Posts tagged ‘School Libraries’

Documentary on literacy & school library underfunding – Read Between the Lines

Check out this 35 minute doc created by the Chapters/Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, titled Read Between the Lines (also available in French). It examines the long term effects of poor literacy skills and underfunded elementary school libraries on children. It tracks the application by Fairview PS in Nanaimo BC for grant money from the Chapters Love of Reading Foundation and includes a retrospective  look at Ogden Community School in Thunder Bay that was the recipient of the award 10 years ago. Interviews include, amongst others,  Robert Munsch and Neil Gaiman.  You’ll like the music, too.

Keep  your kleenex handy – this deliberately tugs the heart strings!  What do you think?



May 18, 2017 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

Library as the hub of school improvement: OLA jot notes


Third in a series by Natalie C, one of our fabulous reference librarians who attended this year’s OLA Super conference.

Teacher-Librarians were out in full force at Super Conference, with many presenting on the new and innovative projects they were undertaking in their Library Learning Commons and Makerspaces.

One such presentation was offered by a Principal/Teacher-Librarian (TL) team from the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. Working at a small school in a small community,  school administrator Alison Osborne and TL Lea French discussed how they took advantage of all of their community’s resources — the public library, engaged parents, and local artists — to turn their library into the thriving hub of their school’s community.

What they did wasn’t necessarily complicated, but a lot of small things added up to make a sizable difference for their students:


  • Refreshing their Environment: In addition to purchasing new comfortable, versatile furniture, Alison & Lea enlisted the help of a local artist to create a collaborative art installation for the library with the students at their school.
  • Rebranding: Rather than calling the school library a makerspace or library learning commons — terms that they thought might not resonate with their students — they opted to name the space The Hub, because that’s what they wanted it to be: the centre of their students’ learning
  • Active Learning: Alison & Lea developed simple activities to help students feel involved in the space, including a Blackout Poetry exercise, Tearable Puns, and a bookmark design contest
  • Know Your Stats: Alison & Lea knew that intermediate students were the lowest users of the library so they encouraged teachers to issue Research Passes to these students that they could use to come down to the library during class-time for help with researching an assignment
  • Parents as Partners: Relying heavily on the assistance of parents in their community during their school library’s revitalization, Alison & Lea applied for a Parents Reaching Out grant to provide their parents with compensation for their time
  • Hitting the Books: To help their students cultivate a love of reading, Alison & Lea applied to First Book Canada, which provides books to students in impoverished communities. They also organized an Earth Day Book Swap where students could bring in books they’d already read to trade with their peers.
  • Creating a Safe Space: To provide alternative spaces for students, Lea offers Mindful Mornings in the library, opening The Hub early so students looking for a quiet space can take some time to themselves
  • Developing a Lifelong Love of Libraries: To foster a love of libraries in all their forms, Alison & Lea partnered with their small public library to offer students regular library field trips

In addition to their dedication to transforming their school library space through these many projects, what I found most inspiring about Alison & Lea was their collaborative and trusting relationship. Alison evidently was passionate about her school’s library, but she said that she might not have necessarily seen it as a priority if Lea hadn’t knocked on her door and said: “Hey, I’m a Teacher-Librarian and I don’t know why I’m teaching grade 5.”

Because of Lea’s advocacy and the pair’s dedication to making the school library a hub for literacy and learning, Lea’s full-time space is now the library. The pair made a commitment to each other to stay at their school for 3 years and see their project through. Just a year after starting their revitalization, their school has already seen increases in its academic and attitude data. It is a motivating story of what Principals and Teacher-Librarians can accomplish together.

I’m sure that there are many of these examples from TDSB Teacher-Librarians as well. If you have a great school library revitalization story, start thinking about your OLA Super Conference proposal for next year!



February 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Student voice in the library: OLA Super conference jot notes

Second in a series by Natalie C., one of our fabulous reference librarians who attended the annual conference: 


From Feb. 1st to 3rd, thousands of librarians descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the 2017 Ontario Library Association Superconference

One of the most inspirational sessions at the conference was offered by this year’s Ontario School Library Association’s Spotlight Speaker, Shannon McClintock Miller. Shannon was a Teacher-Librarian with the Van Meter Community School District in Iowa. Now she speaks all over the world about education, librarianship, technology and giving students a voice.

Let Us Make a Difference: The central tenet of Shannon’s presentation is that when we’re given the opportunity to follow our passions and pursue something that we see as a priority, we feel empowered. Shannon asks educators to empower their students by asking them a simple question: What is important to you? Shannon told tons of great stories about the impact of empowering students to choose what they want to learn.

Let Us Be Connected: As a teacher librarian in Van Meter, Shannon helped students pursue their passions by using technology to connect them with experts, authors, and other classrooms all over the world.

Some ways she connected:

  • She partnered with a teacher in Illinois and, using Skype, they would team teach almost every day. They collaborated on a blog: Two Libraries One Voice.
  • After a student indicated his interest in the videogame Halo, she tweeted to Halo’s creator and coordinated a joint Halo game in the library
  • She connected 2 Kindergarten classrooms at different schools using Skype
  • To reach out to author Mercer Mayer, she motivated students to create a book of artwork highlighting why they loved his work, sent it to his publicist, and he eventually Skyped with over 250 students at the school

Let Us Create: Shannon also empowered students by allowing them to pursue their passions.  After one student indicated his love of I Spy books, Shannon reached out to the books’ author. She said that she would meet with Van Meter students — but only if they created an I Spy book of their own. So they did!

Let Us Have Experiences: Shannon used technology to allow her students in Van Meter to have experiences they may not have had otherwise.

