Fostering Literacies to Empower Life-Long Learners: A Look at the CLA’s Leading Learning

As a teacher who has unreservedly and loudly argued that literacy instruction is the responsibility of ALL teachers, I chose “Fostering Literacies to Empower Life-Long Learners” to explore in the Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada (2014). The framework identifies key themes in fostering literacies to empower life-long learners: literacy leadership, engaging readers, information literacy, critical literacy, digital literacy and citizenship, cultural literacy, literacy partners. This theme explores how educators support students with new technologies and new ways of knowing while balancing this with the need to develop students’ love of life-long learning and literacy.

“New technologies and evolving methods of communication and sharing drive expanding understanding of literacy. This reality has made the refinement and demonstration of strong literacy skills ever more important for learners. Exploring and connecting various ways of knowing and learning is part of the process of personalizing learning and involves embracing new literacies and skills. The school library learning commons has a leading role in assisting learners to hone and apply an expanded notion of literacy as well as fostering an active reading culture.”

(Canadian Library Association)

Throughout my career, most of my work within my classroom, school, school board, the Ministry of Education, and even the English professional association, English Language Arts Network (ELAN), has focused on literacy initiatives that support students who struggle with literacy. I was very fortunate early in my career to stumble upon my board’s literacy initiatives and have acted to further the learning of staff and students around issues of literacy. I’ve always felt that the role of the teacher-librarian in a school is integral to supporting the literacy skills of students and building the capacity of staff around effective literacy instruction. The CLA’s Standards of Practice and the accompanying resources (in the “See it in action” section) supports my belief and provides many examples of how to integrate these themes in our own schools and Library Learning Commons (LLC).

One such exemplar comes from an amazing teacher-librarian in my own school board, Alanna King, whom I have had the privilege to work with on literacy projects over the years. King’s work on transliteracy is summarized in her Master’s thesis and blog post, “Transliteracy and the Teacher-Librarian” and she has actively shared her thinking throughout our system, helping to push the knowledge of our educators forward. King details her own experiences supporting a school as more digital tools entered our system, students were suddenly declared “digital natives,” and school libraries made the transition to Library Learning Commons. King struggled to find a way to define the new skills students needed, moving from “literacy skills to digital fluency to 21st Century learning and am finally resting on transliteracy” (2018). She further explains,

“Using the term transliteracy sets the goal in education to aim towards having literacy skills transfer across modes and mediums, and that these skills will adapt with every new change in software or hardware, mode and medium. I hope that the skills of creation, collaboration, communication and curation will be strong no matter what changes come.”

Alanna King, “Transliteracy and the Teacher-Librarian”

This idea of transliteracy clearly encompasses some of the skills identified in this section of the Standards: information literacy, critical literacy, digital literacy and citizenship, cultural literacy. Additionally, the role of the teacher-librarian is that of a leader in this domain, acting as literacy leaders and partners with staff and students within the LLC. King explains this role of teacher-librarians: “Teacher-librarians are in ideal positions to be the agents of change in schools in full integration of transliteracy models. They can use their unique perspectives to see opportunities for building cross-curricular collaboration for problem-solving” (2018). What’s been great for my own learning is to see Alanna King put these ideas into practice, actively reconfiguring her school’s library into a learning commons and shifting her school’s understanding of literacy into something much broader and more suitable to today’s learners.

For those of us on the journey to become teacher-librarians, the CLA has offered exemplary practices in their document for us to examine (they label them as “leading into the future” in their rubric). I’d argue that we need to marry these academic goals and exemplary practices with our own observations of teacher-librarians, drawing on our experiences to understand them. Fortunately, I’ve been privileged to see the ideas presented in these Standards of Practice of the Canadian Library Association’s turned into action through the work of Alanna King; King shares her work and resources freely on her blog, “threadbare beauty,” modelling best practices for future teacher-librarians.

