Reference Services and the Reference Collection




In Lesson 5 we discussed the importance of meeting the needs of students by not only providing reference materials for learning, but by establishing close connections with them.  In the context of the three types of reference service requests that are presented by Ann Marlow Riedling, read-reference, research projects, and readers’ advisory, teacher-librarians have limitless opportunities to “lead the student to appropriate and accurate resources and foster the student’s information literacy skills for socially responsible, lifelong learning” (p.107).  In some ways this statement makes the responsibility of a teacher-librarian in providing reference services appear a bit daunting, and it is indeed no small task.  Yet, when one steps back to consider this awesome responsibility, it is also exciting.  One of the reasons I am eager to become a teacher-librarian is the opportunity to work with students on a much broader scale than I can as a classroom teacher.  The chance to support and impact student learning across a wider variety of grades is an extremely valuable opportunity.


In her guidelines for how teacher-librarians can be attentive to student needs during the reference interview process, the connections between her interview model and the steps in research or inquiry models, such as the Points of Inquiry, resonated with me.  I found it reassuring to read that “a successful reference interview, using the most skilled questioning techniques, may not conclude with the complete achievement of the student’s information needs (full and precise answer)” (p.104).  This complements the goals of the inquiry process where the process itself and the development of the skills along the way are the essential learning pieces.  The end product or “answer” is not the goal: “success should be measured in terms of the acquisition of information skills that are learned during the process” (Mueller, 2017).

Points of Inquiry

I appreciate the emphasis that Riedling places on the importance of making students feel welcoming, appreciated, and supported in her very detailed suggestions and description.  I would hope that this is simply second nature to those of us who are pursuing opportunities as teacher-librarians.  Over the past year in my diploma coursework, it is evident how passionate my classmates feel about the profession and about embracing all that the role entails.  This is an exciting and encouraging prospect for students whose lives will be touched by such an enthusiastic group of professionals!

Something that I feel very passionate about is the need for collaboration when working in the role of teacher-librarian.  While it is so important that our connections with students, our first responsibility, I believe that it is essential that one establish close relationships throughout the school community.  Indeed, with the view that a school library or learning commons is the “hub” of the school, then it is imperative for teacher-librarians to go outside the walls of the library and connect with a broad base of library patrons.  Ken Haycock sums up the importance of collaboration at all levels in the school library in Leading Learning (2014):

            “The role and impact of the teacher-librarian can be synthesized quite

            simply: teacher-librarians impact student learning and achievement by

            forming strong and positive relationships with members of the school

            community, especially the school principal; by collaborating with

            classroom colleagues to plan, develop and assess independent learning

            abilities in students; by fostering a recreational reading culture in the

            building; and by providing informal staff development opportunities” (p.21).


The importance of collaboration is echoed throughout the Leading Learning document and a cornerstone of our job is to work with our colleagues to move the learning agenda forward.  I cannot imagine being able to accomplish the goals of learning in the 21st century, particularly those outlined in Leading Learning, without collaboration being a key component in our schools and without teacher-librarians actively seeking opportunities to co-plan and co-teach with colleagues, in an effort to capitalize on our collective resources and maximize learning opportunities.

When I was young I used to watch Sesame Street.  One of the skits common to the show had an accompanying song with the refrain, “Cooperation makes it happen, cooperation gets it done”.  This song came to mind over the course of Theme Two as, for me, the idea of cooperation in the form of collaboration is what is getting things done in the school library.

Lesson 6:

One of the concluding sentences in Riedling’s discussion of supporting students during reference interviews is that “good judgment and exceptional knowledge of resources remains imperative” (p.105) and “without knowledge of the library media center collection, the interview cannot continue; the question cannot be answered” (pp.102-103).  I am learning how imperative if it is to develop and manage a reference collection that encompasses the most relevant and up-to-date resource to ensure the collection effectively supports the reference process and the acquisition of information literacy skills.  Clearly this is no easy feat when budgets are limited and very small in some cases.  By exploring the Achieving Information Literacy document, I have gained valuable insight into the standards that I can measure my future reference collection by.  In being cognizant of the parameters in developing a collection, a well-rounded, current collection that provides a broad range of materials that can be accessed by a diverse range of learners, teacher-librarians are able to expertly and effectively do their job; matching students with the best resources to meet their information needs.


Achieving Information Literacy

Through this theme and Assignment One, I am gaining greater understanding and confidence regarding online resources.  I feel that my experience here is limited as a classroom teacher, though I have the best of intentions and am often researching online options.  But it is through the TL coursework that my horizons are being broadened and for this, I am very grateful.  In Assignment One, I had the opportunity to explore a resource (National Geographic Kids) that already exists in our school library database with greater depth.  As I was looking at it, I thought to myself, “I bet this isn’t used or even known by other staff”.  After asking a few colleagues, my suspicions were confirmed, and I feel disappointed to learn it.  Therefore, takeaways from this lesson include:

  • A strong collection has diversity with both print and digital formats
  • Digital formats are key to students developing the information literacy skills needed in the 21st century
  • Part of collection management is ensuring the promotion of resources and that they are being incorporated into practice; collaboration can help achieve this
  • When money is tight, making good and effective use of online databases is key

In reading over the Greater Victoria School District’s role description list, I continue to be mindful of the need for advocacy of our roles and responsibilities.  I would like to mention how many “collaborative”-type words are used (e.g. partner, cooperatively, network).  We wear many hats and sometimes we may just end of feeling like this: (!)


