The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) is honoured to announce the winner of the ASLA Citation Award for 2011 and to commend and give recognition of services rendered to the profession.
This citation, awarded biennially at the ASLA National Conference, is given for outstanding leadership in promoting and developing teacher librarianship in one or more of the following fields:
- Policy formation
- Program implementation
- Administration of the Association
In 2011 ASLA recognises the contribution of a national leader who has dedicated a career to ensuring Australian school libraries are dynamic and innovative learning communities.
The recipient of the 2011 ASLA Citation has given outstanding service and leadership to school libraries in Australia, and receives this award particularly in the areas of policy formulation, publication, administration, innovation and education. Her dedication and vision continue to challenge and inspire the school library community throughout Australia.
Pru Mitchell: Recipient of the ASLA Citation 2011
Pru has been actively involved in a wide variety of activities related to school libraries for nearly 30 years. She has worked in school, TAFE and University libraries in three states, starting out as a graduate in a new Adelaide Hills school and establishing the library as well as teaching the R-2 class. In 1985 she completed the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Science externally, and worked for several years in the Victorian TAFE and University sectors. In 1990 she was appointed as Head of Library at La Salle College in Western Australia and from 1993 to 1996 combined this with a term as Coordinator of the Catholic Education Office of WA Library Liaison Team, responsible for state-wide professional learning and support. In 1998 Pru accepted the challenge of managing the libraries and school-wide ICT at a large multi-campus school in WA, and then in 2002 moved back to South Australia and joined the Education Network Australia (EdNA) team providing national online services to education. She has recently taken on a new role within the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), coordinating support and professional learning.
Pru has been a member of ASLA since 1989. She served as an ASLA National Councillor from 1998 to 2005 and held the position of ASLA Vice President (Association Relations) from 2000 to 2005. Pru’s work on various ASLA groups and committees has helped to develop strong partnerships with the Australian Library and Information Association and other organisations. Pru has worked on projects of great significance for the teacher librarian profession and school libraries, including the development of the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and Learning for the Future: Developing Information Services in Schools.
Pru has made substantial contributions to school libraries and librarianship at both the state level in Western Australia and South Australia, and at a national level. Countless people have benefitted from Pru’s willingness to share her knowledge and expertise through a range of inspiring presentations delivered at various state, national and international conferences. Pru effortlessly bridges both virtual and physical modes of delivery, ensuring opportunities for as many people as possible to participate in the professional learning she offers.
Pru has written an extensive number of articles for a range of professional journals, actively highlighting school library expertise and issues related to school libraries to the attention of broader educational and community audiences. She maintains a significant online presence through her membership of a variety of online communities and her contributions to various blogs and wikis.
Pru has been an outstanding leader in the field of teacher librarianship and her contribution to the profession is acknowledged in the referee statements supporting Pru’s nomination for the ASLA Citation Award:
“Pru’s extraordinary contributions to the organisation and management of the ASLA Conference in 2007 highlighted her knowledge of practitioners across the country who could share their expertise. Her ability to network at the national level with experts in the field of education and teacher librarianship has been of great benefit to countless colleagues. Pru is a well-respected, invaluable contributor in the field of teacher librarianship. Her involvement in the establishment of the EdNA listservs for ASLA is an example of a crucial dimension that has aided our practice.”
“Pru used her wisdom, her extensive networks and her unfailing energy and stamina to lay the ground work for the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians. From there the project was finalised under the ASLA/ALIA Policy Advisory Group but Pru eagerly supported the remaining work and gave much valued feedback and direction. The document Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians was ratified in second half of 2004 and launched in April 2005.”
“Pru’s collegiality is both awe-inspiring and far reaching. She is without question a professional of the highest order. Pru’s approachability, affability and deep knowledge of school libraries and teacher librarians has enabled her to share these qualities with all who work in this field. The profession is the better for having her leadership and active involvement.”
