Collaboration: A Different Perspective

As I have been reading Judi and Sue’s posts I have been reminded of the students in my class and our class chats over the past couple of weeks. I am teaching a class on collaboration and instructional design to an eager group of future school librarians this semester.  Our early discussions have focused on: What is collaboration? Why collaboration? What does it look like now? Where do we see it going?  It has been very interesting to see the parallels between the blog posts and the perspectives of my students. I believe we can learn a great deal by considering these different perspectives.

After reading many articles on what collaboration is, as defined in the sense of the school librarian, and examining definitions from a variety of professionals in our field, from Montiel-Overall (2005), to Wallace and Husid (2011), and Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), my students came to class with more questions than answers. Their questions led to rich and thought-provoking discussions!

First I was amazed at how many of them had no idea about the concept of collaboration, and how we as school librarians fit into the instructional process through co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing teaching and learning. This was so surprising to me because for the most part they have all been teachers before coming into the program. It yet again makes me painfully aware of the lack of awareness for the school librarian’s role as a teacher and as an instructional partner by teachers. Yet, collaboration is one of those concepts that as we become practicing school librarians we understand what is meant when we say “I collaborate with teachers.” I think all too often we forget that others around us share this same perspective as the students in my class and really have no idea what we are talking about when we say this.

In her post Judi mentions the research from Todd, Gordon, and Lu (2011) that says “in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

But as my students pointed out, this is not the case in most of the schools where they currently work. So their question to me was what do you do when you find yourself in a school that doesn’t operate this way and does not recognize the value and the benefit of the school librarian as an instructional partner and teacher? Which is similar to what Judi asks at the end of her post on the article from Scholastic Administrator.

In our discussions we came to the consensus that first step towards collaboration is education.  So I pose the question: How can you, as the school librarian, educate teachers, administrators, students, and other stakeholders on what your role is in regards to being an instructional partner and a teacher?


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Towards a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. School Library Media Research, 8. Retrieved from

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from

Wallace, V., & Husid, W. (2011). Collaborating for inquiry-base learning: School librarians and teachers partner for student achievement. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries

3 thoughts on “Collaboration: A Different Perspective

  1. This is such an important discussion for preservice and inservice school librarians. Librarians must educate principals and classroom teachers and the best way to do that is by “showing” them what is possible in terms of student achievement when educators collaborate for instruction.

    This is not just my opinion. From 2004 to 2007, I conducted a longitudinal research study related to preservice classroom teachers’ understanding and practice of classroom-library collaboration. I taught five of their preservice courses in a K-8 undergraduate teacher preparation program. We met in a library. I shared collaborative lesson plans and how librarians can help them make their units of instruction more effective – with a wider variety of high-quality resources, increased creativity and technology integration, and more individualized attention to students during coteaching. They experienced collaborative planning and practiced coteaching with one another. I brought in a panel consisting of classroom teachers, school librarians, and principals that had exemplary collaborative, integrated library programs. They shared their work and praised the impact of classroom-library collaboration on student achievement. I testified and testified and testified.

    But you know what? When those preservice teachers arrived at their student teaching placements and then at the schools where they taught their first year, little of what they learned in the university classroom made a difference. Only one student (out of 14) reported that she collaborated with her librarian during student teaching: only three (out of 14) reported that they collaborated during their first year of classroom teaching.

    So what made the difference? You can read the conclusion at:

    • Yes Judi I think we as SLMS educators have to continue to strive to provide these opportunities for our students to experience real-world collaboration through projects and practicum. But I too agree that we need to make head-way with pre-service teachers and administrators because all too often this is where the gap is found and as SLMS we hear over and over again from teachers “Oh I didn’t know you would do that!”

  2. I totally agree, Melissa. We must continue to provide ongoing education about classroom-library collaboration. At NCTE in Las Vegas in November, we will be reaching out to practicing English language arts teachers in our session: “Dream Teams: Classroom Teachers and School Librarians Coteach for Student Success.” Our presenters will be classroom teacher and school librarian teams at all three instructional levels (and one middle school principal) who will share their successful coteaching experiences.

    We hope classroom teachers, literacy specialists, and principals who have not yet experienced effective classroom-library collaboration for instruction will attend our session:

    Perhaps, university faculty are best positioned to influence preservice teachers and administrators. Along with TWU doctoral students, I regularly copresent sessions on classroom-library collaboration in courses taught by teacher preparation and educational leadership faculty. Our library science department is responsible for an undergraduate course for preservice teachers called “Library Materials for Children,” in which students read my book on coteaching reading comprehension strategies. This past summer, I provided a Webinar for graduate students in reading and was gratified to learn that the students mentioned librarians as valuable members on their literacy teams when codesigning their unit assignment.

    Still, my research shows that it is what people actually experience in their own schools that makes the greatest impact. It is up to every school librarian to be THE representative of the profession and educate the classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators in their own schools.

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