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Teacher Librarian Award - 2019

Australian Teacher Librarian Award - 2019

Holly Godfree

Lake Tuggeranong College, Tuggeranong, ACT

The Australian School Library Association Inc. has pleasure in announcing the winner of the 2019 Australian Teacher Librarian Award - Holly Godfree, Teacher Librarian at Lake Tuggeranong College, Tuggeranong, ACT.

The award of Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year is based upon the demonstration of excellence in the areas of Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement.

In the category of Professional Knowledge, Holly has demonstrated her deep understanding of students and learning through her work at both primary and secondary education levels. At Hughes Primary School she collaboratively planned and taught information and digital literacy lessons, taught gifted and talented extension groups, and developed a library collection that supported the twin foci of resourcing the Australian Curriculum and providing leisure reading for the students. At Lake Tuggeranong College Holly assessed the secondary students’ variable information and digital literacy skills and developed an 11-hour online course that targets specific needs to support student success.

In the area of Professional Practice Holly is again outstanding. She has planned and implemented flexible timetabling, collaborative planning, teaching and assessment, and seizes opportunities for “just in time” learning. Her management of the school library spaces in both primary and secondary settings has included development and implementation of strategic plans for the improvement of library services, with resultant increase in usage by staff and students. Holly also uses online resources to create supportive digital learning environments, from use of school-specific terms in the online catalogue to designing a new student-focused library website for Lake Tuggeranong College. Holly skilfully incorporates evaluation processes into her projects, using teacher and student feedback to improve library services and student learning outcomes.

Professional Engagement is the third area in which Holly demonstrates her dedication to excellence, lifelong learning and leadership. Holly leads by example in her workplace, continually pursuing professional reading in her interest areas, and sharing articles, links and materials of interest with her colleagues. Holly has published articles, participated in interviews and presented talks and workshops in a variety of print and digital media publications and conferences. Her Principal at Lake Tuggeranong College says that Holly leads her teaching colleagues to “better teaching, better lesson planning, better assessment design, better resources”. In discussing Holly’s achievements in the area of Professional Engagement, surely her greatest impact lies in her leadership of the Students Need School Libraries national advocacy campaign. Her creativity and determination resulted in the development of a website, promotional videos and social media campaign outlining the enormous importance of school libraries and teacher librarians in supporting our students to become confident, literate lifelong learners.

Holly is an outstanding example of excellence in all aspects of teacher librarianship, and her contributions to the profession make her the ideal recipient of the Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year Award for 2019.

Holly's Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much!  I feel very honoured to receive this award.

I’d like to share with you twelve seminal moments over the course of my time working in school libraries.  It’s my hope that some of these anecdotes might hold useful lessons to help us navigate these years of active advocacy and, ultimately, the transition we hope to see with large numbers of new teacher librarians and other qualified library staff joining our ranks in a resurgence of strong school library services for all students across Australia.  *pause for raucous cheering*

My entry into the school library from the classroom was a random twist of fate. I was not one of these people who dreamed of working in a library and planned her career trajectory.  I just happened to return to part time work after having my first child at a time when the teacher librarian at my school wanted to cut back on her hours.

Moment 1: 2005

I’m walking through the stacks of that library with Daphne Taylor, the quintessential warm, welcoming and knowledgeable teacher librarian.  She’s grabbing books off the shelf and chatting relaxedly about the numerous authors and series I need to read because they’re popular with the kids.  She’s just rattling off Dewey Decimal numbers (“Let’s go over to 567 and look at the dinosaur books”), and as the pile of books in my hands starts bumping up against my chin, I have my first moment of “Whoooaa” because I am blown away by the knowledge in her head.

Mind you, this must be contrasted by a moment in the previous year when Daphne, being a good practitioner, was making a presentation about the information literacy process to our whole staff.  She’s at the front of the room talking about “defining, locating, selecting, organising...” and I’m sitting in the back of the room inwardly thinking about what a waste of time this is and how it’s all so obvious what she’s saying.  [I look back on this now as a touchstone moment, by the way, because much of what we teach sounds really obvious and easy.  It’s not until you actually have to do it that the challenges and frustrations rear their heads].