Canadian Library Association (CLA). 2014. Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. Available: http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/llsop.pdf

King, A. (2018, April 1). “Transliteracy and the Teacher-Librarian.” ECOO. Retrieved 16 April 2020, from https://ecoo.org/blog/2018/04/01/transliteracy-and-the-teacher-librarian/

—. (2016). threadbare beauty. Retrieved 16 April 2020, from https://threadbarebeauty.com/home/


Issue: Cuts in Funding to Libraries and Staffing in Libraries

Over the past couple of decades, libraries have seen funding cuts in the form of both resource limitations and staffing. With declining enrollment in schools comes declining funding and school boards do not always prioritize funding to libraries and teacher-librarians.

Many elementary schools – and smaller secondary – function with part-time staffing, meaning that their school library is closed for part of the day. Alternately, many school boards are staffing libraries with librarian technicians, staff who do not have the same teaching background as teacher-librarians. In fact, in rural jurisdictions, this problem is exacerbated as many jurisdictions are staffing elementary school libraries solely with library technicians: in Northern Ontario, 58%; Eastern Ontario, 67%; Southwestern Ontario, 49%; Central Ontario, 17%; GTA, 14% (OSLA Infographic, Data from 2019 Statistics Courtesy of People for Education). In many jurisdictions, the average staffing levels of teacher-librarians do not add up to one full time teacher-librarian, as seen in the following graphic:

Source: 2019 Statistics Courtesy of People for Education as found in OSLA Infographic.

Although School Boards are responsible for funding and staffing, these decisions are directly related to Ministry of Education policies and the funding formula. In her blog, Anita Brooks Kirkland tells us that “Staffing for school libraries and guidance services has been placed outside funding for classroom teachers in the funding formula, and this has opened the door for school districts to staff libraries however they see appropriate. The resulting disparity in library staffing across Ontario’s schools contributes to overall confusion about the potential of the program.” Brooks Kirkland further points out that while library technicians are a significant and indispensable component of a library, “staffing structures that leverage the competencies of both roles are optimum.” I would argue that teacher-librarians, who have a pedagogical knowledge base that their library technicians do not, are better equipped to support the learning needs of students and staff.

According to the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA), these funding cuts are having a dramatic impact on student success:

“The decline in funding for libraries is having far-reaching impacts on student performance and outcomes, including math and science grades, EQAO test scores, literacy & research skills, digital literacy, and post-secondary readiness. The results are dramatic: alongside the slow decline in board-level support for school libraries, the percentage of Ontario students who enjoy reading has fallen from 76% in 1997 to only 47% in 2018 .” (OSLA)

Ministry of Children & Youth Services. Gearing Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario Middle Years Children Thrive. Toronto: Government of Ontario, 2017. & People for Education. Reading for Joy. Toronto: People for Education, 2011 as cited in OSLA.

Part of the OSLA’s mandate is to provide direction and advocate for funding increases with schools, school boards, and the Ministry of Education. On their website, this advice comes in the form of reports and suggested funding guidelines, toolkits for teachers, webinars, and resources to support school staff in advocacy initiatives. Arguably, at this point in time when the current Ontario government and Minister of Education frequently attacks and diminishes the role of the teacher in schools, these resources are needed more than ever. Unfortunately, as the Ford government continues to seek “efficiencies” in government, libraries will continue to bear the brunt of funding cuts.


Brooks Kirkland, Anita. (2015). “Ontario Needs Teacher-Librarians.” By the Brooks: Anita Brooks Kirkland. Retrieved 15 April 2020, from http://www.bythebrooks.ca/ontario-needs-teacher-librarians/

OSLA Infographic. “The State of Elementary School Libraries” “School Library Issues.” (2019). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 15 April 2020, from http://www.accessola.org/WEB/Documents/Advocacy/2019%20-%20State%20of%20Elementary%20School%20Libraries%20-%20Infographic.pdf

OSLA. “School Library Issues.” (2020). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 15 April 2020, from http://www.accessola.org/web/OLA/OSLA/School_Library_Advocacy/OLA/Issues_Advocacy/School_Library_Issues.aspx?hkey=127e3999-3f15-4ae0-872f-1234476e077a

