Going into the assignment, I thought that I might learn about some new online outlets to check out, and this did happen. My conversation with Dr. David Loertscher introduced me to Joyce Valenza’s TL Virtual Cafe, and I learned about the listserv LM_NET from Dr. Mary Ann Harlan.
Still, the bigger lesson that I’ve come away with is in developing a more complex understanding of information communities. While I had assumed that the boundaries of the Teacher Librarian information community would be more clearly defined, I learned that it actually exists much more amorphously and dynamically than I would have guessed. Within the group of Teacher Librarians, there are many sub-communities that exist whether they are geographically driven (e.g., California School Library Association) or by one’s preferred technology platform (e.g., listservs and social media). Also, Teacher Librarians belong to many intersecting communities such as the schools and districts that they serve, all different subject matter communities, and educational technology communities.
In the end, a theme that I have heard multiple times is that there are many potential areas of interest for Teacher Librarians, but there is ultimately only a limited amount of time and so each individual must make choices about where to spend time and energy. As an overall community, many areas may be explored in depth, with some Teacher Librarians choosing to focus a lot of energy on books and reading and others choosing to focus more heavily on technology. Still, since a Teacher Librarian often works alone at a school site, there is also pressure to be able to find ways to still balance and represent all different program elements as a single individual. With this in mind, it is interesting to consider the way in which all Teacher Librarians may converge as an information community. Is there any one place for the community to gather to share and discuss gathered insights? Or, is it a matter of each individual staying abreast of activity within multiple circles to compile a comprehensive picture and develop holistically?
While it is impossible to do it all, I think that a good starting point is for Teacher Librarians to seek deeper connection within at least one relevant information community while listening in to others that they encounter. Over time, an individual may become more involved with multiple information communities or start to shift priorities from some to others, but that is all valuable exploration. Since there is no single formula for participation that will work universally, it is up to each of us to experiment in finding the right mix for the moment, and realize that in the next moment, we need to be ready to adapt once again. The constantly evolving nature of the information community can be challenging since it pushes us out of our comfort zone again and again, but it is also what keeps the conversations fresh, engaging, and moving us forward to where the magic happens.