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Information Power describes two of the important roles of school library media specialists as teacher and instructional partner.   

We need to separate our roles as warehouse managers from those of instructional innovators. Unless we want to continue the cycle we find ourselves in, we need to carve out what we can do well, do it, and refuse the guilt for what is left.

Markuson, C. (1986, Fall). Making it happen: Taking charge of the information curriculum. SLMQ, p. 37.

This requires collaborative work with teachers. After learning as much as possible about the curriculum through state and local standards, curriculum guides, textbooks, lesson plans, and test data, the library media specialist is ready to approach teachers for collaborative planning. Classroom curriculum drives the collaborative planning process.

Types of Joint Activities

According to Cooperation, Coordination, & Collaboration (Martin Blank, Sharon Kagan, Atefa Melaville and Karen Ray), there is a hierarchy of activities starting with cooperation and moving up to collaboration.  A review of many activities actually fit into the first two categories, cooperation and coordination.  

All three are important, but lower level categories than true collaboration.  All appropriate activities along this continuum are valid ways to work with teachers, but higher levels of interaction are important to function as true instructional partners in the instructional design and curriculum development process.

Vision and Relationships:  Cooperation

bulletBasis for cooperation is usually between individuals but may be mandated by a third party
bulletOrganizational missions and goals are not taken into account
bulletInteraction is on an as needed basis, may last indefinitely

Vision and Relationships:  Coordination

bulletIndividual relationship are supported by the organization they represent
bulletMissions and goals of the individual organizations are reviewed for compatibility
bulletInteraction is usually around one specific project or task of definable length

Vision and Relationships:  Collaboration

bulletCommitment of the organizations and their leaders is fully behind their representatives
bulletCommon, new mission and goals are created
bulletOne or more projects are undertaken for longer term results

Structure, Responsibilities & Communication:  Cooperation

bulletRelationships are informal; each organization functions separately
bulletNo joint planning is required
bulletInformation is conveyed as needed

Structure, Responsibilities & Communication:  Coordination

bulletOrganizations involved take on needed roles, but function relatively independently of each other
bulletSome project-specific planning is required
bulletCommunication roles are established and definite channels are created for interaction

Structure, Responsibilities & Communication:  Collaboration

bulletNew organizational structure and/or clearly defined and interrelated roles that constitute a formal division of labor are created
bulletMore comprehensive planning is required that includes developing joint strategies and measuring success in terms of impact on the needs of those served
bulletBeyond communication roles and channels for interaction, many 'levels' of communication are created as clear information is the keystone of success

Authority & Accountability:  Cooperation

bulletAuthority rests solely with individual organization
bulletLeadership is unilateral and control is central
bulletAll authority and accountability rests with the individual organization which acts independently

Authority & Accountability:  Coordination

bulletAuthority rests with the individual organizations but there is coordination among participants
bulletSome sharing of leadership and control
bulletThere is some shared risk, but most of the authority and accountability falls to the individual organizations

Authority & Accountability:  Collaboration

bulletAuthority is determined by the collaboration to balance ownership by the individual organizations with expediency to accomplish purpose 
bulletLeadership is dispersed and control is shared and mutual
bulletEqual risk is shared by all organizations in the collaboration

Resources and Rewards:  Cooperation

bulletResources (staff time, dollars and capabilities) are separate, serving the individual organizations' needs

Resources and Rewards:  Coordination

bulletResources are acknowledged and can be made available to others for a specific project
bulletRewards are mutually acknowledged

Resources and Rewards:  Collaboration

bulletResources are pooled or jointly secured for a longer-term effort that is managed by the collaborative structure
bulletOrganizations share in the products; more is accomplished jointly than could have been individually

LMS Roles

Read Donham, J. (1998). Enhancing teaching and learning. NY: Neal-Schuman, pp. 79-98.

Jean Donham looked at the role of the library media specialist in planning with teachers in "The School Library Media Specialist as a Member of the Teaching Team: 'Insider' or 'Outsider'" (Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Spring 1996, pp. 229-248).  The author describes the special skills library media specialists bring to the planning team as well as the many roles they normally play in team meetings. She identifies the following roles:

bulletClarifier.  Gives relevant examples; offers rationales; restates problems.
bulletCompromiser.  Is willing to yield when necessary for progress.
bulletElaborator.  Builds on the suggestions of others.
bulletEncourager.  Praises and supports others.
bulletGatekeeper.  Keeps communication open; encourages participation.
bulletHarmonizer.  Mediates differences; reconciles points of view.
bulletInitiator.  Suggests new or different ideas.
bulletOpinion giver.  States pertinent beliefs about discussion and others' suggestions.
bulletSummarizer.  Reviews discussion; pulls it together.
bulletTension Reliever.  Uses humor or calls for break at appropriate times to draw off negative feelings.
bulletTester.  Raises questions to test out whether the group is ready to come to a decision.

Debra Kay Logan has developed a list of strategies for developing teacher contacts or how to pester your teachers to identify ways to build collaborative working relationships with teachers.

Questions to Ask

Jane Bandy Smith in Achieving a Curriculum-Based Library Media Center Program (ALA, 1995) and Carol-Ann Haycock-Page in Collaborative Teaching - more than just another way to teach information skills provide questions intended to help a library media specialist structure a planning session with a teacher so that the process will be efficient and productive. 

Starting point:

bulletWhat are your goals or objectives for this unit? (Other ways of asking about this: What is the purpose of this instruction? Why are we doing this?  What are the transferable concepts or processes we wish students to develop, and how can we make it relevant for the students?)
bulletWhat specific concepts or skills do we want the students to learn?
bulletAre there any specific content standards you want to focus on?
bulletWhat processes or skills would you like your students to master in addition to content knowledge?


bulletWill this activity be at the beginning, middle or end of the unit?
bulletHow do you think students could be involved in locating, analyzing, synthesizing, and presenting information?
bulletHow would you like to grup students for these activities?
bulletHow much time would you like to spend on these activities?


bulletTell me a little about your students and their abilities and prior knowledge on these topics.
bulletHave your students done activities like these before (especially if they are working on research skills)?
bulletHow does the topic relate to what students already know?
bulletWhat should be done to interest students in the content?


bulletWhat resources would you like to use other than the textbook?
bulletWill all learners use the same materials?
bulletDo your students have any specific learning needs in regards to materials?
bulletDo you want to use fiction and biography?


bulletWhat would you like to see as the final product?
bulletHow do you plan to evaluate student products? What criteria will be used?
bulletHow could you evaluate the process they use?

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Information Power
Information Literacy
Research Process
Evaluating Information
Lesson Design
Staff Development


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