This summer has been all about travel and collaboration for me. A few years ago I develop an interest in school librarianship on an international basis and began to question if there were similarities and differences in the experiences and practices of school librarians in different countries. These questions have evolved into a research stream that has taken me from Europe to South America and allowed me to develop new partnerships too.
In my observations in Germany I did find that school librarians there are struggling with many of the same issues as we are here in the U.S., including some related to collaboration. The absence of collaboration practices was noted and many of the school librarians interviewed spoke of struggles with convincing teachers to collaborate and the importance of principal support for collaboration. Additionally, many of the school librarians interviewed talked about trying to institute “media literacy programs to teach their students how to be safe online,” but a lack of time was a problem because teachers would not dedicate time for this. Many commented that teachers only see the library “as a book place” and not as a “teaching place.” Also several of the school librarians interviewed commented that most people who are school librarians in Germany think this same way and do not recognize their own teaching role as a school librarian (Johnston, 2013).
I spent last week in Florianópolis, SC Brazil, attending the Brazilian Congress of Biblioteconomia (which is like the Brazilian equivalent of our ALA Annual Conference) with Dr. Lucy Santos Green from Georgia Southern University. As I listened to various presentations, I again heard many of these similar struggles with collaboration. In the days following the conference Dr. Santos Green and I visited several local schools to observe and interview the school librarians and yet again we heard the same issues related to collaboration.
Collaboration was definitely a theme that ran throughout the conference beginning with IFLA President Ingrid Parent speaking in the opening keynote address. Several of her comments resonated with me as she emphasized that collaboration must be a focus of librarianship and that by “working together at the national and international level we can be smarter, stronger, and louder.” I strongly believe that as school librarians around the world struggle with similar challenges, it is important to examine the work of school librarians on an international level and collaborate as professionals to develop strategies and a course of action for addressing our common problems.
Johnston, M. P. (2013). Investigating an international exchange of best practices between German and American teacher librarians. School Libraries Worldwide, 19(1).