Reading and the Evolution of “Literacy”

In their book, The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win! Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs (2011), Loertscher et al claim that “[r]eading is still the king of all literacies…” and I have to agree. What’s changed is not so much how we read – that is, the act of decoding and comprehending text with effective fluency – but rather what we read. Fundamentally, anything is a text and therefore can be “read”; texts are created to communicate information. Today, we can access texts through so many means, but to truly understand something, one has to decode the text, which means having tools and strategies to understand the codes and conventions of any given text. Onto that, each person also adds their own socio-cultural schema or background knowledge, providing a reading of a text that includes personal bias. Anyone can become a proficient reader of texts, provided that they are willing to invest the time and energy into decoding and comprehending those texts. Thus, I’d argue that the conversations taking place today aren’t really about reading (the process of decoding and comprehending with some fluency); rather, what we’re really talking about is redefining literacy.

In their book, The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win! Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs, Loertscher et al explain this changing definition of literacy:

“Defining literacy is a process of continuous negotiation that is filled by social, economic, and technological changes. To be literate is to have the skills and knowledge to make meaningful connections between what one knows and what one is trying to understand, apply, or communicate. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, and communicating are foundational but the term literacy, however, has matured. An elastic definition of literacy now encompasses textual, digital, visual, media, informational, cultural, and global literacy under this broad learning umbrella. It could be argued that the umbrella term literacy now means learning literacy with all the above nestled together. New literacies will continue to evolve as technologies appear and disappear and as global and societal pressures shift the focus on specific information and learner needs. It isn’t the label that is the critical issue, but the understanding of the need to bring Learning Commons into the 21st century as evolving centres for literacy excellence.” 

(Loertscher et al, 2011, 53)

The chapter, “Learning Literacies and the Learning Commons” explores the need to teach the skills of reading: decoding and comprehending texts, whatever those texts may be. This chapter argues that students need to be “in command of their own learning” (Loertscher et al, 2011, 61) and classroom teachers are teachers of literacy, regardless of content area; this ”whole-school sustained effort” to promote literacy learning means the Library Learning Commons should be at the centre of literacy initiatives (Loertscher et al, 2011, 63). Reading empowers the learner; more texts are at their fingertips today than ever before, at a great variety of reading levels (Loertscher et al, 2011, 58). “In the Learning Commons, student learning experiences are designed to develop skills and strategies for dealing with a wide range of media, ever-changing technologies, and vast amounts of information; … they will master the learning necessary to learn literacies that will help them master the content knowledge they are asked to learn” (Loertscher et al, 2011 ,59). Again, teachers are tasked with helping students access these texts by teaching them how to learn – that is, how to read a text by decoding and comprehending the text. As David Warlick argues, “The best thing we can be teaching our children today is how to teach themselves” (Loertscher et al, 2011, 58).

“We have left the Information Age where data and computer savvy rule, and are now already immersed in a world of knowledge building and big Ideas. Preparing students with learning literacies is now paramount. By knowing how to learn students will be able to take informational content in any form and work it until they have deep understanding. They will know how to evaluate information and analyze it for relationships, discrepancies, perspectives, and they will know how to use information and ideas critically and creatively to build personal knowledge, solve problems, and make decisions. The truly literate of the 21st century will have the know-how to keep on learning, creating, and sharing in spite of, or perhaps because of, the increasing complexity and challenges of information, technologies, and global issues.”

