This paper was presented as part of IFLA'98 Session 158B:
School Libraries and Resource Centres: Morning Workshop
On Thursday, 20 August, 1998 at Hotel Mecure Amsterdam
Aan De Amstel, Joan Muyskenweg 10, 1096 CJ
Amsterdam, Netherlands
 
 
 
THE ROLE OF THE PRINCIPAL IN AN INFORMATION LITERATE SCHOOL COMMUNITY : AN INTERNATIONAL PANEL
 
The France Experience
 
by
 

Brief background

Since 1998 in France, most secondary schools have their own school library (called in French documentation and information center, or C.D.I.) and at least one teacher librarian.

They are engaged by the French ministry of education which creates the necessary posts.

A few schools which deal with the upper grades are provided with two posts.

Who are teacher librarians and principals ?

Academic qualifications :

Survey results

Key points of French resource centers...

Both teacher librarians and principals agree on the fact that the resource center is a specific place with particular activities run by a specialist.

It is a geographic and intellectual meeting point for teachers and pupils.

An important percentage of answers insist on the collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. 57 % principals give their full support to it, especially when the local school project takes it into account. The resource center is often considered as the school showroom too. The multimedia documents are carefully chosen, in a wide variety, adapted to its specific users as well as to the curriculum. References are computerized and the users are offered an on line catalog. The space is functional, wide and pleasant. The resource center is meant for everyone to come . It should be open as much as possible, which requires enough qualified staff. Enough funding should be allowed by the principal for the implementation and the management of the center. Most principals (53 %) think that teacher librarians get enough help, as far as staff is concerned, whereas teacher librarians agree at only 44% to this statement.

They agree to say that a resource center is a place where different ways of learning, and freedom from the curriculum can be practiced, because it is outside the classroom. But at the same time, the classroom can be used for these activities when they have been prepared in a collaborative way. Such training sessions must allow the pupils to acquire fundamental kmowledge and information retrieval skills. Let us observe that principals use the word "fundamental knowledge" whereas teacher librarians prefer "information retrieval skills". A certain number of principals are attentive to take into account infomation skills in the local school project (33%). 21% donít show this preoccupation. Neither do 25% of teacher librarians.

The resource center is also a place for pupils to develop reading skills and to achieve vocational choices. The cultural dimension is important too (exhibitions, lectures, international exchanges...)

The teacher librarian has professional qualities : efficiency, imagination, management, teaching and communication abilities. The main one is userís guidance, but he or she must be open-minded, friendly, ready to help and to offer activities.

To be able to be efficient, teacher librarians think their number must be sufficient. 47% of principals and 56% of teacher librarians think that these ones do not have to spend all their working-time inside the resource center. They are not only book-keepers, but they cooperate to different activities throughout the school.

Principals seldom visit the resource center to observe the teacher librarian at work. They rely on the teacher librarians to let them know their activities. On the opposite, they very seldom require the teacher librarianís advice about information dispatching throughout the school.

Teacher librarians think that the principal doesnít support them in taking risks, because he or she is scared that it might mean taking power too.

According to most principals (45), the teacher librarian should be recruited with a specific profile, whereas teacher librarians donít think so (30). 45 out of the latter ones completely disagree.

Many principals (45) think that they must have control over the teacher librarianís work, and 41 teacher librarians disagree with this statement.

As far as pupils are concerned, they are supposed to acquire autonomy and critical sense. Besides, teacher librarians insist on the help they must provide to disadvantadged pupils, and on giving equal chances to every pupil as far as information is concerned. They think that pupils must freely choose to come to the resource center.
 

Conclusion

The principals see the resource center as a whole : for them, it must be a performant tool serving everyboy, managed by an efficient and friendly teacher-librarian, who opens it as long as possible. The teacher-librarians insist on the specificity of the place where users work differently. They insist also on the management of the resources by asking enough funding and enough qualified staff.

Pupils are at the core of the teacher librariansís preoccupations, because of the necessity for them to get information skills to be autonomous.

Despite the principalís interest for the resource center, he supports very little the teacher-librarian to take part in most councils where he can act as an expert in the local school project. Which contradicts the team work that he supports. The principals recognize the capacity of the teacher librarians to make people work together but they are not ready to give up any bit of power and to delegate.



IFLA IRRG Principals Project Web Site Coordinator Lyn Hay
Updated 16 September 1998.
Copyright 1998