“Pru is a natural leader and her great mind and generous spirit has made a difference to the library world in Australia. Pru has given her time and energy unselfishly to many committees and groups working with the Western Australian School Library Association while living in WA, and simultaneously, while on that Committee working at the national level as a Board Member of the Australian School Library Association. During that time, Pru was responsible for, and assisted with, many projects – at all times bringing her strengths and abilities to the forefront, ensuring that teachers, principals and politicians had an opportunity to see how members of our profession could make a difference in the education of students.”
And finally as acknowledged by the citation panel of judges:
“Pru has given a significant amount to ASLA and the teacher librarian profession. She has had an influence over a great range of educational areas as well as leading change in Australian school libraries over a long period of time. Her research and publications are many and varied and she has made substantial contributions to conferences through both keynote and supportive presentations. Pru has demonstrated strong leadership on many bodies over different states and as Vice President of ASLA.”
“Pru has an outstanding ability to analyse past and present innovations and identify their applications for school library and educational settings. She has an exceptional knowledge and understanding of a wide range of online tools and technologies and their impact in the landscape of 21st century learning. Through her multitude of published works, conference presentations and her involvement in a wide range of educational bodies, Pru works tirelessly to challenge all educators, not just teacher librarians, to reflect on the evolving role of information literacy specialists in meeting the future learning needs of our students.”
“Through Pru’s involvement with school libraries, professional associations and the wider community, she has had a great influence on many people in the profession and encouraged them to contribute to their own further education and to student learning. Her knowledge is vast and she is always at the forefront of innovation. She willingly shares that knowledge with compassion to a wide range of library professionals.”
Presentation of this award is an opportunity for her peers and colleagues to acknowledge her commitment to the profession and it is with honour that we bestow the ASLA Citation Award 2011 to Pru. This award was presented to Pru at the ASLA XXII Conference, Saint Ignatius College, Riverview, Sydney, New South Wales. Congratulations Pru.
[ASLA President, Isobel Williams presenting Pru with her citation at ASLA XXII Biennial Conference]
ASLA Citation 2011 Acceptance
I am really honoured and humbled to receive the ASLA citation - and be counted in that list that includes friends and contributors to our profession like Anette Ainsworth, Bev Blackwell, Karen Bonanno, Lyn Hay and Ruth Jones. I remember sitting in Memorial Hall at St Peter's College Adelaide in 1993 watching Norma Jeffrey receive the Citation and it would have been inconceivable to me then that my journey could lead here to a similar occasion at St Ignatius, Riverview.
Sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me through my career, and especially to those who took the initiative and the time to nominate me, and to referee this citation. Time is the scarcest resource for many of you, and to Sue Johnston, to SLASA, WASLA, to ALIA Schools Section colleagues, to the ASLA Board and those beyond who have given me your time and kind words I am genuinely grateful - and touched.
My family also deserves thanks for their ongoing understanding and support through years of teleconference and meeting nights, the weekends at PD or writing papers, and the various birthdays where Mum was interstate at ASLA Council. I would say much of the credit for a strong volunteer ethic must be attributed to the high bar set by my parents who in retirement still seem to be busier than I am.
I would like to say a couple of things about professional associations and about ours in particular.
I started my ASLA involvement in the heady days of strong and quite fiercely independent state associations; joining the SLAV Hamilton branch in 1989 and attending my first ASLA conference in Canberra that year. On moving to WA I continued involvement in ALIA, SLOC (a WA umbrella group) and WASLA, drawing inspiration from leaders such as Jean Rhodes, Dr Anne Clyde and Norma Jeffery. In 1998 Norma asked me to ‘help out’ with some research, and as we met from month to month in her office at Curriculum Council it slowly dawned on me that this was her mentoring me, and before long I was project managing the Learning for the Future 2nd edition project (which I can report is still attracting orders). So often, it is not enough to wait for people to volunteer. Part of the association’s brief is to identify those who have something to offer, and convince them of their ability – and help them develop.
Thanks to SLASA (then SASLA/COSLA) for welcoming someone walking in off the train from WA in 2002 who presumed to take over their conference organising, and who took one of their ASLA Council spots while I finished my term as ASLA Vice-President.
In both SLASA and WASLA I have experienced strong, professional local committees providing local advocacy, professional learning and mentoring services on almost 100% volunteer effort. Both associations have also committed and contributed over and above this nationally to ASLA.
