This paper provides the framework for discussion of the Principal's role in developing and supporting an information literate community.
A successful school library program requires the active support of the Principal who is best positioned to nurture the collaborative culture within which an integrated library program is able to flou rish. Likewise, the leadership provided from the Principal is a key ingredient in a school's successful adoption of the information technology that enables a school to pursue the goal of information literacy.
The authors provide the background to a research project and provide some preliminary evidence that identifies the strategies adopted by Principals who seek to place information literacy at centre st age. They will also identify a range of potential strategies that might be employed by Teacher Librarians to further involve their Principal in the development of effective school library and informa tion services.
In the decade or so following Lipham's claim, a bevy of writers have identified the importance of principal support and enabling action that underpins the development of a number of key actions. Full an (1982; 1993), for example, has made a strong case for the essential involvement of the principal in the processes of implementation. Wilkes (1992) likewise argues that the principal is the most po werful and pivotal force behind educational change. She identifies a variety of roles that the principal must play in order to achieve successful change. These include the role of visionary, enabler, role model, and motivator. Rosenholtz (1985; 1989) has noted the crucial role of the principal in the process of school improvement. Finally, the principal's ability to foster processes of achieving a school culture that enables collaboration, mentoring and other preconditions for effective teaching and learning are noted by Beare (1989).
The principal has a responsibility to ensure that all teachers are involved in the instructional program in the most effective way. The principal also has the responsibility of encouraging and facili tating collaboration among class teachers and special teachers. Such collaborative actions are enabled when the principal places considerable emphasis upon the development and maintenance of a school culture that provides a harmonious working environment.
Modern schools are often complex organisations and the quality of interpersonal actions that underpin a culture of trust are dependent upon the quality of the communication that occurs on a daily bas is. Bredeson (1987) notes that the principal is uniquely positioned to regulate these communications. Bredeson's research indicates that the communications activities of school principals are dominat ed by dyadic interpersonal contacts. Principals prefer to communicate through talk even when other forms may provide better outcomes. This is a very important point to note because there is a substan tial literature that suggests that regular written communication is an essential component of a public relations program. This may be so, but it should not be seen as a substitute for eyeball to eyeb all contact! Principals believe that successful communication is characterised by openness, honesty, high visibility, and the ability and capacity to listen (Bredeson 1987).
If the principal plays a key role in the sculpturing of a school that delivers powerful student learning and a quality work place environment, it should come as no surprise that the principal has lon g been regarded as the key to the success of the delivery of an effective school library program. Oberg (1995:17) argues that:
Oberg notes that fifty years ago Linderman (1944:614) argued that 'the principals' support of the library as a vital part of the educational system is extremely important'.
By the early 1980's a number of writers had picked up on Linderman's call to arms. Haycock (1981) (perhaps the dominant writer of the period) suggested that without principal support teacher librari ans were unlikely to get to first base. Clearly the message was that teacher librarians had to articulate their own vision and 'sell' this to the principal. Only when quality support was forthcoming from this advocacy could improvement be anticipated. Hamilton (1983:3) teased out aspects of this 'essential relationship' between the teacher librarian and principal. He noted that:
The relationship of the principal and the teacher librarian is complex, frequently misunderstood, or ignored - yet it is of vital importance. The quality of that relationship ... has serious import t o the entire instructional program of the school.
In most schools there is one teacher librarian - this fact means that s/he works under constant pressure (there are few opportunities to hand over the baton). There is often no senior teacher or head of department to represent his/her needs at the tables of power. Because of the demands of the position, there are limited opportunities to attend such meetings even if such attendance is permitted. This means that it is likely that political manouvering will result in a diminution of the resources that flow to school library resource centre services unless the principal is aware of, and willin g to support, these needs. Such facts provide an insight into the comments made by Martin (1983:9) who warns that:
According to Corbett (1983), research findings indicate that change or innovation in the school's instructional program will not be sustained without the ongoing commitment and support of the princip al.
Haycock (1982:39) reports that this general conclusion certainly applies to school resource centre programs and services. He notes that:
Exemplary school resource centers are characterized by strong administrative support.
Principals in schools with exemplary resource center programs establish evaluation procedures, integrate the resource center in instructional programs, encourage student and teacher use and provide f lexible scheduling.
