LIBE 477B Final Project Reflection

My final project was a documentation of the process I have taken over the last two years to begin updating a stagnant library and transform it into a vibrant learning commons.  As well it was an opportunity to map out the work I need to undertake over the next few years to complete the transformation.  As I worked through the process, it allowed me to look back and realize that where I am today, is not exactly where I planned to be.  And that is a good thing.

I know two fellow teacher-librarians who are currently involved in designing new learning commons spaces.  One is moving to a brand new high school opening in two years and the other is in a school that is undergoing a major reconstruction including a completely new learning commons in a new location.  As amazing as those opportunities are for those teacher-librarians, the challenge for them is to make an enormous amount of decisions before work even begins.  Much like when someone builds a house, there are always things that you would do differently the next time.

The renovation of my space has been slow and is still not done.  The pace may be frustrating at times but it has allowed me to make changes, some major, in the design and layout of the finished space.  I have often referred to this as an evolutionary process that has resulted in a better end product than would have been possible if I had locked in my plans two years ago.  In documenting my process so far, I have realized how much the input of others have helped me move in a better direction.

This documentation of my work has also reminded me how far I still have to go.   The room looks great already and I am getting lots of compliments on it, but it is just a room.  It needs a solid program to make it more than just a nice looking space in the school.  That is my next challenge and in many ways will be more difficult than the work done so far.  A library website with linked resources and an orientation program for students are next.  There is also a need for a culture shift in the school to see the library as a learning space and not just a computer lab.  I am hoping that in two years I can reflect back and see as many changes in the culture and program side of the learning commons as I have on the look and design of the space.


LIBE 477B: Introduction to Final Project

Two years ago I became the first teacher-librarian at my school in eight years.  The task I was hired to do was to transform a stagnant library into a rejuvenated learning commons.  For my final project, I am going to share my progress so far and the task that still remains to complete the transition.  It is my hope that in sharing my efforts, I am able to help other teacher-librarians in a similar situation.

Here is the link to my website:  From Library to Learning Commons

Here are some resources I have used:

Jonathan H. Harwell (2014) Library Security Gates: Effectiveness and Current Practice, Journal of Access Services, 11:2, 53-65, DOI: 10.1080/15367967.2014.884876

“From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change.” Edited by Moira Ekdahl and Sylvia Zubke, From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change, May 2017,

Shelves, | Beyond the. “‘Genrefying’ a High School Library: A Detailed Planning Document.” Beyond the Shelves, 29 Oct. 2017,

Toor, Ruth, and Hilda K. Weisburg. New on the Job: a School Library Media Specialist’s Guide to Success. American Library Association, 2007.

Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons: a Vision for the 21st Century. Ontario School Library Association, 2010.

LIBE 477B: World Libraries


Photo courtesy Monterey Public Libray Flickr Creative Commons License

One of the challenges we face when we talk of a universal concept such as libraries,which can be found all over the world and have existed since early civilization, is that we tend to layer our own vision on top of concept and assume it should look the same everywhere.  When we talk of supporting libraries in developing countries, we must separate our understanding of the concept, from the concept itself.  Simply duplicating our vision of a library and expecting it to meet the needs of a developing


Photo by Jim Cartlidge

country shows a lack of cultural understanding that will lead to disappointing results.  We often forget that here in North America, the library can take a different shape in order to meet different needs.  We just have to look at the bookmobile, an example of taking the library to the people instead of making the people come to the library.  Another example of an unconventional library that I have seen in my own neighbourhood is the local lending library, not much more than a weather protected bookcase that allows neighbours to exchange books with one another.

We need to understand what are the needs that we are trying to meet in these developing countries before we can begin to help them.  I personally feel that not many needs of readers in developing countries can be met by sending them over my discarded books.  Not only are they out of date and often not suited to the interests of readers in other cultures, the cost of shipping old books is not cheap.  It would be much better to take the money used for shipping these books and use it to buy resources in the country we are trying to help.  In an interesting TED talk, Chimamanda Adichie talks of learning to read using stories that talked of blonde-haired children, playing in the snow and living a life she had no concept of.