(Loertscher et al, 2011, 57; emphasis mine)

David Loertscher’s and Carol Koechlin’s work to reimagine libraries into learning commons has influenced the Canadian Library Association’s (CLA) and the Ontario School Library Association’s (OSLA) most significant documents. In Together for Learning, the OSLA calls for a rethink and redefinition of literacy, broadening the concept: “Students now need to use a broad range of literacies to achieve their immediate learning objectives and to recognize and develop their own creative possibilities.” The OSLA identifies the following as literacies: traditional, information, media literacy, visual, cultural, digital, and critical (OSLA, 2010, pp 18-20). Similarly, the CLA identifies the following literacies: critical, digital, and cultural in addition to traditional ideas. The CLA also argues that “the school Library Learning Commons has a leading role in assisting learners to hone and apply an expanded notion of literacy as well as fostering an active reading culture” in Leading Learning (CLA 2014, 17). Both of these documents, as the core documents for teacher-librarians in Ontario, clearly promote the expansion of the definition of literacy beyond that of reading and writing; additionally, both of the documents put teacher-librarians at the centre of literacy initiatives in their schools. 

Similarly, other prominent literacy educator groups have also identified the need to expand the definition of literacy. The International Literacy Association defines literacy as “[t]he ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context. Over time, literacy has been applied to a wide range of activities and appears as computer literacy, math literacy, or dietary literacy; in such contexts, it refers to basic knowledge of rather than to anything specific to reading and writing.” (International Literacy Association, 2020). In their policy statement, Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age, The National Council of Teachers of English explains how the definition of literacy has always adapted to the times: 

“Literacy has always been a collection of communicative and sociocultural practices shared among communities. As society and technology change, so does literacy. The world demands that a literate person possess and intentionally apply a wide range of skills, competencies, and dispositions. These literacies are interconnected, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with histories, narratives, life possibilities, and social trajectories of all individuals and groups.”

National Council of Teachers of English, (2019)

A new way of thinking about literacy began around 2005 with the concept of transliteracy. A group of  American teacher-librarians explain transliteracy in the blog, “Libraries and Transliteracy”: “every definition of transliteracy makes reference to a multiplicity of media types, … involves the communication (reading, writing, typing, talking, etc.) of information, … and finally, every definition revolves around the interplay or interaction between multiple literacies and/or media types.” (Newman et al 2012). Transliteracy is inclusive of all literacies and fundamentally sees all texts as equal, attempting to move away from valuing any one format above another. Therefore, with transliteracy, what becomes important is the skill set necessary for interacting with texts. Once again, it is important for all educators to be teachers of literacy; showing students how to access the content knowledge of a particular discipline is the key to learning. 

In a blog entry for ISTE, “Reading Redefined For A Transmedia Universe,” Annette Lamb tells us that   “[r]edefining reading may be the key to nurturing the next generation of readers and promoting lifelong reading practices” (Lamb, 2020). Expanding the definition of text to include a broad range of digital and print texts, Lamb simplifies complex ideas about reading for today’s context: “a book is a published collection of related pages or screens” and “reading is the process of constructing meaning from symbols.” (Lamb, 2020). Lamb provides many different examples of how technology has changed reading, but is also able to “cut through the noise” and focus on what’s important: student learning through deep understanding of the text.  

“Elements that support struggling readers, cue readers to important events, contribute to the mood of the story, clarify difficult concepts, or reinforce key ideas activate thinking and promote comprehension. Yet over-reliance on audio, bells-and-whistles features that distract readers, and ‘eye candy’ unrelated to the story can divert attention, cause readers to lose focus, and adversely affect learning. … And remember that, despite all the new formats and ways to interact with them, the content is still the part of the reading experience that provides value for the learner.”

(Lamb, 2020)

Ultimately, “[r]eading is still the king of all literacies”; students need to be able to decode and comprehend texts with effective fluency. The role of educators is to provide students with the appropriate tools and skills to access the content knowledge of their disciplines; teacher-librarians play a key role in teaching these skills to empower student learning. Alvin Toffler, an American scholar and “futurist”, sums up the central argument of Loertscher et al’s chapter well: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” 


Canadian Library Association (CLA). 2014. Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/llsop.pdf 

International Literacy Association. (2020). Literacy Glossary. Retrieved 27 July 2020, from https://www.literacyworldwide.org/get-resources/literacy-glossary 

Lamb. A. (2020).  ISTE Feature: Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe. Retrieved 27 July 2020, from https://www.iste.org/node/6650 

Loertscher, D., Koechlin, C., Zwaan, S., & Rosenfeld, E. (2011). Learning Literacies and the Learning Commons. The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win! Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs. 2nd Ed. Learning Commons Press. pp 53-75.

