The benefits of working together
No teacher is an island. It takes all of us, working together, to meet the needs of today's students. School librarians are ready for this collaborative challenge. Are you?'
— Jennifer LaGarde, Librarians are ready, are you?
Students benefit when teachers and librarians work together.
- There's more support for individual needs and different learning styles.
- Library services and programmes align with classroom programmes.
- They're modelling life-long learning in an authentic way.
Collaboration can benefit both library and teaching staff by enabling them to:
- exchange ideas from different perspectives
- share their knowledge, skills and expertise
- work in collegial ways or as part of a team so they share responsibilities and workload
- support their work with resources, tools, strategies and new technologies
- reinforce messages to students.
The primary purpose of all instructional collaboration between teachers and librarians is to improve student learning and achievement. — Toni Buzzeo, The collaboration handbook (2008)
How to collaborate successfully
Find out what teachers and students need by:
- asking them 'What can I do with you?' rather than 'What can I do for you?'
- going to briefing, planning or curriculum meetings to listen, learn and share ideas
- using information from surveys, library management systems, observations and assessments.
Start a conversation
Look for opportunities to approach teachers. For example, talk to them:
- when they come into the library with a class, or to make a booking
- at staff or department meetings
- over coffee or during lunch breaks.
You could consider developing short, fun library-based activities involving both students and teachers.
When you first start up a collaboration, seek teachers who are:
- willing to collaborate
- have skills, strengths and influence complementary to your own
- active users of the library
- able to introduce change.
How you and your library can help
School libraries are designed to encourage cross-curricular participation, so they're great environments for collaboration. They're spaces where students, library staff and teachers can work and learn together.
You could offer to:
- provide tools and ideas to support teaching and learning
- share new resources, technologies and programs
- show or promote these to students
- monitor web and print sources of information for teachers' areas of interest, and alert them to these
- help with planning, coaching and evaluating student work.
Planning your collaboration
Ingredients for successful collaboration
Successful collaborations need:
- a common goal with a shared vision and shared objectives
- scheduled planning time
- effective communications
- proactive and involved library staff
- willing, enthusiastic teachers
- school leaders who recognise and support library staff as valued collaborating partners.
School principals: creating libraries as centres of learning
Plan your collaboration by:
- working together to define learning outcomes and discussing how the library can support them
- coming up with ideas for activities, effective use of resources and building creative, critical thinking skills
- using any opportunity to share ideas face-to-face
- agreeing to assess the effectiveness of your collaboration — how it affected student learning outcomes, what went well and what could improve.
Technology such as email, shared documents and video-conferencing which overcome time and space restraints give teachers and librarians greater flexibility to work collaboratively.
As well as attending staff briefings and meetings, you could manage your collaboration using online tools such as email, intranet, learning management systems, blogs, wikis, Google Docs or Livebinders.
Build involvement and share your success
A successful collaboration can lead to others. Continue to build involvement by:
- seeking opportunities to talk at staff meetings
- offering the library’s spaces and services
- participating in teams or committees, and being involved in decision-making and planning
- keeping senior management apprised of plans, developments successes and issues.
Publicise effective collaborations. Collect evidence of your success and use this to promote and improve your practice. Keep samples of planning and student work to show others.
Find out more
Let’s get together Thursday — five keys to collaboration Part one: warm and welcoming — a 2014 blog by Jennifer Laboon for Knowledgequest
Let’s get together Thursday — five keys to collaboration Part two: be collaboration worthy! — a 2014 blog by Jennifer Laboon for Knowledgequest
Inspire collaboration: a quick and easy guide for super busy school librarians — an article by Sarah Deringer for INALJ
Collaborative strategies — some ideas to try developed by Senga White of Southland Boys High School
Teacher/librarian collaboration — from a teacher’s perspective — a blog by Senga White