Teachers and Librarians: Collaborative Relationships.
by Russell, Shayne
Since the early 1980s, library literature has examined progress toward
establishing successful collaborative relationships between classroom teachers
and library media specialists. In 1989, Berkowitz and Eisenberg acknowledged
the gap between the library media specialist's potential as a curriculum
consultant in theory and in practice, noting that library media specialists'
interest in being involved in curriculum dates back to the 1950s. Assignments
developed in partnership between teachers and library media specialists
are known to be more "authentic"-exhibiting a higher degree of meaning
and significance (Gross & Kientz, 1999). When not guided in the use
of a process, students tend to approach research as though there is only
one right answer, and fail to learn how to use information to construct
their own meaning (Kuhlthau, 1995). This ability to construct meaning is
at the heart of information literacy, which collectively describes the
skills students will need to cope in a complex world with access to an
ever increasing wealth of information.
The results of a study by the Library Service Center of the Colorado
State Library offer the most recent support for library media specialists
and teachers working collaboratively. The study concludes that test scores
increase as school librarians spend more time collaborating with and providing
training to teachers, providing input into curricula, and managing information
technology for the school (Manzo, 2000). A significant number of prior
studies also indicate a positive relationship between the library media
program and academic achievement. Didier (1984) examines 38 of these studies,
including Gaver's (1963) study of the impact of elementary library service
on test scores; Greve's (1974) research on the effect of library service
on the academic achievement of high school seniors; and Snider's (1965)
investigation of the relationship between college success and knowledge
of information skills.
Collaboration is based on shared goals, a shared vision, and a climate
of trust and respect (Muronago & Harada, 1999). Each partner fulfills
a carefully defined role; comprehensive planning is required; leadership,
resources, risk, and control are shared; and the working relationship extends
over a relatively long period of time (Callison, 1999). The teacher brings
to the partnership knowledge of the strengths, weaknesses, attitudes and
interests of the students, and of the content to be taught. The media specialist
adds a thorough understanding of information skills and methods to integrate
them, helping the teacher to develop resource-based units that broaden
the use of resources and promote information literacy (Doiron & Davies,
Additional benefits include more effective use of both resources and
teaching time, integration of educational technologies, and a reduced teacher/student
ratio (Doiron & Davies, 1998). Teachers with experience in collaborative
planning and teaching view the role of the library media specialist more
positively and welcome continued collaboration. Participants believe that
the results of the collaboration are more powerful and significant than
the results of their individual efforts (Friend & Cook, 1996).
CONDITIONS FAVORABLE TO COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS
Administrative Factors: Studies of successful collaborative partnerships
have helped us to learn more about the factors conducive to this type of
relationship. A recognized barrier to successful collaboration is lack
of time (Bishop & Larimer, 1999). Library media specialists with flexible
schedules are able to devote more time to planning and working with teachers
(Callison, 1999). While media specialists on a fixed schedule spend up
to five minutes planning with a teacher, a media specialist on a flexible
schedule spends more than 30 minutes (Haycock, 1998). Media specialists
with flexible schedules also develop four and one-half times as many integrated
units of study than do those on fixed schedules, as well as teaching more
information skills lessons integrated with classroom instruction (Tallman
& van Deusen, 1994).
Scheduling common planning time for teachers and media specialists also
promotes collaboration. The greatest amount of collaboration occurs when
the media specialist has a flexible schedule and team planning is encouraged
by the principal (Tallman & van Deusen, 1994).
Several Canadian studies have shown that principals have a better understanding
of the school library program and view it more positively than do classroom
teachers (Oberg, 1995). Their critical role in promoting collaborative
relationships goes beyond scheduling. Principal support includes working
directly with teachers to develop their understanding of the role of the
library. This is accomplished through staff inservices, featuring library
activities in staff meetings, stating expectations of teachers regarding
library use both during the hiring process and afterwards, and serving
as a role model by effectively using the library and its information literacy
program (Oberg, 1995). Administrators who ask how teachers are using the
resources of the media center and the expertise of the library media specialist
create an atmosphere where collaboration is more likely to occur (Bishop
& Larimer, 1999).