Loertscher, D. & Koechlin, C. (2020). learningcommons. Retrieved 27 July 2020, from https://sites.google.com/site/schoollearningcommons/ 

National Council of Teachers of English. (2019). Definition of Literacy in a Digital Age. Retrieved 27 July 2020, from https://ncte.org/statement/nctes-definition-literacy-digital-age/ 

Newman, B., Ipri, T., Molaro, A. Caserotti, G. & Wilkinson, L. (2012). Libraries and Transliteracy. Retrieved 28 July 2020, from https://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/ 

Ontario School Library Association. (2010). Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons. http://www.togetherforlearning.ca/t4l-vision-document/

Why Add a Makerspace to a Library Learning Commons?

Source: U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jeremy Garcia, Overstreet Memorial Library at Misawa Air Base, Japan (2018)

What is a Makerspace?

Collaborative, communal spaces which encourage creativity, problem-solving, inventing, with DIY projects, collaborative projects, cross-curricular projects, etc. A makerspace uses resources like hardware (MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and other open-source microcontrollers, 3D printers, vinyl/paper cutters), software (free/open-source options available for most projects), electronics, craft and hardware supplies, etc. to enable students to create.

Source: produced by Explee: http://explee.com

Why is a Makerspace Important for Students?

Help students identify as makers. Help them be curious. Help them develop resilience.

“Makers are people who make things rather than simply use them. They apply digital and manual skills to solve problems and create items that address their needs. Makers are problem solvers, idea dreamers; they tinker, hack, and customize products and materials to better serve them. Makers live out lifelong learning. They see a problem, something that isn’t working for them, and they research ways to solve the problem and experiment, pushing the limits until they are satisfied.”

Ana Canino-Fluit (2014).

Goals for a Library Learning Commons Makerspace:

  • focus on rich, inquiry-based projects that build a number of skills (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, leadership, social skills, etc.)
  • collaborate between departments (Tech/ Science/ Family Studies/ Arts/ Media Studies are obvious places to start, but any subject area can be engaged)
  • engage users in the design process; students will understand how “failure” is a normal part of the process of creation and problem-solving
  • engage the wider community in projects and in fundraising –>students could work to solve problems in their own communities, including how to fundraise for their makerspace
  • engage different groups of learners in the LLC, ensuring it is open to everyone; this space allows students to participate in activities they may not be able to access at home or in other classes
  • pair literacy / reading programs with hands on activities to promote literacy (transliteracy)
  • find funding opportunities for STEM/STEAM programs (Ontario government seems keen on this; current literacy/reading projects can be adapted to take advantage of new/ reallocated funding)
  • collaboratively & clearly establish purpose, expectations (staff, students, community members)
  • strike a balance between single user tools/resources and those that support collaborative projects

What are some of the Challenges of a Makerspace?

  • ensure that positive collaboration exists between departments to ensure that people feel valued and involved rather than imposing on their “turf” (teachers can feel territorial about their curriculum and subject areas)
  • some staff or community members will feel that it’s not appropriate for a library (want an older model of a library as a quiet space for reading)
  • costs for new tools or materials can be prohibitive for some school budgets; schools may need to look for new sources of funding or engage in new fundraising
  • things will be wasted, broken, or misused; need to take steps to minimize this
  • need to build clubs and sustainable, ongoing projects with teachers so that the tools are being used (i.e.. after the initial novelty wears off)

How Can You Start a Makerspace?

  • start with a kit or feature an activity; most central school/board libraries now have these available
  • think of problems to solve and then work towards a solution
  • find “experts” to support the learning (people willing to help instruct/ guide/ supervise); invite teachers interested in inquiry and creating
  • ask students what they want to see in a creative makerspace; provide them with the resources they want:

“By providing students space and resources and inviting them to experiment, we can empower them to think of themselves as something other than consumers. Every project you teach and every resource you present should encourage your students to make autonomous decisions and build independence.”

