Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher. By Michelle Reale. Chicago: ALA, 2016. 124 p. Paper $57 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1529-5).

Reale opens her thin volume by introducing the notion that learning doesn’t come just from experts but from our own experiences, which are a foundation for our learning and teaching. She notes that reflective practice helps us understand not only our world and our place in it, but also how to navigate the “conflation” of our personal and professional selves (xviii).

In the early chapters, Reale explores the need to be reflective both for our own practice and also as a means of inspiring reflective learners. Chapter 3 specifically looks at the necessity and benefit of a reflective practice that allows us to address our doubts, insecurities, frustrations as well as our triumphs and discoveries.

Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the barriers to creating a reflective practice. For many, the question is simply how to start. Significantly, our typical focus on technical rationality, tasks, and metrics crowds out the time we need for reflection and undermines the validity of our intuitions and experiences. Yet, ultimately, Reale argues, we are humans with feelings and personal preferences that we must understand before we can create an authentic practice.

The next two chapters address variations and deeper insights into the concepts introduced in the first four chapters. In chapter 6, Reale focuses on the benefits of journaling for reflection, providing examples to demonstrate the many forms that this practice can take. Chapter 7 looks at tone: While we often use reflection and journals to solve problems, starting with our own strengths (“what’s working”) can be a more positive approach, enabling us to address the challenges from a position of strength.

Reflection is often considered a personal or isolated practice, but chapters 8 and 9 look at how to engage a wider circle. First, while our own experiences are valid, so are those of our colleagues, so collaborative reflection can broaden our perspectives as colleagues provide feedback and challenge us to see new perspectives. These shared and personal reflections can then be carried into the classroom as we engage students in the same learning processes.

In the final chapter, Reale discusses how reflection has allowed her to see her own practice as one of integration. Instead of compartmentalizing and seeking a balance, she finds the integration of her life into work and vice versa a rewarding experience.

Each chapter opens with insightful quotes from practitioners and theorists to set the tone for the ensuing discussion. Balancing theory and practice, Reale provides relevant examples, checklists, questions, and techniques. Furthermore, she ends each chapter with “Final Thoughts” and “Strategies” sections set off in a gray box. These elements will allow the novice practitioner to return to relevant aspects easily.

This book adds a strong voice to the current conversation about reflective teaching practices. Although it is written for librarians and from a librarian’s perspective, its insights and techniques are relevant to anyone in the classroom. The book’s focus on Reale’s own practice is generally an asset, as her experiences and insights serve as a guide for establishing a strong reflective practice. Throughout the book, she emphasizes the importance of finding one’s own authentic method, and her rather intense focus on keeping a handwritten journal sometimes seems contradictory to the “find your authentic practice” message. Nonetheless, the call to find one’s own best practices through reflection and share those with students is empowering and relevant in our classrooms.—Donna Church, Reference Librarian, Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri


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