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Australian School Library Association Citation Award

SCIS and Education Services Australia are very proud to announce that SCIS Subscriber Support Coordinator Pru Mitchell was presented with the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) citation award at the ASLA XXII conference in Sydney on 21 October 2011.

Connections talked to Pru in order to find out more about the award, her nomination and her professional associations.

What is the ASLA citation?

The citation is conferred biennially by ASLA. In the words of the citation, it 'is presented for outstanding contribution to the national leadership of teacher librarianship'. There are several areas of eligibility, including those for which I was acknowledged: policy formulation, publication, administration, innovation and education.

What does this award mean to you?

Since the conference I have been overwhelmed by the goodwill generated by the award. I wrote quite a long personal response at the time, which is published on the ASLA website, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who have sent best wishes and who have supported me throughout my career.

Pru Mitchell and Sue Johnston at the awards ceremony in Sydney, 21 October 2011

Pru Mitchell and Sue Johnston at the awards ceremony in Sydney, 21 October 2011

What stands out from the citation nomination?

Overall, I am proud that I support school library staff through my contribution to professional associations and my work with SCIS. Library staff who do so much to support teachers and learners in our schools.

As part of ASLA, I have been fortunate to be involved in several key projects over the years including the project management and publication of the second edition of Learning for the future: developing information services in schools in 2001.

However, my particular passion and concern has been our work on teacher professional standards. Highlights of this work include the papers presented at international conferences, as well as the development and endorsement of the Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2005).

What do you see as the role of professional associations in developing standards?

Professions Australia (1997) defines a profession as a highly disciplined, self-regulating entity whose members are well-educated and service-oriented. This certainly resonates with my experience of professional associations, where committed practitioners, researchers and academics engage in highly strategic professional work on a voluntary basis. These people work selflessly to improve outcomes for members and their students.

'A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as, possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.'
Professions Australia (1997)

Basically, professional associations are about standards. As we work towards encoding a national description of professionalism in Australian education, it is good to see the importance of professional engagement is being recognised within the standards for teachers and leaders.

What are library associations doing about professional standards?

In New Zealand, school library staff are undertaking the professional registration and revalidation process of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA).

In Australia, the ASLA Board and its partner associations have established a Policy Advisory project team to interpret the National Professional Standards for Teachers (2011) within a school library context. Material from this process will be available in draft form in 2012, and will assist teacher librarians to identify, record and publish evidence that maps to the standards in whatever form their school or system requires it. Sharing this information will help to promote a cohesive view of the work of a teacher librarian and should save time for individuals across the profession.

It is interesting that there is only one reference to professional associations in the National Professional Standards for Teachers (2011). According to this document, highly accomplished teachers:
'contribute to professional networks and associations and build productive links with the wider community to improve teaching and learning.'
(Professional Engagement | Standard 7 | Focus area 7.4)

Otherwise, the standards refer to participation or leadership in professional and community 'networks'.

So why have professional associations rather than networks?

I don't really believe that it is a case of one or the other. I am a strong advocate for social networking: it's a significant part of my SCIS role, as well as consuming plenty of the rest of my life, and my Personal Learning Network (PLN) is vital to me personally and professionally.

However, I do understand the significance of a formally constituted professional association in the areas of authority, accountability, responsibility and independence, allowing the profession to build sustainable programs and policies. A national association can claim a consensus with regard to what a teacher librarian is and does, what a quality collection looks like, and what constitutes program excellence.

While informal local networks and lobby groups do great work, national professional associations like ASLA or SLANZA take responsibility for the profession as a whole and are forced to balance the interests of all regions, sectors and levels of education, and libraries that are both small and well-resourced. When organisations, the media and governments look for opinions regarding school libraries, there is great value in being 'the peak body', providing representation of, and leadership and support for, school libraries, as well as the promotion of teacher librarianship.

Having said that, there is plenty of work for professional associations to do in capitalising on the benefits of social media as a way of informing, engaging and developing the profession.

What are the benefits of belonging to a professional association?

The networks, skills and knowledge that active professional association members develop are invaluable personally and professionally. Opportunities provided by membership range from planning and delivering professional learning activities to writing policies, publishing, advocacy, leadership and constitutional debate. All of these opportunities can enhance the professionalism of our members, directly benefiting individual teachers' work. Most importantly, professional association involvement builds professionals who are able to see a bigger picture.

For me, the rewards have been incredible not only professionally but also personally, as I have gained a range of 'flock-mates' (White 2011) who have supported my journey.

Any final comments?

Anyone who wins an award must first be nominated. I was really honoured and humbled that colleagues within ASLA saw fit to nominate me for this citation. I would like to thank the special people who took that initiative and time, and I would also like to encourage others to look out for opportunities to nominate colleagues for professional awards at all levels. The rewards of this are beneficial not only for the recipient, but also for the profession.

References

ASLA Citation 2011, http://asla.org.au/advocacy/citation/citation2011.htm

Learning for the future: developing information services in Australian schools, (2nd ed.) 2001, Curriculum Corporation, www.curriculumpress.edu.au/main/goproduct/12405

Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa 2011, Professional registration, www.lianza.org.nz/resources/professional-registration

National Professional Standards for teachers 2011, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, www.teacherstandards.aitsl.edu.au

Professions Australia 1997, Definition of a profession, www.professions.com.au/defineprofession.html

White, S 2011 'Flockmates and inspiration', Senga's Space blog, 16 August 2011, http://sengaw.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/flockmates-and-inspiration

Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians 2005, Australian Library and Information Association & Australian School Library Association, www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.htm

Key school library associations

Australian School Library Association: www.asla.org.au

Australian Library & Information Association: www.alia.org.au

International Association of School Librarianship: www.iasl-online.org

Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa: www.lianza.org.nz

School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa: www.slanza.org.nz

School Library Association of Victoria: www.slav.schools.net.au