In reading through the GVSD’s list, I was once again reminded of how vital the job of teacher-librarian is, the number of skills we must possess, the incredible support we can provide, and the far-reaching impact on our school community that we can have.


Lesson 7:

Last Fall I had the opportunity to complete a community analysis as part of a weeding project and I found it was an incredibly interesting and valuable experience.  We also had to conduct collection mapping, and this aspect of collection management came to mind while working on Assignment One as well because I was disheartened at how many print resources there are in the library at the school where I work, yet they are below standard in terms of currency and look virtually untouched which indicates they are not being used.  As I was looking through them to decide which one to evaluate, I wanted to weed!  But prior to that, I would love to be able to consult with staff to see what they know about the resources and how they use them.  Therefore, this focus in Lesson 7 reinforces how important it is to know the library clientele’s needs in managing and developing the collection.  For the assignment last fall, I referred to this School Library Journal article to develop my community analysis:

As I previously mentioned, I see reference materials at the school where I work and think about how important it is “…to determine whether they are meeting the informational needs of students, teachers, and the curriculum” (Mueller, 2017).  As we have learned, the cost of print materials can put considerable pressure on a library budget, therefore teacher-librarians want to ensure that their purchases are effectively supporting the learning needs and practices of staff and students.

When considering access to materials and when reading about the perception of some that librarians are “gatekeepers”, I came back to my strong feeling of how effective we can be through advocacy of our job.  We need to pool our collective efforts and show just how great the impact on student learning is: “Over twenty years of research shows that student achievement and literacy scores advance where professionally staffed and resourced school libraries are thriving. (Leading Learning, p.4).  I believe the best approach is to inform, for as stated in our notes from this lesson, “as information specialists, teacher librarians know that information is power and powerful” (Mueller, 2017).  We are charged with the responsibility of providing materials and services that will develop information literacy skills in our students; so too is it our responsibility to inform our colleagues’ of the multitude of ways in which we manage the library collection and provide reference services.  I think one of the best ways this can be achieved is through consistent promotion, collaboration, and an open door policy.

Here is someone else’s take on the numerous, diverse roles and responsibilities in this day and age:

For promoting and advocating for our role, an article from the BCTF entitled “Put a Teacher-Librarian on Your Team” and the video from Washington (State) Library Media Association: “Teacher Librarians at The Heart of Student Learning”.

BCTF article


And just because it is February…another great way to advocate this month, courtesy of the BCTLA!



British Columbia Teacher Librarians’ Association. (2011). Points of inquiry: a framework for information literacy the 21st century learner. Retrieved from
Canadian Library Association (2014). Leading learning: standards of practice for school library learning commons in Canada. Ottawa, ON. Retrieved from
Kropp, L.G. (2014). “Know your neighborhood: a community needs assessment primer”. School Library Journal. Retrieved from
Lindsay, Karen. (2005). “Put a teacher-librarian on your team”. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation NewsMag. 18(1). Retrieved from

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Sesame Street (1983). Street Garden Cooperation. Retrieved from
Washington Media Library Association (2013). Teacher librarians at the heart of student learning. Retrieved from


500 hats of Bartholoew Cubbins. Retrieved from
Achieving information literacy. Retrieved from

Information tsumani. Retrieved from

Keep calm and collaborate. Retrieved from
Love your library. Retrieved from
Reference skills for the school librarian.  Retrieved from
The times they are a changin’. Retrieved from



3 thoughts on “Reference Services and the Reference Collection

  1. Aaron Mueller says:

    Well done! A very detailed, expansive and inclusive reflective blog post that highlighted and explored the many new learnings and understandings for you over theme 2. Great work embedding and including engaging videos, links and images to help make your points. Also, strong discussion, based on solid references and evidence. Great post!


  2. teachercoelho says:

    A very thorough reflection of your learning in Theme 2. I appreciate the resources you shared, especially the Sesame Street video. I will have to share that with my K’s, who are still learning the importance of cooperation.

    Your comments regarding the use of resources is one I can certainly relate with today. I spent Thursday after school cleaning out the book room adjacent to my library with another teacher. I have been anxiously awaiting the ‘green’ light to weed this room. It had been weeded and rearranged last year, with the right side of the room having resources that teachers could not part with at the time. We found so many valuable resources that are not being used, and many I did not know about as I have only been there since September. This was such a valuable experience as I now have more resources to promote to teachers, and to use with the students in the library, and we also weeded a large amount of resources that were very, very old. Now we can begin further collaboration with staff to find out what other resources we need to add to our collection…


  3. Drew Wetmore says:

    Awesome reflection Stephanie. I cannot agree more with the expansive description of the TL role. (which it is) One of those roles is weeding, which as you described can be disheartening to see many out of date resources collecting dust on shelves. Weeding can be a tedious task but has great benefits for a library setting such as freeing up space and improving the overall quality of resources. Databases as you indicated are keeping reference resources relevant and more widely accessible. Collaboration with teachers around databases, improving the library services, and how best to serve students/teachers needs is also a key function of the Library and its TL. Thanks for posting such a great reflection with so much detail and excellent presentation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s