Ana Canino-Fluit (2014).

Finally, see what others are doing: check out Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager’s Ultimate Guide to Using the Maker Movement in Education or A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources or the Ultimate Makerspace Resource Guide for ideas, resources, and links.

Want to see My Dream Makerspace?

Check out this Google slidedeck of my dream makerspace presentation for my high school, Erin District High School. I’d love your feedback!

What is your best tip for creating a makerspace in a school library learning commons? Leave a comment!


Canini-Fluit, Ana. (2014). “School Library Makerspaces.” Teacher Librarian 41 (5): 21–27. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.queensu.ca/login.aspxdirect=true&db=eue&AN=96678450&site=ehost-live

Fontichiaro, K. (2016). “Sustaining a makerspace.” Teacher Librarian, 43, 39-41. Retrieved from https://proxy.queensu.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.queensu.ca/docview/1774309533?accountid=6180

Lamb, A. (2016). “Makerspaces and the school library, part 2: Collaborations and connections.” Teacher Librarian, 43, 56-60,63. Retrieved from https://proxy.queensu.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.queensu.ca/docview/1774309546?accountid=6180

Lankau, Louise. (2015). “Connection + Collaboration = SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY IN A LARGE HIGH SCHOOL.” Knowledge Quest 44, no. 2 (November 2015): 66–73. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.queensu.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=110493163&site=ehost-live.

Martinez, Sylvia L. and Stager, Gary S. (2013). “The Ultimate Guide to Using the Maker Movement in Education.” WeAreTeachers. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from https://www.weareteachers.com/making-matters-how-the-maker-movement-is-transforming-education/

Ontario School Library Association (2020). Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons. Retrieved 19 July 2020, from http://www.togetherforlearning.ca/implementation/physical-and-virtual-space/

Open Education Database. (2013). “A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources” OEDB.org. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from https://oedb.org/ilibrarian/a-librarians-guide-to-makerspaces/ 

Rendina, Diana L. (2020). “Makerspace Resources.”  Renovated Learning. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from http://www.renovatedlearning.com/makerspace-resources/ 

Impact of the Teacher-Librarian

What is the impact of a school’s teacher-librarian on student achievement? Is it possible to quantify the impact?

There are a few studies which attempt to provide empirical evidence of the impact of the teacher-librarian in student success, many of which are American. Since teacher-librarians do not always work directly with the same students on a daily basis, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the direct impact of the teacher-librarian on student achievement. In many cases, standardized tests (like EQAO in Ontario, or the OECD internationally), are used to gauge student achievement. Most teachers, administrators, parents, and even students would acknowledge that the role of the teacher-librarian is essential in student success, especially in terms of research skills, critical thinking, reading comprehension, and reading enjoyment.

In her review of research, “Effective school libraries: evidence of impact on student achievement”, author Lynn Barrett examined studies from Australia, Canada, and the USA (2010). Barrett found that there are “four factors that are key to achieving an effective school library: professional librarian with educational expertise, information literacy teaching, integration into the curriculum through librarian / teacher collaboration, [and] support of heads and policy makers” (Barrett, 2010). More significantly, “in the 2006 Ontario study, the presence of a teacher-librarian was the single strongest predictor of reading enjoyment. At all levels, the research showed that the presence of a teacher-librarian correlated with improved student achievement in reading scores (Barrett, 2010). In Ontario secondary schools, EQAO Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) scores are frequently cited to demonstrate the success of the school.

In Ontario, over the last decade, the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA) has been raising the red flag about the cuts to staffing libraries with trained teacher-librarians and the direct impact on student achievement:

“The decline in funding for libraries is having far-reaching impacts on student performance and outcomes, including math and science grades, EQAO test scores, literacy & research skills, digital literacy, and post-secondary readiness. The results are dramatic: alongside the slow decline in board-level support for school libraries, the percentage of Ontario students who enjoy reading has fallen from 76% in 1997 to only 47% in 2018.”

