertscher agreed that “The downturn in the economy really hurt school libraries all over the country.” At the same time, he cites how there are many online communities that provide opportunities for individuals to connect with others and grow professionally without expending a lot of money. In other words, Loertscher asserts that “It’s just on what the individual librarian wants to do,” which leads to the next question regarding prioritization.(2) How do and should Teacher Librarians prioritize connecting as professionals within the information community of other Teacher Librarians?
Given the constancy of change, Loertscher emphasizes the critical need for Teacher Librarians to remain current professionally. He gives his library and information science students the advice: “The minute our class is over, your coursework now starts to fade. We’re not on the cutting edge again. You purposefully have to keep up.” Besides prioritizing community involvement for personal development, we should also consider implications for the profession at large. Veinot and Williams (2011) connect human ecology with information behavior, linking participation with social change. In turn, how might advancement across the field be limited by lack of participation? This question must be considered in context, acknowledging not only potential factors of time and money, but also how Teacher Librarians belong to multiple social worlds and must prioritize efforts devoted within each of these communities. In the end, though, Loertscher reiterates that the decision to connect and grow is ultimately personal. “It’s a personal choice.”As the issue of prioritization has come up in both the previous and current blog posts, I am curious to consider other related issues in future blog posts. For instance, what role might inclusiveness play regarding Teacher Librarians’ participation - or lack thereof - in the professional information community? Also, how is technology changing how Teacher Librarians connect as an information community, and what is the potential for it increasing and improving the effectiveness of information sharing in the future? As for now, I simply want to express my gratitude to Dr. David Loertscher for his gift of time and knowledge. I feel fortunate to be starting my career as a Teacher Librarian with these questions in mind so that my personal choices are better informed as I find my way within the information community.
Vakkari, P, & Kuokkanen, M. (1997). Theory growth in information science: Applications of the theory of science to a theory of information seeking. Journal of Documentation, 53(5). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/10.1108/EUM0000000007210
Veinot, T. C., & Williams, K. (2011). Following the “community” thread from sociology to information behavior and informatics: Uncovering theoretical continuities and research opportunities. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(5). 847-864. doi:10.1002/asi.21653/