TL's continue to view the support of the principal as critical to program improvement.
Principals may serve as a barrier to the improvement of resource center programs if they do not perceive the need for change and/or do not have the necessary expertise on which to base improvement de cisions.
What do administrators themselves say about the crucial role of the principal with respect to school library resource services? Kulleseid (1985:92-3) provides us with a sample:
Henri (1988:39) sums up the force of the argument when he states:
The Canadian study was a small scale one which had provided some rich and interesting data. The authors saw the value in replicating the study in the Australian environment, and also saw the opportun ity of extending the focus of the study from a myopic attention to the school library program to a more general focus on the information literate school community. This broadening of the study makes particular sense given the rapid increase in the deployment of information technology in schools during the last 5 years.
This research did not seek evidence to prove or disprove hypotheses that were held prior to entering the study - a top down research model. The researchers intent was to employ a bottom-up methodolog y, where theory could be developed as abstructions are built from the particulars that have been gathered or grouped together. The research was to be used not only to find answers but also to learn w hat the important questions are. A further important element of the research was to gain an understanding of the point of view of principals and teacher librarians and to explore the relationship of these views.
This qualitative research project employed unstructured interviews (Bodgan and Biklen, 1982; Powney and Watts, 1987; McMillan and Schumacher, 1993) with teacher librarians and school principals of si x schools, which were reputed to have had success in developing an information literate school community. This paper provides preliminary and tentative outcomes that have been identified from the int erview transcripts.
MSW Region is further divided into nine school Clusters, allocated by geographical location. Each Cluster consists of an average of 25 schools. Special permission was granted by the MSW Research and Evaluation Committee for the authors to complete a research project in this region. The authors also sought permission from each of the schools selected in the sample.
The authors did not want to have any influence in the process of school selection and the choice of panel members was therefore quite critical. Panelists were either expected to have personal knowled ge of the schools in the Region or be able to obtain this from their 'network'.
In Stage 1 of the selection process, each member of the delphi team was asked to nominate three primary schools and three secondary schools that met the following criteria of excellence that the rese archers established:
Members were also asked to identify the names of the principals and teacher librarians at these schools. Three of the 'experts' approached to become part of the delphi team elected not to participate in the selection process due to one of the following reasons: a lack of recent knowledge concerning exemplary school practice regarding information literacy in the MSW Region; or for 'political or e thical reasons'.
A total of 17 schools were nominated by the delphi team, including 9 primary and 8 secondary schools. Five of the 17 schools were nominated by 2 members of the delphi team, one secondary school was n ominated by 3 members, and the remaining 11 schools achieved one nomination. The results of Stage 1 were compiled using a spreadsheet, which included the name of the school, primary or secondary leve l, Cluster, principal's name, teacher librarian's name, the number of nominations each school received, and whether all criteria was met (Yes/No). Schools where the principal and/or TL were new appoi ntments to the school in 1995 were allocated a 'No', which means they were eliminated from the second stage of the selection process.
Schools nominated belonged to 6 of the 9 Clusters, one of which included 6 of the nominated schools, another Cluster is responsible for 4 of the nominated schools, 3 of the Clusters hold 2 of the nom inated schools, and one Cluster holds 1 of the nominated schools. The researchers intend interviewing at least two of the Cluster Directors, in the future, whose schools were ranked highly by the del phi team in Stage 2 of the selection process.