-as quoted by OSLA from Ministry of Children & Youth Services. Gearing Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario Middle Years Children Thrive. Toronto: Government of Ontario, 2017. & People for Education. Reading for Joy. Toronto: People for Education, 2011.

Given the significant role of the teacher-librarian in supporting student achievement in schools, funding for teacher-librarians is imperative; schools need to have full-time staffing commitments in both elementary and secondary schools. Additionally, teacher-librarians need to be a central part of the school’s Literacy Team in order to have a direct impact on student achievement as measured by external, standardized tests like the OSSLT and pass rates. Compelling data showing the correlation between teacher-librarians and school test scores indicates that teacher-librarians need to be engaged in literacy activities as well as reading engagement programs. As a teacher-librarian, I intend to rejoin my school’s Literacy Team as well as participate in and expand our library’s reading programs. For a few years, I have taken a step back and focused on my classroom, but as a teacher-librarian, I believe that part of the role is engaging in school-wide literacy initiatives.


Barrett, L. (2010). Effective School Libraries: Evidence of Impact on Student Achievement. The School Librarian, 58(3), 136–139. http://search.proquest.com/docview/805469819/

OSLA. “School Library Issues.” (2020). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 02 July 2020, from http://www.accessola.org/web/OLA/OSLA/School_Library_Advocacy/OLA/Issues_Advocacy/School_Library_Issues.aspx?hkey=127e3999-3f15-4ae0-872f-1234476e077a

The Learning Continues…

Having successfully completed my part 1 Teacher-Librarian online course, and having been rewarded by my principal (always let your principal know when you are taking a course!) with a section of library in the fall, I decided to enroll in part 2. So, my blog lives on!

Additionally, I’m feeling more reflective of my teaching practice lately: the pandemic really challenged educators like myself. I was already teaching an online course (but was re-writing the content for a new course) and had already integrated Google Classroom into my practice on a regular basis, so while that part was very time-consuming, it was manageable for me. What was most challenging for me was dealing with a pandemic (and the various government responses to it), managing my classes (including managing my expectations), and then watching the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only was this a watershed moment in American and Canadian politics, but this meant equity issues, anti-racist education, and culturally responsive teaching suddenly moved to the forefront of priorities for many educators. As I am working through my teacher-librarian course materials, I am re-thinking the fall semester not just through the lens of the pandemic, but also through an anti-racist lens. I’ve been engaged in re-thinking things through an anti-colonial lens for a while now, but it’s time to make significant changes. I will share more on this later. As many other educators have already noted, we have the opportunity to re-visit and change how we approach school and our classes in the fall.

Maintaining A Library Space: Weeding

Erin District High School Library / Wellington County Erin Branch

Ah yes, weeding – something I loathe whether it’s in a garden, my personal library, or my school resources. I’ve always been a paper hoarder: I still have papers from my high school years, university, teacher’s college… All well organized and never used! Obviously, it’s imperative that a teacher-librarian (T-L) weed the library resources and physical materials in a library learning commons (LLC). The acronym M.U.S.T.Y. (or M.U.S.T.I.E.) provides a great criteria list for T-Ls:

At Erin DHS, we have an unique partnership to share the space with the Erin community which is great for everyone as we have nursery school students mixed with seniors mixed with our teens every day. It also means that the T-L has to collaborate with the community librarians to organize the space. It means we have an amazing collection, far beyond that of typical high schools: our T-L tends to focus more on non-fiction sources while the community library caters to their largest demographic of users  by purchasing a lot of young adult fiction. Another benefit: resources can be pulled in from every other branch in the Upper Grand DSB as well as Wellington County. Many of our students are bussed in from 3 different counties, so one of the first things I do is arrange for all of my students to get a Wellington County library card so that they can access all of the resources. The partnership works to cull the collection frequently: there’s always a table in the back corner for discards that are free to the community (often full of hardcover fiction and a few non-fiction books, some media). 


