SJSU Portfolio

Conclusion and Affirmation

Worn Floor

“...for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching... by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I'd spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain.”
Stephen King

For six semesters over two years I have returned home after a long day of teaching high school, rolled my chair up to the kitchen table with a feeling that I was buckling in for a long flight, and entered the life of the mind for several hours each night. The photo above shows the place where my desk chair has worn a hole in the floor finish. As I complete my MLIS and teacher librarian credential, employment prospects in the field are limited, but I do not regret the thousands of hours I spent in the program. True, I sometimes felt like the Star Trek episode where Spock’s brain is in a jar—all intellect and no corporeal presence ( And wow, online education is no way to stay in physical shape!), but I was also engaged in the world of academic adults and contemporary scholarship, and this immersion has enriched my teaching as well as my intellectual life.

I have been impressed by and mostly very happy with the SLIS program. My teachers were knowledgeable and the work was rigorous. My very first class, Libr 202 with Dr. Reid, was representative of the best of the SLIS program in many ways. Approaching the world of information from a professional point of view, the class and teacher were intimidating for a beginner, but ultimately I realized I could succeed if I gave the expected considerable effort. Two classes required for the California teacher librarian credential have better prepared me for work in a school library and inspired my current teaching. These were Libr 265, Young Adult Literature for Ages 15-18, taught by Beth Wrenn-Estes, and Libr 263, Literature for Ages 5-8, taught by Shirley Lukenbill. From Libr 265 I acquired a new repertoire of books to recommend, which has improved independent reading in my classroom. Dr. Wrenn-Estes also increased my respect for the power of YA literature. Although already a fan of picture books and children’s literature, I had never studied them with the social awareness and rigorous high standards demanded and modeled by Shirley Lukenbill. As a side benefit, this class gave me my only specific and detailed work in ordering books and differentiating among bindings and editions, experience I will be glad to have in the future.

Consideration of the benefit of this practice brings up a concern about the SLIS program. I feel well prepared in theories and scholarship of information seeking behavior. I understand the basics of information retrieval systems and the library’s changing social roles. Since SLIS is a graduate program, it’s appropriate that much of my education has focused on the abstract and theoretical. However, I do not actually feel at all prepared to step in and run a library. In Libr 266, Collection Management, I was introduced to selection tools, weeding, and vendor types In my reference class, Libr 210, I became more familiar with common ready reference sources and reference desk demeanor, and I did enlarge my knowledge of library course management systems through my internship. Still, when I began the field experience for my credential I told my supervising teacher I had no idea how the library actually functioned on a day-to-day basis, and I have really just begun to learn this through that class. I recognize this: if I weren’t working for a credential I would not be required to have any field experience or to complete an internship. I could have gone all the way through the program without one day of practical experience. I’ve never even taken a cataloging class. Some sort of practicum should be required for the Master’s in Library Science.

There is one area where I acquired immediate practical knowledge through hands-on practice, and that would be in the use of Web 2.0 applications for communication and creation. SLIS instructors should be a model for other schools for the way they integrate into instruction not only the discussion forums which are part of Angel, but also Skype, Google Documents, PBWiki, Voki, Glockster, Blogger, and dozens more. K-12 teachers are increasing their use of these great free tools, but seldom can spare the kind of time I was able to devote to experimenting with these applications as part of my class assignments. I now use these tools routinely with my students and have a clear vision of how I could use them to revitalize a school library. This experience is in addition to the crushing weight of technological instruction delivered to me in Libr 240, Information Technology Tools and Applications. In my introduction I said I would never complain about the class again, but I lied. I am very proud of what I was able to accomplish in Libr 240 with little to no help available. My success in the class increased my self-confidence as well as my ability. What I learned in the class has been a salvation in assembling this portfolio, yet I still am glad to have a chance to say: that’s way too much work for a three unit class!

Though I would recommend the experience to any motivated candidate, I do have two other concerns about SLIS. The human resources director of my school district thought it was very amusing that I decided to become a teacher librarian just when schools all over the state are getting rid of their librarians. Many people have asked me about this since, usually with comments like “You’re kidding; I didn’t know schools still had librarians!” Professors in my library media related classes were acutely aware of the bleak employment prospects, and communicated a common message to us: market yourself! Get out there! Of course you’ll get cut if you’re not out there seeking collaboration, inserting yourself into the curriculum, taking a leadership role in school reform. The cumulative effect was to communicate that librarians whose programs were cut got what they deserved; that a valuable program would survive.However, it looks to me like some pretty sharp forward-thinking, multi-tasking, wired-in school librarians are now out networking in the unemployment line. Instead of using the ‘blame the victim’ model, I would like to see the ALA, teachers unions, and academia standing up for school librarians. Unfair labor practices and damage to learning are both ubiquitous when districts assign uneducated technicians to do instruction, planning, and purchasing in school libraries. Continuing the crime analogy, instead of blaming, SLIS should be teaching martial arts—showing teacher librarians how to protect their jobs through union work and labor law, Ed Code, and public advocacy.