Stage 2 of the selection process consisted of a second mailing to the 7 members who participated in Stage 1. The delphi team were asked to rank each of the schools on a spreadsheet based on the membe rs' expertise regarding their notion of what consitutes an information literate school. The spreadsheet consisted of the school criteria compiled from Stage 1 with two additional columns for (i) Rank and (ii) for members to list their reasons for their selections and ranking. The researchers intended each member of the delphi team to rank candidates, and a process of elimination would then occur until agreement was reached on six schools. Only 5 members of the delphi team provided a ranking of schools for Stage 2; one member had difficulty ranking the schools and made contact by phone with one of the researchers and recommended six of of the schools for inclusion in the project with reasons; and one member did not respond. However, six schools did 'float to the top' at the end of the s econd round. The results of Stage 2 are outlined below:
CIS Stage 2 PROJECT Results R 1 R 1 R 2 Reasons For School School Region Cluster Principal TL No. Criteria Rank Selection/Rank Name Type Votes Met No. AS1 Secondary MSW CBC K/P H/TL 1 Yes 3 *BP1 Primary MSW BSC A/P S/TL 1 Yes 4 2 BP2 Primary MSW LVC B/P R/TL 1 No XXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX *BS3 Secondary MSW CHC L/P G/TL 2 Yes 1 2 CP1 Primary MSW CHC C/P Q/TL 1 Yes 7 3 CS2 Secondary MSW CHC M/P F/TL 1 Yes 8 ES1 Secondary MSW BSC N/P E/TL 1 Yes 2 *FP1 Primary MSW CHC D/P P/TL 1 Yes 2 FP2 Primary MSW CHC E/P N/TL 2 No XXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX *FS3 Secondary MSW WKC P/P D/TL 3 Yes 2 6 3 GP1 Primary MSW GRC F/P M/TL 1 Yes 3 MP1 Primary MSW BSC G/P L/TL 1 Yes 5 MS2 Secondary MSW GRC Q/P C/TL 1 Yes 5 4 PS1 Secondary MSW WKC R/P B/TL 2 Yes 3 7 *SS1 Secondary MSW BSC S/P A/TL 2 Yes 4 5 1 *TP1 Primary MSW CBC H/P K/TL 2 Yes 1 1 1 VP1 Primary MSW CHC J/P J/TL 1 Yes 6
Note: *Schools are the 3 primary and 3 secondary schools selected for the research sample.
Schools which received a ranking of 1 were accepted into the Stage 3 delphi pool. Schools with a ranking of 2, and/or more than two rankings by members between 2 and 3 were also accepted. However, th e reasons for selection or 'non-selection' were also taken into account, this meant that one of the secondary schools (ES1) was excluded from the pool. A problem with the delphi team's ranking was th at not all members ranked six schools (1-6), rather some members ranked a number between three to eight schools, based on their personal knowledge of the nominated schools. No member had the 'experti se' to, or was able to draw upon 'network knowledge', to rank all 15 of the schools on the spreadsheet in Stage 2. One reason for this problem could be that MSW Region is a large region, and members of the delphi team may only have a knowledge of schools in some of the 9 Clusters of the region.
What do you understand to be the role of the TL in this?
What do you do to enable the development of an information literate school community?
To what extent do you support the introduction and use of information technology?
How important is the school library to a program that fosters information literacy?
Did you have something to do with the appointment of your TL?
How important is the TL in the school?
How do you support the TL?
What are the major barriers to the development of an information literate school community? How do you address these?
What critical experience(s) have shaped your understanding and beliefs about effective school library programs?
What is the attitude of the principal with respect to:
What does s/he do to turn these attitudes into a powerful influence?
What are the major barriers to success? How is the principal addressing these?
What strategies do you use when seeking support from your principal?
How do you disseminate information that might enable the principal to facilitate support for the library program and you as TL?
What critical event has provided you with a clear understanding of the role of the TL in the school?
Interviews ranged between 50 to 70 minutes. All interviews were taped and transcribed. All data remains confidential and anonymous.
Interviewees were sent a copy of their transcript for previewing with an Interviewee Data sheet. The Interviewee Data sheet included the following variables which could provide additional data in ana lysis:
The previewing of transcripts allowed interviewees to clarify points, fill gaps in data where taped transmission may have been of poor quality, or to add additional points where they felt necessary. Additional questions were also asked of some interviewees that were raised during later unstructured interviews, which the researchers wished to explore with respect to all participants. All intervie wees agreed to be involved in, and genuinely appreciated the opportunity to be involved in, this previewing process. The qualitative data being enhanced by this process. Over 250 pages of interview d ata were available for analysis.
The researchers also sought school based information that corroborates the material gained from the interviewing process. This included school mission statements, school plans, and policy statements and programs.
Principals demonstrated an understanding of the value of information literacy and provided encouragement to teachers to embrace it.
The quality of communication between the teacher librarian and principal is vital. High levels of regular verbal communication were evident. Many principals preferred verbal, rather than written, com munication with their staff. Many teacher librarians, while primarily delivering their needs, requests and concerns to the principal verbally, believed that written support documentation was an impor tant 'back up', although in practice this was not always done.
