Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Collaboration is Key

Collaboration with Librarians

As a Librarian, one of the top jobs is to collaborate with teachers. This is also one of the most daunting tasks because many teachers don’t understand collaboration, or don’t believe in it. Often times, collaboration is thought to be the teacher telling the librarian what they want to teach, and the librarian designing and teaching the lesson. It is a rest time for the teacher, but that is not true collaboration. Let us investigate what true collaboration looks like, as well as the advantages and obstacles it brings.

In Shayne Russell’s article, Teachers and Librarians: Collaborative Relationships, he defines collaboration as a shared vision based on shared goals, and with a climate of trust and respect. Russell further states that each partner fulfills a carefully defined role with comprehensive planning, a requirement, that extends over a period of time (2002). Along with this definition, it is important to become aware of what each, the teacher and librarian, brings to the table (Russell, 2002).

The teacher is the one with the knowledge of his or her students, their strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and interests, as well as what needs to be taught. The librarian is the one with extensive knowledge and skills for finding information and incorporating that into the lesson (Russell, 2002). As well, the librarian should bring the technology skills to the table, often times the library might have more technology available for use than the average classroom, and the librarian is the one trained in using all of those technologies. Overall, the librarian is there to help promote information literacy (Russell, 2002).

So, we now know what they each bring, let’s look at the actual collaboration. Saint Paul Public Schools has a lot of great information regarding the components of collaboration. Their information is mostly taken from DuFour’s article, ‘Collaboration lite’ puts student achievement on a starvation diet. Both DuFour’s article and Saint Paul’s website make a distinction between working together and ‘True Collaboration.’ Working together, or ‘Collaboration Lite’, is defined as cooperation on routine issues where the teacher participation is low-risk, short-term, and focused on efficiency for tasks and activities, and ‘True Collaboration’ is categorized by substantive conversations and work that revolves around the needs of the students and instruction practices (Components of collaboration, 2010). To look more closely at the differences between these two forms of collaboration we need to notice that ‘true collaboration’ involves honest talk, risk-taking, reflection, assessment, and results in higher achievement amongst the students (DuFour, 2003 and Components of collaboration, 2010). It is clear to see there is much good that comes from collaboration, but let us look at both the advantages, and the obstacles that make it difficult.

Russell states, in Teachers and Librarians: Collaborative Relationships, that some of the advantages of collaboration are more effective use of both resources and time, integration of educational technologies, and a reduced student/teacher ratio (2002). The disadvantages are the administrative factors, meaning if they support collaboration between teachers and librarians, because their viewpoint has a lot to do with how the staff view collaboration. Also, the administration needs to clearly and specifically define what true collaboration looks like. Another obstacle is time, if the administration doesn’t support collaboration and schedule time for it, it makes it very difficult for the staff to actually do it. As well, if the Librarian has a set schedule, and no flexible scheduling, then that too shortens the time available for planning. Lastly, the attitude of the teachers plays a large part in collaboration. It is important to sell yourself, and your skills, with the teachers, to show them what you can do to help them in order to hook them into working with you in a collaborative way, after all, research backs this up.

As a new librarian, or a seasoned librarian, you can’t expect collaboration to come easily, or without effort. It takes work to create an environment of true collaboration amongst your staff, but you can do it, just keep working towards your goal. It’s okay to start lite and then work your way to true collaboration.

Here is a video of a Teacher's viewpoint on collaboration with her Librarian.

Here is a PowerPoint to view based on the above information.


DuFour, Rick. (2003). ‘Collaboration lite’ puts student achievement on a starvation diet. Journal
of Staff Development, 24(3). Retrieved from

Russell, S. (2002). Teachers and librarians: Collaborative relationships. Teacher Librarian, 29(5), 35. Retrieved from

Saint Paul Public Schools. (June 2010). Components of collaboration. Retrieved from

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Video courtesy of YouTube

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