When we look at organizations that support libraries in developing countries such as Libraries Without Borders and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we see technology plays a big part in their efforts.  I am not suggesting that these countries not have physical books in their libraries, but there has to be a focus on technology as the library may be one of the few sources on internet connectivity in places.  The library can become a community center providing books as well as internet access and a teaching center for the village.  Just as libraries in North America are beginning to become lenders of things besides books, these libraries can be the source of limited resources that could be shared and lent out to the local villagers.  

In an interesting research project, Sugata Mitra took a computer screen and mounted it in a wall so that all that could be seen was a screen and a touchpad.  He then placed the “Hole in the Wall” computer into poor villages in India and watched how children interacted with it.  He observed how the children interacted with the screen and found that they soon were teaching each other how to use the computer.  His research suggests that we need to get the technology to the developing countries and let natural curiosity take its course.  This is an interesting finding for libraries in deleveloping countries where proper staffing of the library may be a challenge.


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading,

“Flickr.” Flickr, Monterey Public Library,

“Global Libraries.” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,

“Libraries Without Borders.” Libraries Without Borders,

Mitra, Sugata. “Kids Can Teach Themselves.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading,

LIBE 477B: Supporting Teachers’ ICT Curriculum and Pedagogy: On-going Professional Development

When I started teaching in the early 1990s, my passion for using technology as an educational tool led to my involvement in Professional Development at the District level. I served on several committees that planned District-wide technology focused Pro-D conferences and taught many pro-d sessions over the years. In my own school, I am the “answer guy” when it comes to technology-related questions. In recent years I was one of the lead teachers in developing a one to one, iPad based, technology-infused program at the grade eight and nine level in my school. I believe it was because of my technology background that my principal approached me with the idea of becoming the teacher-librarian for our school.

Image created on using text from this article.

Over the years I have tried many different ways to help develop better ICT skills in my fellow teachers. Some attempts have had better success than others but all worked in some way to increase staff knowledge and ability. Here are some of the things I have tried:

  • Traditional Pro-D: This is usually a session held after school. Good for covering a topic in depth, usually lasting between sixty to ninety minutes. The downside is finding a day that works for most people can be difficult with the number of things taking place after-school on any given day.
  • Lunch and Learn: Everyone spends their lunch time together learning as they eat. I have had mixed success with this as our lunch is only 40 minutes long so the topic has to be short enough so that everyone isn’t running out the door as you are trying to get your last sentences in!
  • How To Guides: I have written a number of these for my staff and they tend to work well for situations like our grade book software where the staff wanted a handy reference they could pull out anytime they had a question on how to do a particular task.
  • Staff Meeting Tech Time: I have tried adding a short tech tip session during our monthly staff meetings over the years. This is a good chance to get access to the most of the staff at the same time.
  • Weekly Email Tips: I have run a series of these weekly emails every couple of years. Each week I would send out a “Tech Tuesday Tip” on a particular topic with step by step instructions and pictures to help explain a given topic.
  • Staff Expert Directory: I shared a survey that asked what software every staff member used for various tasks and how proficient they were with it, including if they felt confident enough to help others. This allowed me to get an accurate assessment of what staff were doing with technology and enabled me to set up a list of the experts on staff in a number of areas so that I could send other teachers their way when I was busy or they know more than I did about a technology.
  • Classroom Technology Support: I have made myself available to come into any classroom and teach the students the technology that a teacher wants to use but doesn’t feel confident enough to use on their own. This year these drop-ins included online blogging, green screen filming, various iPad apps among other topics.
  • Book Club: This year I tried a book club for the first time. I chose “Hacking Project Based Learning” as PBL is one of our school focuses in the last three years. I bought the books out of my library budget and had ten teachers commit to meeting weekly for ten weeks at lunch to discuss each chapter. The chapters were the perfect length for a lunchtime discussion and this was a great success. I am already thinking of doing the same thing next year with another teaching-related book.
  • Drop in Answer Guy: This has been my role for many years. Staff would drop by my classroom, or the library during my release time, with a question on how to do something or what the best way to use a technology in their classroom. Now that I am a full-time teacher-librarian, at least my class isn’t disrupted as much!
    I am not suggesting you do all of these things but know that there are many different approaches to school-based professional development. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try a different approach next time. Just don’t stop trying to move your staff forward with technology!

