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:

King, A. (2018, April 1). “Transliteracy and the Teacher-Librarian.” ECOO. Retrieved 16 April 2020, from

—. (2016). threadbare beauty. Retrieved 16 April 2020, from

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

OSLA Infographic. “The State of Elementary School Libraries” “School Library Issues.” (2019). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 15 April 2020, from

OSLA. “School Library Issues.” (2020). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 15 April 2020, from

Welcome to My New Blog!

I have been maintaining a blog for some time, but needed to move to a new platform. Older posts can still be found at Most of the posts are assignments for my AQ (additional qualifications) courses for my Special Education Specialist courses (3 parts), Reading Specialist (3 parts), and Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom (Part 1). Some literacy resources live there, too.