  • They connected with over 26 other schools for World Read Aloud Day
  • To celebrate author Mo Willems, they read the book Happy Pig Day and Shannon brought in a pig. They shared their experience with students from another classroom in Illinois who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to see a real live pig.

Shannon closed her presentation with this message: “Our children’s voices have the power to make a difference. They have the power to change education. They have the power to change the world. You have the power to be the change.”

Shannon is now involved with the Future Ready Librarians project, an initiative designed to empower Teacher-Librarians to “lead, teach and support the Future Ready goals of their school.” Shannon’s entire presentation is available at this linkYou can also learn more about Shannon’s work on her blog The Library Voice and you can follow her on Twitter @shannonmmiller.



February 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

School library advocacy: OLA super conference jot notes

Submitted by Natalie C., one of our fabulous reference libraries who was lucky to spend 3 days at the OLA Super Conference:

From Feb. 1st to 3rd, thousands of librarians descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the 2017 Ontario Library Association Superconference.

I was fortunate to attend two sessions with former OLA President and tireless school library advocate Anita Brooks-Kirkland. What I loved about her sessions was her no-nonsense presentation style and inclusive sense of advocacy. For her, advocacy isn’t a discrete activity, but rather a continuous process that involves everyone affected by school libraries.

Even if you’re not a Teacher-Librarian, you can help! Here are some key points from Anita’s workshops that explain how:


  • “Action is eloquence”: Today’s librarians can no longer advocate for the library by simply telling people that it’s important. Anita called this the “bitter medicine” approach to advocacy. Instead, Anita argues that advocating for the library is best when it comes from our actions:“Everything we do everyday is the best advocacy.”
  • Moving from Resources to Outcomes: In the school library, our promotion can’t be just about the books and tools. Instead, Teacher-Librarians need to collaborate with educators to pinpoint instructional outcomes they can contribute to.
  • Focus on Users: For library advocacy to be effective, it can’t be self-serving. It’s not about the library and librarians but rather what the library and librarians can provide. Anita quoted Doug Johnson’s 4 Rules of Library Advocacy, one of which is “Never advocate for libraries or the librarian — only for library users.” She also cited advocacy expert Wendy Newman who emphasized that people “do things for their reasons, not our reasons. We need to understand and respect their reasons.”
  • Be Accountable: It can often be difficult to measure the impact of the school library. To help Teacher-Librarians evaluate the efficacy of their efforts, Anita Brooks-Kirkland emphasizes that they need to have a plan, and track how well they stick to it.
  • Tell a Story: Look at both qualitative and quantitative data you’ve collected through your school library, and figure out what story it tells. Anita argues: “What we do has value. We need to communicate that value in meaningful ways.”

The key, Anita says, to ensuring the longevity of school libraries, is to think about the school library’s “unique value proposition” for information literacy and inquiry. What can school libraries do that no one else can?

How can you help?

Share your school library stories! How has the school library impacted you or your students?

Additionally, you can get involved with Canadian School Libraries, the new national organization “dedicated to professional research and development in the field of the school library learning commons in Canada.”


February 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Scholastic 2016 report on school library effectiveness

School libraries are a powerful force in the positive achievement of students. Scholastic has released a 2106 edition of the 2008 edition of  School Libraries Work: A compendium of research supporting the effectiveness of school libraries. The report, compiles research from various US sources, reinforces all previous research on this topic.


To read the report, you have have to complete an online form, after which  the report is emailed to you.

Other (selected) American research includes:  Library Research Services (school impact studies) and American Association of School Librarians (2014) Causality: School Libraries and Student success.

For Canadian content check out the 2011 People for Education report School Libraries and Information Literacy, and (2009) Exemplary School Libraries on Ontario.

Check’em out! Rowan


December 18, 2015 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Social Justice, Critical thinking and Book Displays

6 Tips for Build Book Displays That Matter

6 tips for Building Book Displays that Matter is a item written by Jennifer La Garde writer of the blog: The Adventures of Library Girl. She writes: “Too often we view our displays as a way to communicate an idea, when really we should think of them as a chance to connect with kids.  Every display presents us with an opportunity to tackle big things: to address individual student needs, to awaken dormant readers, and to engage all kids in meaningful conversations about books, reading and their lives as learners.  What’s more, it is my strong belief that every display we build sends a message (not just to our students, but to everyone who walks through the door) about what we value and the purpose of our work with students.  Why would we waste that valuable real estate on displays that don’t tell the real story of how librarians make a difference for kids?”

Contributed by Lauren M – fabulous librarian, and thinking about us even on mat leave.

November 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Today is National School Library Day

From CLA newsletter dated Friday October 16:

“The vital contribution of school libraries to the growth and education of our children across the country deserves national recognition. Join us on Monday October 26, National School Library Day, in celebrating the work of our school libraries: this day is an opportunity to demonstrate our appreciation for the important role of school libraries and the school library staff on the academic achievement and growth of students in Canada.

On October 26, school staff and students will be celebrating National School Library Day by participating in  CLA’s Voices for School libraries Network‘s  Drop Everything and Read Challenge (D.E.A.R): an initiative whereby staff and students are encouraged to drop everything and read at 11:00 a.m. local time to highlight the importance of school libraries in the educational lives of students. Participants are encouraged to tweet about their participation in the challenge and let the country know what students are reading. Use the hashtag #canadadear2015. The Voices for School Libraries Network can be followed on Twitter @CdnSchoolLibrar or on Facebook (Voices for School Libraries).”

Everybody knows that effective school library programs increase student achievement. Check these links for research:

Celebrate your school library!


October 26, 2015 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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