LIBE 477B Developing Your Own ICT Skills and Pedagogy


image by J. Cartlidge

It was on my teaching practicum that I made my first major technology purchase, a Mac Plus and a 20 MB hard drive (that is not a typo!).  That was the start of a passion-driven focus on technology in my education career.  Through workshops and a lot of self-directed learning, I developed the skills needed to use that Mac Plus to change what I did in the classroom.   I was able to design my own handouts and quickly change and adapt them in response to what happened in the classroom.

After teaching only science for a number of years, I started teaching InfoTech as well, where I could use what I had learned about technology to teach my students and help them improve their skills.  I continued to take advantage of pro-d opportunities, developed a collection of online educational technology blogs and made connections with other InfoTech teachers to improve my skills.

I was fortunate to be selected to travel to several ISTE conferences to join over 12,000 other educators in the largest educational technology conference of the year.  At these conferences, the challenge was how to choose which sessions to attend as in every time slot there were multiple sessions that I wanted to attend.  I found these conferences very useful because, at these conferences, the focus is on the educational use of the technology, not the technology itself.

I have continued to develop strong connections with other technology leaders in my district to share what we are doing and help each other solve problems.  I continue to follow a number of educational technology resources using the Flipboard app on my iPad which curates stories according to my browsing habits and Twitter profile.  I also continue to take online courses through the Apple Teacher program and Microsoft’s Educator Community.

I have been fortunate to work with some very supportive administrators that have supported my passion, and in return, I continue to share what I have learned with my fellow educators. 

Lib477B Fostering Reading Cultures in Schools

In order to foster a reading culture in a school, one must increase student engagement in reading and the library resources of the school.  The challenge I face in my secondary school is that because there has not been a teacher-librarian here for eight years, the library is seen as a room with books in it, without any programs or purpose besides checking out books for those students who could find them.  Most students do not even know how to search for a book on their own.  I have been developing a game plan that I hope will change how the library is perceived and how it is used by our students.  Here are the key points in my plan:

Institute a Library Orientation Program

This fall I plan to visit every grade 8 and 9 English class and bring them to the library to teach them how to find books and resources in the library.  The orientation will also introduce students to the Destiny app where they can look up book titles to see if we have them in the library.  Students can rate or review books they read using the Destiny app so other students can see which books are the most popular reads with our students. 

Work with English Teachers Using Literary Circles

Grade 8 Lit Circle BooksOne of the successful programs my English department has instituted across all grade levels is using Literary Circles instead of the whole class reading the same assigned novels.  They have purchased five or six titles per grade level and students can choose which book they want to read as part of their book study.  Grade 9 Lit Circle BooksThey are then put in groups with all the other students that choose the same book as they did.


This helps increase student engagement as there is a better chance of reading a book that interests them when there is a choice.  I have purchased one of each book title for the library so a student who hears from a friend that one of the Literary Circle books that they didn’t choose was a good read, they can take it out from the library.

