A librarian , EE Coordinator and Team leader in an IB school tells us how the IB framework can help us redefine the role of a librarian.
Before she became the librarian and the EE coordinator at Ecole Mondiale World School in Mumbai, Kuntal Bhandare worked as an archivist at the Dhirubhai Ambani school. “As an archivist, I would streamline all of the school’s 10-year-old data and put it into both physical and digital classification systems for easy retrieval,” she says. As much as she enjoyed the work, she found it to be too technical and she missed the multifaceted role of a librarian. She longed for the personal connection that a librarian made.
Interestingly, in an IB school, the librarian adds many strings to her bow. A librarian also uses apps and technology to help students with their work and research, even learning how to connect a child’s learner profile. Co teachers and collaborators.
According to Kuntal, aspiring librarians in India can opt for the Bachelor of Library Science and Master of library science and aspiring teachers can take up B.Ed or.M.Ed , but there is little by way of a degree for teacher librarians. “Nowhere in India is there a course that prepares us for working in a school library,” she says.
“In fact, IB brought out the risk-takers in us and encouraged us to be teacher librarians. I think the result is wonderful because we really have understood our potential.”
Information media curators and coaches
“School librarians were always considered as caretakers of the library ,” says Kuntal. “He or she is a giver and a taker of books. IB changed the perspective drastically and made the library the spine and the backbone of the school."
"IB made the librarian more tech-savvy, more research-based and it redefined their roles as information media specialists, information media curators and even information coaches.
"If you go to any IB school, they won’t call them librarians because they feel that they know and do much more. I am part of a worldwide group of librarians and most of them feel that IB really brought out the best in them.”
Kuntal’s work as a teacher librarian began when her EE Coordinator came to her and asked her to help students in citation . She has come a long way since and is now an EE coordinator herself. She also helps students with their diploma research skills. Apart from this, she is also a team leader of grade 7 students, and takes a role of pastoral advisor. “IB curriculum truly pushes you out of your comfort zone,” she says. “In fact, I have a Master’s degree in history and I can even teach history. They do not restrict you and want you to challenge yourself constantly. With my students, I try to make reading into an exciting challenge for them. I teach them how to use digital media and the various components of research.”
However, Kuntal’s favorite role is that of a librarian. “When students are sitting in a library, there is an emotional connect with them,” she says. “Librarians hold a special position with students, especially in my school, where they come and speak to me.”
In fact, Kuntal believes that with the right support from schools SLT , librarians can explore different possibilities and not confine themselves to a single subject or area of expertise. They deal with a variety of subject areas and with such a background, it is easy for them to become EE coordinators. With Callido’s resources, she finds it easy to plan sessions and work on research.
Libraries as hubs of enquiry-led learning
IB schools are all about multidimensional learning experiences and this extends to the school library too. Says Kuntal, “We use an enquiry based approach with a text. We encourage multilingualism and we talk about using different digital media. We use different sources and in multiple ways. For example,if students are learning French, Spanish or Hindi, we not only bring in books but we also teach students to find resources by using a proper database or any other digital resource related to the langues and build a sense of inquiry. In my reading program in the library, we develop ATL skills and we work on different tasks.
Our resources and the way we project our resources will make a library more enquiry-based in its approach. Our activities in the library, with teachers and students,supports the school's enquiry-based program .
The pre-diploma resources offered by Callido, for instance, helped Kuntal offset the online learning fatigue in school. The students found the resources very user-friendly and completed their work on their own. “I have been recommending the Callido EE Companion to members of my EE group,” she says.
“As an EE coordinator, it made my job so much easier.”
Libraries and peer-based learning cultures
Kuntal is part of a group of librarians called ‘Liferarian.’ She is a founder member of a group with Anil Mane, Whole school Head Librarian at the Edubridge International School and Heeru Bhojwani, Information Curator and Coach from the American School of Bombay. Says Kuntal, “It’s been 4 years now and we have 150 members across the world, all from IB libraries. We hold many online sessions and build our community.”
Kuntal believes that collaboration between teachers and librarians is important. Collaboration, she believes, can happen even as a small talk on a lunch table. I think librarians should be informally collaborating with teachers along with formal meetings. We need to hang out with teachers, have coffee and tea with them, and interact with them frequently,” she says. Librarians also need to relearn and update themselves too. “I create an environment where teachers feel free to come into the library and ask for specific resources,” she says.
“At Ecole, we have been able to create that culture thanks to the school’s tremendous support in terms of providing resources and good work culture for eg school supported me a great deal when I insisted on resources like Callido.”
Kuntal also strongly believes in librarians supporting one another and cites her group as an example. “It strongly urges us to come out of our comfort zones,” she says. “Recently, another librarian was talking to us about how her director has asked her to make an app for the library. We do this not because this is our job but because we really stand for what the IB approach strives to accomplish. In fact, I think librarians are examples of all 10 learner profiles!"