About 3 years ago, our library went through a renovation to update the space (our building turned 20 this year). This included creating some spaces that would better serve different demographics (like those with physical challenges) as well as finding some easily moveable furniture that would appeal to a variety of demographics and set-ups. The physical changes in the library were some of the final pieces in updating our library to a full library learning commons.


Given that our library has recently undergone a physical renovation to completely move to a LLC model, I’m going to instead focus on the idea of increasing innovative use by the users of the LLC.

Previously, I’ve written about how the LLC and T-L can help foster greater teacher collaboration in secondary schools. L. J. McCunn and R. Gifford’s (2015) study, “Teachers’ Reactions to Learning Commons in Secondary Schools,” focusses on suburban school LLC design and argues that “by modernizing secondary school libraries to include a wider spectrum of technology and design standards suited both for academic research and personal enjoyment, an increase in teachers’ levels of collaboration, job satisfaction, and engagement can be expected beyond student learning and scholarship” (438). Interestingly, their study found some mixed results for teachers and T-Ls when it came to collaboration. While “the learning commons model appears to be largely successful in the early stages of implementation, and numerous advantages for both teachers and students,” there were mixed results: “levels of teacher to-teacher and teacher-to-teacher librarian collaborations were found to be low, as were levels of engagement and satisfaction (457). The main reason for this, though, was identified in the limitations of the study by the researchers: time. Some of the teachers were interviewed mid-renovation, and some too soon after renovations in order to see how the new LLC set up would work. That said, teachers displayed positive attitudes about collaboration: 

“Teachers also stated that having more opportunities for staff collaboration, along with more soft seating options, had the greatest positive effect on their job. Although they did not report a significant increase in collaboration opportunities with other teachers in the new space, perhaps they believed there were enough chances for this aspect of the learning commons to have a strong influence on their job (McCunn and Gifford, 2015, 455). 

As many school libraries, like that of the Erin DHS / Erin Community Library have already made the physical shift to an LLC, the next frontier is to continue to develop the collaborative, innovative, and creative potential of the space. While this has always been the domain of T-Ls, new technologies and tools enable even greater opportunities for learning.

“The establishment of the Learning Commons as a collaborative community of learners opens the door for the reinvention of instruction and learning experiences and, consequently, for effective school improvement. In the Learning Commons we experience many types and layers of collaboration, with everyone working together to analyze and improve teaching and learning for all.”

(Koechlin and Loertscher, 2016).

The shift to new ways of co-teaching and collaboration is explored further in a rich website from a OSLA Superconference 2016 website set up by presenters Carol Koechlin and David Loertscher, Climbing to Excellence: Defining Characteristics of a Learning Commons  The Impact of Co-Teaching: a New Measure. They share the LIIITE model of creative collaboration that I think will help for secondary schools which have already moved physically to LLCs:

So, rather than focus on the physical changes in my secondary school’s LLC (it’s a pretty awesome space), here I’ve tried to explore ways that all of the users of the space can collaborate. I’m looking forward to exploring more of this throughout the library learning commons module.


Ford, Deborah B. (Sep 04, 2015). “To Weed or Not to Weed? Criteria to ensure that your nonfiction collection remains up to date,” School Library Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2020, from https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=to-weed-or-not-to-weed-criteria-to-ensure-that-your-nonfiction-collection-remains-up-to-date-everyday-librarian 

Koechlin, Carol and Loertscher, David V. (2016). “Climbing to Excellence: Defining Characteristics of a Learning Commons,”  OSLA 2016 Superconference presentation website. Retrieved 22 April 2020, from https://sites.google.com/site/lcosla2016/home

McCunn, L.J. and R. Gifford (2015).  “Teachers’ Reactions to Learning Commons in Secondary Schools,” Journal of Library Administration, 55:435–458, DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2015.1054760.

Toronto District School Board. Weeding The School Libraryhttp://www.accessola.com/osla/toolkit/Resources/Weeding%20Brochure.pdf