Moment 2:

That first year, Daphne says to me “You know, you could get the master’s degree to get your qualification in teacher librarianship with Charles Sturt University.”  Knowing that it’s an optional choice, I don’t give it a second thought. “Why on earth would I want to go back to uni and get another degree? Ah...No, thank you.”

Moment 3:

Quite a few years later, I’m in a school where I’m running the whole library on my own for the first time.  I’ve connected with the Canberra email network for school libraries. I’ve started realising in my bones that there are quite a few things I don’t know that seem to be really important.  I attend a local PD on Oliver, and I feel very uncomfortable when over a cup of tea in the break, the person I’m talking to asks if I’ve got my TL qualification.  I say “no”, and a sort of “wall” falls over her features. She quickly moves on to talk to someone else.

A few weeks later, I ask Sue Martin if the TL community here could just have a little afternoon get together one day with teachers like me who are working in school libraries and just let us know what those ‘important things’ are because I’m not going to go back to uni, but couldn’t you just give me the quick run down about what this whole “teacher librarian” thing is all about?  (Poor Sue, having to try to handle that question tactfully!) But she was firm with me that, no, that was not going to happen because it takes many years of study to learn all the skills.

She also said that whilst a library collection might be ok for a while without trained staff, that over time gaps would appear and it would begin to corrode.  It would become, she said, like the difference between a Borders bookstore and the book section in KMart. (Now, we’ll ignore the portents of that metaphor with how things have actually played out for Borders, because at that time Borders was robust and thriving.)  It took me a couple of seconds before I went “Gasp! I’m Kmart.” That was tough love.

Moment 4:  

A one-on-one meeting with my principal who says to me, “So, as the teacher librarian I’d like you to focus on teaching students about the information literacy process.”  I’m nodding my head and thinking “....I have no idea what that actually means....”

Moment 5: 2011

I’ve got a school membership to ASLA and a different principal approves funding for me to attend the ASLA conference in Sydney.  I hear Karen Bonanno deliver a keynote where I have the first of many “BOOM” moments I’ve had over the years where I am blown away by the brilliance of some of the people in our profession.

Moment 6: Also in 2011

The education minister in Canberra decides to close our centralised teacher resource library.  Bill Book, an AEU ACT organiser, asks me to give a little speech at the protest rally. I arrive and he hands me a bull horn (even though there were only about 20 of us there).  I deliver the speech. People get fired up.

Moment 7: 2011 again (2011 turned out to be a big year for me)  

Public educators go on strike.  Because my bullhorn speech went so well, the AEU office asks if I’ll give one to the 3000 or so members who are on strike that day.  As part of that speech, I say something about teacher librarians and the crowd goes wild.  The school library community here is electrified. We’re so pumped that our colleagues care about school library services.  

Moment 8:

Bill Book meets with AEU TL members and tells us we need a goal to work towards.  We brainstorm some things before he says, “what if we aim to have a teacher librarian in every school.”  We all burst into a sort of wild-eyed laughter because it’s so audacious of an idea. [NOTE: This goal has evolved to also now include qualified library support staff because we must articulate how essential it is to have a team of staff in the library to provide the full range of services].

Moment 9: 2012

I start my master’s in teacher librarianship at CSU.  Every week that I study, my growth, my skills, my capacity and my level of service to my school community increases exponentially.  

Moment 10:

I’m struggling with an assignment for my educational research subject at CSU, and I make an appointment with one of the CSU librarians.  It’s distance education, so she logs into my computer with me and we spend an hour going through databases together refining search terms.  She helps me assess each article to see if it’s going to hit the mark for what I need. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and absolutely in awe of what she’s just done.

Moment 11:

I’m nearly done with my study when I move to a school where I am in a (fully qualified) team of four (two part time TLs, 1 full time library technician and 1 part time library assistant).  For the first time, I only do collaborative work with students and teachers.  Our team is given freedom, flexibility and trust, and we create fantastic programs for students and teachers and become busier and busier every year.  This move was life changing for me personally and professionally. I was an eagle trapped in a little box who was then set free to soar.