Interpersonal Factors: Successful collaboration involves changing both
the attitudes toward and expectations of the role of the library media
specialist (Wolcott, 1996). Research shows that most students, teachers,
and administrators don't perceive library media specialists and media centers
as integral to their own success (Hartzell, 1997). Library media specialists
are often viewed as storytellers and providers of resources rather than
co-teachers who share common goals (Bishop & Larimer, 1999). It is
up to the library media specialist to take steps to change this by serving
on curriculum committees, attending planning meetings, and sharing ideas
for integrating the media center into the curriculum (Bishop & Larimer,
Likewise, teachers need help to make the transition from independent
teaching to collaboration. The library media specialist can help facilitate
this change by acting as the change agent, innovator, opinion leader and/or
monitor (Haycock, 1999). The qualities of a library media specialist most
often mentioned in discussions of collaboration are initiative, confidence,
communication skills, leadership qualities, and, above all, the willingness
to take risks. Library media specialists must assume partnership and look
for opportunities to plan with teachers, rather than waiting to be asked
(Callison, 1999). Effective social skills are necessary to realizing the
vision of collaboration set forth in Information Power: Building Partnerships
for Learning (1998). Indeed, cognitive styles have been examined, and library
media specialists defined as "field-dependent" were found to engage more
frequently in collaborative efforts with classroom teachers regardless
of time and resource limitations (Montgomery, 1991). Field-dependent library
media specialists were characterized by their interest in people, use of
others as a source of reinforcement, focus on socially-oriented subject
matter, and preference for working with others. Less outgoing library media
specialists should note that in the collaborative relationship, both leadership,
and risk are shared.
CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO THE GOAL
Haycock (1999) notes that collaborative program planning and team teaching
are complex evolutionary changes which require time- perhaps two to five
years-to reach effective levels. In the case of library media specialist/teacher
collaboration, the transition has been slow. Although library literature
reflects more than two decades of interest in collaborative planning, and
library media specialists are well-trained to perform in this capacity,
there are still fewer examples of instructional partnerships than might
be expected (Haycock, 1999). However, commitment to the goal remains strong.
The term "collaboration" is one of the most frequently used terms in Information
Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (Callison, 1999). "Instructional
consultant" has been upgraded to instructional and curriculum "partner,"
reflecting a collaborative relationship where the teacher and library media
specialist are viewed as equal contributors (Muronago & Harada, 1999).
The future of the library media program will be shaped by the vision for
a student-centered library media program described in this revised document.
This vision for the future is based on three central ideas which suggest
a framework to support the authentic student learning that is the goal
of the successful, student-centered library media program. These central
ideas are collaboration, leadership, and technology.
REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational
Communications and Technology. (1998). "Information power: Building partnerships
for learning." Chicago: Author.
Berkowitz, R., & Eisenberg, M. B. (1989). "The curriculum roles
and responsibilities of library media specialists." ERIC Digest. Syracuse,
NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology. (ED 308 880)
Bishop, K., & Larimer, N. (1999, October). Literacy through collaboration.
"Teacher Librarian," 27(1), 15-20.
Callison, D. (1999, January). Keywords in instruction: Collaboration.
"School Library Media Activities Monthly," 15(5), 38-40.
Didier, E. K. (1984). Research on the impact of school library media
programs on student achievement: Implications for school library media
professionals, (ED 279 340). In MacDonald, F. B. (Ed.), "The emerging school
library media program" (pp. 25-44). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Doiron, R., & Davies, J.(1998). "Partners in learning: Students,
teachers, and the school library." Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
(ED 417 721)
Friend, M., & Cook, L. (1996). "Interactions: Collaborative skills
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