Friday, December 18, 2009

Collaboration from the Perspective of a School Media Specialist

I invited School Media Specialist, Katy Koskela, to submit a guest blog in order to shift this blog's perspective away from that of a classroom teacher's (if only for one post). Katy, incidentally, helped get me into presenting at conferences-- She urged me to apply to MAME 36. Her post concludes my guest series.

Today’s educational paradigm focuses on “collaboration” as a key word in discussions of teaching methods, student work, & professional development. It is enlightening to note the facets of that practice and concept depending on viewpoint. As a school media specialist, teacher librarian or school librarian (take your pick of any or all titles) my professional organizations (AASL and MAME for example) provide guidance and examples of best practice. Much of it revolves around reasons and ways to collaborate with colleagues, both other school library media specialists (SLMS) and the classroom teachers and administrators we all work with.

There is a degree of trust and openness to collaboration. Each has to believe in the others’ abilities to contribute something of value to the whole. The title “teacher librarian” that is gaining favor with many in my profession, recognizes the duality of our training and roles. We are certified teachers and librarians with master’s degrees in that organizational and research discipline. Most school librarians come to the field after a period in the classroom. They understand the challenges faced by classroom teachers and can be valuable allies in this time of shrinking budgets, increasing state standards, a changing technical “banquet,” and students that have gown up in a multi-media milieu.

At a recent meeting, 10 SLMSs of varying ages and experiences working at all levels K-12, were asked the question, “What does collaboration mean to you?” Phrases such as:

· “Twice the knowledge and experience in one shot.”

· “I bring expertise in topics that complement the classroom teacher’s knowledge base.”

· “Communication is key. It’s impossible to collaborate in a vacuum. I am a value-added commodity, but I don’t this the teachers know that! Talk to me!”

· “Today we focus on the whole package: resources (digital and not), processes, connections, enabling intellectual curiosity, and time-saving assistance for all.”

Every group has their guru, and one for the SLMS community is Joyce Valenza, high school media specialist extraordinaire! I have decided she must not need much sleep to function at a very high level – especially when I look at a “typical day in the life of Joyce!! She is an initiator, collaborating on a broad scale with a multitude of people and groups. It doesn’t take a close lens to see that she is a HUGE proponent of using the Web 2.0 tools, weaving instruction & applicability throughout her interactions with “information problem-based learning, requiring learners to effectively and creatively find, evaluate, analyze, use, and communicate information.” (1) I think she would agree she views collaboration as “connecting my learners and my colleagues with each other and the tools they need to do business today.” (2) She and Doug Johnson collaborated to write a wonderful article for School Library Journal that describes their expectations for school librarians. We all would aspire to those goals, but some are more willing/able to jump in and “own” them!

I agree with their points, but personally feel another colleague, Annette Lamb, speaks for those of us that feel burdened sometimes by the technology impetus and/or challenges facing us due to short staffing, limited budgets, time, and money. Although I’ve added to and slightly adapted her recommendation to LEAD ….I agree with her that sometimes it happens with baby steps ! (3) I’m trying to walk faster and take bigger steps!!

A.L. K.K.

Listen Learn

Empathize Engage

Analyze Apply
Decide Discuss

(1) Valenza, Joyce and Johnson, Doug. School Library Journal, 10/1/2009. Available from:

(2) Valenza, Joyce. Neverendingsearch: My 2.0 day and the response/rant about our cover argument blog. [2009, Oc. 14.] Cited 2009, Dec. 6. Available from:

(3) Lamb, Annette. Re-imagine, Rejuvenate, Renew: Beyond Library Media Specialist 2.0: webpage adaptation of MAME Media Spectrum article used for keynote presentation. [2006, Aug.] Cited 2009, Dec. 6. Updated 2008, August. Available from:


"New year 2009-10 006" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by SMLibrary

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