So why have a national professional association? In this era of unconferences, PLNs and tweet ups why not just let local, national and global groups of like-minded people form and un-form as needs arise, or as the whimsy takes them? Many of these groups do incredibly effective work and typically have a high level of engagement from participants, and I believe ASLA is the stronger for working with others. However I see the significance of a national association in, amongst other things:
- our work for the national interest: ASLA takes responsibility for the profession as a whole and must balance the interests of states, sectors, primary, secondary, city or country school libraries, small or well-resourced.
- our authority and leadership, validation and recognition: earned through 40+ years of sustained hard work by leaders in our profession. When organisations, the media and government are looking for representation on behalf of school libraries, there is value attached to being “the peak body providing leadership and support for school libraries and the promotion of teacher librarianship in Australia.”
- our constitution demands accountability in governance, financial responsibility and a legal identity – all providing an expectation of sustainability; that ‘someone’ will call the next meeting and minute it, and that giving up when things get difficult is not the easy option.
- our policies provide one voice, a consensus view of what a teacher librarian is, what a quality collection looks like, and what constitutes program excellence.
- our network means ready-made connection with information, people and issues. In fact we can and do make life difficult for education systems and schools that would prefer their library staff didn't have access to information that enables them to compare conditions in another jurisdiction.
If we only had non-aligned ad hoc groups with no national association this citation would not mean what it does.
We cannot afford to take any of this for granted and most in this room would know that ASLA has grappled with many issues related to change in both the association and the profession, and has restructured around these changes in a way that acknowledges the reality of diversity and local concerns. One size does not fit all now (if indeed it ever did), and as an association I believe our next priority is to take some guidance from principles of the open access and Government 2.0 movements, and to work for cultural change that places transparency, engagement, sharing, empowerment and building up of the community as our highest priorities. We have the tools that could help us realise these goals of openness, collaboration for the common good and maximum engagement with members and the profession. We need the professionalism and commitment to use these.
One of the things I enjoy about my current role with SCIS is increased engagement with school libraries globally, and I was struck by the way the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) picked up on a reference to ‘flocking’ in Erica William's presentation at last year’s SLAQ/IASL conference. According to McWilliam, high-flying flock capacities include alignment, steering and responsiveness – three fitting performance indicators for ASLA and member associations.
SLANZA extended this analogy to ‘flock-mates’, described by Senga White as those people who are “my sounding board, my cheer team, my safety net and at times my mirror, when I really needed to take a good look at myself and my practice.” Over the years so many of my flock-mates and friendships have been found through professional associations, and while naming flock-mates from many years of contacts is fraught, a particular thank you to Sue Johnston, Robin Wake, Val Baird and Mary-Ann Salisbury who taken that role at some crucial times for me.
I have been blessed to work with role models who believed in lifelong learning, who truly recognised the value of professional networks and who encouraged me to get involved. From Elaine Hosking, my first library manager at Warrnambool TAFE, I gained a vision of both service and community that continues to drive my professional practice. Pat Rodrigues, as Principal and mentor when I was very raw and thrown into leadership roles, built up my confidence and provided so many opportunities; and I am deeply grateful to Leonie Bourke who challenges, affirms and shares my passion for learning new things.
Finally I want to publicly acknowledge and pay tribute to the amazing team of colleagues that has been EdNA - closed this week after a long and demoralising process. I have EdNA to thank for a unique experience as part of a learning organisation, committed to collaboration and service; where we combined passion, hard work and a commitment to grassroots educators and library staff. ASLA folk will know some of them well, like Kerrie Smith and Pat Pledger, but to all my EdNA friends – thank you, and go well.
It is a privilege to fly with flock-mates who support and inspire you professionally, who push you higher, and help you see the bigger picture. This is what ASLA has been for me, and I am pleased if I have been able to give something back to help this important association.
McWilliam, E 2008 ‘Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Cre-8-ives’, Middle Years of Schooling Conference, Adelaide
White, S 2011 ‘Flockmates and inspiration’, Senga’s Space blog, 16 August 2011, http://sengaw.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/flockmates-and-inspiration