My second comment about the program may reveal my own failure to show initiative in communication as much as it shows a shortcoming of SLIS. My teachers have almost always been very responsive when I have contacted them with questions. I know they are required to answer promptly and be accessible, but responses never seemed pro forma; I usually received thoughtful, complete, and encouraging responses. Now, however, I am finishing my MLIS with excellent grades, but, having been a working student who has never acted as a grad assistant to any of the faculty, I have no real connection to any of them. Considering reapplying to finish an English MA, I realize I don’t know any of my instructors well enough to ask for a letter of recommendation. Without the mix of social and academic interaction which happens with face to face contact in connected departments, I’m not sure how this is accomplished. I would like to see SLIS address this issue in course materials.

My professional growth plan has two parts. The first part involves my goal of employment in a public school library, either at a high school or in a mixed-level capacity. In this part of my plan I have to make a decision. If our current high school librarian were to find a job she preferred and vacate the position, which is not impossible, I think I would stand a good chance at getting the job. This would be my preference. If this seems unlikely to happen any time soon, I need to decide whether I am willing to apply in public school districts and areas outside of my current employment. I am a graduate of the school where I work, as is my husband and our two oldest children. I enjoy working there and changing jobs might decrease my salary, so I must weigh carefully the positives of the status quo against the exciting new challenges of change.

Some years ago I was only one thesis away from completing an MA in English. Now of course, some of my tests and credits have expired. The other part of my professional plan is to complete my English degree in the next year, strengthening my position should I decide to seek employment in an academic library, perhaps teaching information literacy to incoming freshmen. There is plenty of that sort of work in my area for someone who does not need full-time work with benefits, which will be a future option for me.

We all have strengths developed through experience and training as well as intrinsic personal gifts or abilities. In requiring an existing credential before issuing the teacher librarian authorization California clearly recognizes that the complexities of library instruction call for an effective educator with developed strategies for planning active and engaging instruction designed to minimize behavior issues. I believe my teaching experience will serve me well in the library during instruction, but also in my individual interactions with K-12 students, where humor and friendliness combined with firm authority have served me well in the past. Now I have added to my existing skills the abilities I have developed in my SLIS classes: a decent Web 2.0 toolkit, an improved understanding of information seeking behavior and information storage and retrieval, and better knowledge of current materials for children and young adults. In my position as a union negotiator and as a department chair and teacher leader I also have gained useful experience both in directing and in collaborating with other adults professionally. My union work has given me a broad picture of the challenges faced by the spectrum of workers in a complex organization, and also of the issues faced by those in administration. Collaborating with colleagues as a teacher leader has prepared me well to be a supervisor, as it challenges me to be at once motivator, critic, advocate, and innovator.

The innate good qualities which I believe will be assets to me as a teacher librarian are gifts from my family—I will claim humor, flexibility, curiosity, energy, and intelligence. Fortunately it’s not required that I list all the deficiencies of my personality here, but I will note my professional weaknesses. My SLIS training needs to be augmented with actual experience. I need more knowledge of cataloging, a better understanding of online library structures such as OCLC and WorldCat, and more familiarity with vendors, jobbers, service bundling, and other such mysteries of providing for the library. I look forward to alleviating these shortcomings and others through actual library employment.

Now that my time in SLIS is ending, I feel some sadness about my impending loss of an academic community which provides continual challenges, food for thought, and abundant database access. Maybe the heavy workload of this portfolio is designed in part to provide an antidote for graduation melancholy, since finishing it leaves me very ready to trade homework for time to move, think, and rejuvenate before taking my next steps down this new road.


1. All introductory, reflective, and evidentiary work submitted is mine alone (except where indicated as a group or team project), and has been prepared solely by me.

2. I have respected the privacy of others by removing mention in this e-Portfolio of information that could lead to the disclosure of the identity of those uninvolved with library education or negatively represented, and past discussions support my assumption of mutual permission from all group members for group projects submitted as evidence.

3. I will be protecting the privacy of the contents of my e-Portfolio by password protecting it.

Janet Hansen