Moment 12: 2016

I’m on a plane flying to Adelaide for the annual face-to-face meeting of the members of the school library coalition admin group, and the lady sitting next to me says “So, what are you doing in Adelaide?”  “I’m saving school libraries” I say. She’s shocked. “What’s wrong with school libraries?” she asks. At the end of the conversation, the penny drops for me. Most people have no idea that there is even any problem at all.  Their child brings home the occasional book to read, and they assume that all is well in that school library.  Two years later, we launch our campaign.

It’s been a pretty awesome journey so far.  

Before I summarise the lessons I think we can use, I’d like to briefly thank some people:

  • Daphne Taylor and Sue Martin for guiding me so well in those early years.
  • Karen Bonanno for being so supportive and so brilliant at the same time.
  • Thank you to every person (and there will be many of you here in this room - including the two national treasures, Jackie French and Morris Gleitzman, who have both addressed us tonight) who has given their time and energy to make the campaign actually happen – especially Madison Dearnaley, Carol Grantham, Sue Johnston and Hajnalka Molloy for being the leadership muscle with me behind the campaign.
  • I’d like to thank ALL the staff over the years who have worked at the AEU ACT office (in particular Bill Book and Glenn Fowler) for their ongoing encouragement and active support.
  • Lori Korodaj, Kate Jones, Glenys Cooper, Leonie Gracie and Julie Murkins for being a well-oiled machine with a warm heart and crazy googly eyes.
  • Olivia Neilson and Lori (again) for being so reliable, hard-working, insightful and exceptionally skilled at your jobs and at strategic thinking.  
  • And, finally, I’d like to thank my family and friends for supporting me and encouraging me.  For listening to me talk about school libraries over dinner for nearly a decade. In particular, I’d like to thank my wonderful husband, Bob, who is my wingman, my partner and my brainstrust.

What lessons can we pull from these moments I’ve shared?  

    1. Shoulder Tap Talent. If we are going to see a new generation of qualified school library staff filling all these empty positions, we want the best practitioners in those roles. I’m sowing seeds all the time because I know they can take years to sprout. When I find a top operator I tell them: “You’d make a great teacher librarian” or “You should think about working in the library.” I say, “It’s a lot of work to get the qualifications, but it’s a great job and who knows what the future holds...Just keep it in mind.”
    2. Do the Tough Love about the Qualifications, BUT Keep the Focus on the Love. We’ve got to encourage talented people who show an interest. My experience is that most people are surprised when they first come to work in a library: “I didn’t realise it would be like this!” The qualifications are essential, of course, to do our jobs well. But, we must beware of the judgey attitude. (NOTE: I’ve caught myself being dismissive now that I’ve got my quals). We’ve got to be warm, encouraging and firm at the same time.
    3. Doing our Jobs Well IS Advocacy. You create a positive ripple effect through every student, teacher, parent and principal that you help.
    4. Dig Deep and Fight. My husband is a research scientist and statistician, and he’s helping me analyse some Softlink staffing survey data in light of the recommended school library staffing levels from Learning for the Future. We’re hoping to publish it this year. So far, the analysis shows that, almost across the board, school libraries are severely understaffed. No wonder we’re having such a hard time advocating for ourselves and our services! As a TL in Dubbo recently said to me: too many of us are bouncing off the bottom of the pool. However, I’m saying to you now that this is our moment. We’ve just simply got to dig deep and find the time to do the small, medium and large things that the movement requires.

So, if you haven’t already, I’m asking you to actively join the Students Need School Libraries campaign.  Join it digitally.  Join it physically (by having conversations with people face to face). Join it in your heart, mind and body.

We know deep down that what we teach students really matters.  Our students need us.  And our world needs them.

This award was presented to Holly at the ASLA XXVII Conference, National Library of Australian, Canberra, ACT on April 15, 2019.

ASLA President, Kate Reid presents Holly with her award.

A Powerhouse Selfie

Teacher Librarians, Holly Godfree, Olivia Nielson, Lori Korodaj 

Canberran is Australia's Teacher Librarian of the Year

(The Canberra Times, April 16, 2019)

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