Principals are prepared to support the TL as a quasi-senior member of staff as long as the TL is credible.
Principals are identifying TLs as natural information technology (IT) leaders in information literate school communities.
Principals are prepared to rely on the professional judgement of the TL so long as the TL demonstrates that trust is warranted.
Principals provide TLs with major freedom to 'do their own thing', eg. one principal used the key line about the school library program, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Principals provide resources to TLs to allow release to:
Principals provide support to information literacy, via:
Principals seemed uncertain about how to evaluate the success of information literacy programs.
TLs indicated that while support of the principal was essential, it was not sufficient for success. Support of staff also had to be won.
Some indication suggests that TLs sought the support of a senior mentor who would act as a 'sounding board' and potential advocate.
Principals place high value on:
Principals were prepared to give TLs what they wanted because they believed that the TL would only make 'legitimate' demands. TLs tended to be 'conservative' (or what they considered 'realistic') in their requests. They did not abuse the principal's trust. The two approaches formed a powerful union.
No matter how much the principal believed in the importance of an information literate school community, this could only be achieved through an integrated school library program, if the TL shared the principal's world view - that is, there was a close alignment between the principal's vision and the TL's vision - and the TL was a credible representative of excellence and was able to act as a ch ange agent. The TL could not afford to be seen as part of factional politics, but rather had to have broad based support.
Bogden, R.C. & Biklen S.K. (1992). Qualitative research for education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Bredeson, P.V. (1987). Principally speaking: an analysis of the interpersonal communications of school principals. Journal of Educational Administration. 25(1): 55-71.
Corbett, H.D. (1983). Principals have a big role to play in maintaining change. Panorama. 4(2): 25-26.
Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of eduactional change. Toronto, Canada: OISE Press.
Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces!: probing the depths of educational reform. London: Falmer Press.
Hamilton, D. (1983). The principal and the school library. Education Canada Fall: 30-35.
Haycock, K. (1992). What works: research about teaching and learning through the school's library resource center. Seattle, Wash: Rookland Press.
Haycock, K. (1981). Getting to first base: developing support from school principals. School Libraries in Canada 1(3): 17-18.
Henri, J. (1995). The information literate school community: exploring a fuzzy concept. SCAN. (Forthcoming).
Henri, J. (1988). The school curriculum. Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.: Centre for Information Studies.
Holland, S. (1994). Teacher-Librarians working with principals. The Canadian School Executive. April: 28-29, 31.
Kulleseid, E.R. (1985). Beyond survival to power for school library media specialists. Hamden, Conn.: Library Professional Publications.
La Rocque, L. & Oberg, D. (1991). The principal's role in a successful library program. The Canadian School Executive. October: 27-30.
Linderman, WB (1944) What should the school librarian expect of the school principal? The School Review: 611-617.
Lipham, J. (1981) Effective principal, effective school. NASSP, Reston. Va.
McMillan, James H. & Schumacher, S. (1993). Research in education: a conceptual introduction. 3rd ed. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers.
Martin, B. & Carson, B. (1981). The principal's handbook on the school library media center. Hamden, Conn.: Library Professional Publications.
Oberg, D. (1995). Principal support: what does it mean to teacher-librarians? in Sustaining the vision: a selection of conference papers of the 24th IASL Conference 17 - 21 July 1995. Worcest er College of Higher Education, Worcester, UK.
Rosenholtz, S. (1985). Effective schools: interpreting the evidence. American Journal of Education. 53(3): 352-359.
Rosenholtz, S. (1989). Teachers' workplace: the social organisation of schools. New York: Longman.
Wilkes, D. (1992) Schools for the 21st century: new roles for teachers and principals (Hot topics, usable research). SERVE, Tallahassee: FL.
The authors wish to acknowledge the generous funding provided by the Centre for Information Studies (Charles Sturt University - Riverina) that enabled the fieldwork to be completed. Funding from t
he Centre for Studies in Teacher Librarianship (Charles Sturt University - Riverina) that enabled transcription of interview data is also acknowledged.
The authors wish to thank Dianne Oberg for her encouragement of the replication of her 1991 study and for her willingness to share documentation.
The authors wish to thank Dianne Oberg for her encouragement of the replication of her 1991 study and for her willingness to share documentation.