Friday, April 14, 2006

Article Note: On Librarians and Construction Work

Citation for the article:

Gruden, Vicki. "Role of the Teacher-Librarian Construction: A Metaphor and Graphic." School Libraries in Canada 21.2 (2001): 14-15.

Read the article through Academic Search Premier.

I found this little article while searching the database for some articles on school libraries in preparation for a possible post at a later date on the topic. The planned post is sort of a reply to the many short-sighted people that, when faced with budget issues, cut out school libraries (often while still funding the new football stadium, but let's not get started down that route now). This small piece is useful for answering the question: "what does a librarian do for you?" The article pays attention to school librarians, but I think it has a couple of things to say for all librarians as well. The article uses a construction work metaphor to help people understand what school librarians do. The construction roles represent the roles of the school librarian.

According to Gruden, "there are five human figures in the this picture [there is a graphic included with the article], and they serve dual purposes. First of all, they represent the five main facets of the teacher-librarian's job: (1) learning (industry, projects, evaluation), (2) leadership (builders, knowledge, roles), (3) cooperative planning and teaching (designers, tools), (4) enabling (cooperation, evaluation), (5) and managing (development, industry, evaluation). They also represent the major stakeholders (investors) in the education process: students, teachers, parents, administrators, and the public" (14).
Like in construction, education is a process that requires commitment in terms of resources, planning, and labor. In this scheme, "the teacher-librarian is the project manager of a learning program for the school that helps students, the builders, to 'construct' a better understanding of the world" (14). This is a very neat idea: to see students as the builders of their knowledge. This requires a teacher to show and manage rather than dictate. It makes learning into a truly collaborative effort.

Other ways in which librarians resemble construction professionals include:
  • in their vision of excellence.
  • in their advocacy for their projects, especially in communicating with investors.
  • in developing blueprints.
  • in their realization that keeping up is a must. On this, Gruden writes, "the teacher-librarian and the construction professional realize the importance of staying on top of new developments in the field. They read articles related to the profession, and develop strategies for ensuring further professional development" (14).
Her conclusion, I think, says it all. She states that "using a construction metaphor to explain the role of the teacher-librarian helps to explain the importance of learning, leadership, cooperative planning and teaching, enabling and managing in a school library program" (15).

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