If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

…chances are it’s a duck and spends its life running from hunters.

We could extrapolate this – if your school library looks like a 19th century library and runs like a 19th century library, chances are it’s a 19th century library and is running for its life to stay open.

One of my friends used to upset teacher-librarians by asking what they did.  He’d do the cha-ching, cha-ching sound affect and go through the actions of checking books in and out.  Actually, “upset” is probably a politically correct way to describe their reaction.  I’m sure you can think of the word that would be more appropriate.  I try not to use words like that on this blog.

I think we’ve all seen the media.  In an educational world trying to save a buck or two, school libraries are being closed and the books therein sent to individual classrooms.  And, I suppose if that’s all that was happening in the library, it’s probably a good move.  Today’s libraries should be much, much more.

Carol Koechlin sent me a link to a document from the Canadian Library Association titled “Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada 2014“.  My first reaction was “Oh, good…another advocacy document”.  However, my reaction changed as I started to read and unpack.  It really is much more than that.  It’s a guide to describe what a School Library Learning Commons should look like, and run like.

From Carol, “A Learning Commons is a vibrant, whole-school approach, presenting exciting opportunities for collaboration among teachers, teacher-librarians and students. Within a Learning Commons, new relationships are formed between learners, new technologies are realized and utilized, and both students and educators prepare for the future as they learn new ways to learn.”  Read more at www.togetherforlearning.ca.

I kept getting impressed as I worked my way through the document.  After all, the notion of a Learning Commons has been around for a while and is poorly implemented in many quarters.  Putting a bank of computers in a library doesn’t immediately transform it.  That simply puts electronics in place.  I would argue that it’s more than that and goes not only to the acquisition of the electronic but also into the staffing.  It should be staffed first, with the best qualified and interested person.  After all, to succeed, the best Teacher Librarian needs to know all of the curriculum at all of the grade levels.  The best Teacher Librarian needs to know age appropriate literacy and research strategies.  The best Teacher Librarian knows all about differentiation and strategies for success.

Back to the document.   The concept of a Learning Commons is not new.  Hopefully, the document will be shared with everyone else in the school.  In fact, I think it’s important enough to devote an entire Professional Learning session around it.  Not only will it change the conception of what the school library is, there should be lights going on throughout the staff as to how best to use this resource.  As in most cases, the administration of the school needs to see the huge potential that a true Learning Commons has and how it supports learning everywhere.

For example, the document lays out the rationale for an investment in money, time, and resources by identifying seven foci.

Focus on:

  • Learning
  • Learner
  • Pathways
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Opportunity

The purposes and standards are laid out in this recurring graphic along with in-depth discussion of each.

I liked, in particular, the levels of indication of success for each of the standards.

I had the chance to reflect on my own personal use of the library as a computer science teacher.  I’ve mentioned more than once that the computer science teacher is often the loneliest person in a school.  I was so fortunate to have a teacher-librarian who I could learn with and who was forever filling my mailbox with ideas for classes, research, and just general ideas about pushing students.

When I think of the best of the teacher-librarians I worked with as a consultant, they were forever doing that for the entire school.  Stirring the intellectual pot, if you will.

The document does include a planning guide that all teacher-librarians would be wise to use or adapt for their own use.  There are so many considerations about the physical plant.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  Ideas about a virtual learning comments are included as well.  I know that I had success working with colleagues using wikis to develop a launchpad for the virtual.  If you’re not ready to operate at that level, there’s even a template to get you started.  Make it your own and customize or use it as a checklist to make sure that your virtual world is up to speed.  In particular, I really like the concept of a tab devoted to Experimental Learning.  Who could deny that you’re working on the cutting edge with that consideration?

This is a fabulous document.  It’s not a quick read since the potential role of a successful School Learning Commons facilitating change in learning is gigantic.  The document truly does do the role of the teacher-librarian justice.  It’s something that all teacher-librarians need to wrap their heads around – select the do-ables and develop a timeline for implementation.  Once that’s done, your purpose needs to be shouted loudly to admin and staff to take advantage of all that you’re offering.

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6 thoughts on “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

  1. You do realize that reading this,particularly the bit about what good librarians do for a school (stirring things up), is starting to make me think that Library Part 1 does need to be on the to-do list. Argh. The media commons model is a passion of mine, and I might get to do a little something with it next year (one period of library coverage). Hmmmmm. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  2. Thanks so much Doug for bringing this important document to the attention of your readers. I thought everyone might also be interested to know how this work evolved. We are very proud of the fact that every province and territory in Canada was involved. Committees around the country worked collaboratively on Google documents at each stage of growth. Every step of the way was transparent and collaborative and truly exciting for us as facilitators of this project https://sites.google.com/site/nationalslproject/. The process to create this publication is indicative of the potential of a learning commons to inspire, facilitate, nourish and celebrate the work of a participatory learning community. We hope Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada will assist all schools with creating futures-oriented learning environments and building literacies and dispositions to empower all learners in Canada.

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  3. Pingback: If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

  4. Pingback: OTR Links 06/22/2014 | doug --- off the record

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