Arranging Books by Genres in the Learning Commons

Library Genres
We had a library technician in our library three years ago who put genre tags on all of our fiction novels.  When I was planning our library renovation that would require moving every single book in the library to a new location, I took the opportunity to reorganize the fiction books on the shelves by genres. 
I did some research into the advantages of reorganizing the collection this way and the key article for me was “”Genrefying” a High School Library: A Detailed Planning Document” by Christy Minton which outlined the rationale and shared her experience with her own library.  I added one or two genres to the list I inherited and may add one or two more as I watch how the system works.  Here are my genres right now:

  • Action & Adventure
  • Classic Literature
  • Easy Reading
  • Fantasy / Sci-Fi
  • Graphic Novels
  • Graphic Non-Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humour
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Romance
  • Sports
  • Thrillers & Mystery

Now if students enjoy a particular book they can easily find similar books by looking in the same area of the library.

I don’t believe I am going to change the world with these small steps but hope that they create momentum in the right direction and I can rejuvenate my stale library!

Minton, | Christy. “‘Genrefying’ a High School Library: A Detailed Planning Document.” Beyond the Shelves, 29 Oct. 2017,

Lib 477B Reading Assignment Part B

In my first two years in the library at Brookswood, I have focused my time on the physical space.  This involved many hours of weeding old books from the shelves, boxed up the VHS tape collection, working with painters, carpet layers, carpenters and electricians to breathe some life into the infrastructure of the library.  Although this was drastically needed after years of neglect, merely changing a paint colour and rearranging some shelving to create more student space is not going to invigorate a library program that had stagnated.

As I identified in my last post, my next focus is on developing a library orientation to equip our students to take advantage of the resources that the library offers and a library website to make these resources available to students no matter where they are located. The last student library orientation took place eight years ago, meaning that none of the 1200 grade 8 to 12 students in my school have ever been shown what the library has to offer besides tables to work at and computers to work on.

Developing a Library Orientation

As I began my research on how to design a high school library orientation I found a number of websites, articles, and videos that describe how to create an engaging and informative orientation,  Here are the key resources I found:

Flip Your Library Orientation

by Anita Brooks Kirkland Chair of Canadian School Libraries writing for Libraries and Learning
This website presents the idea of taking advantage of videos and online tutorials to capture all the low-level instructions that are usually given in a library orientation so that more time is available for more collaborative work with the students.  Here is a YouTube video from the site:

What I like about this is it ties into my second project of building a website for the library.  This would provide a host site for my orientation content and ensure it is always there for students to refer to, instead of depending on students being able to remember everything that was covered in a two-class orientation at the start of the year.


Revamping Your School Library Orientation

by Rachel Fidock for SLAV Connects, a website of the School Library Association of Victoria (Australia)
This website contains a number of ideas for games and activities to allow the students to discover the various resources of the library in a fun interactive way.  I see this as a way to engage the students and avoid having a class of grade 8s sit through a powerpoint presentation where their main activity is taking notes!


School library orientation: Introducing teachers to the roles and services of teacher librarians

Emery, Allison, “School library orientation: Introducing teachers to the roles and services of teacher librarians” (2008). Graduate Research Papers.
Something I never thought of:  Doing a library orientation for teachers as well as students!  This resonated with me as approximately one-third of my 65 member teaching staff has only been in the building three years or less and with a number of them being new to the profession, they do not know all that a teacher-librarian has to offer them.  This has opened a whole new strategy to my plan on how to create an effective library program at my school.


Creating an Engaging Library Orientation

Goldman, et al, Creating an Engaging Library Orientation, Communications in Information Literacy, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2016
This article actually describes a proposed library orientation for first-year courses at the University of California in San Diego but has many ideas that transfer to the high school library program.  One of the ideas presented was library scavenger hunt using QR codes that the students would find and then use to answer questions.  One of the other ideas that I really liked was having students create a PSA about part of the library either by creating a movie about their favorite part of the library, creating a poster/collage of a library service or writing a poem that describes a library feature.  I think the video idea would work well with the students in our one to one iPad program while the poem idea may work well with an English class if they are doing their poetry unit.  It would make the orientation seem like more a part of their class.


Designing a Learning Commons Website

I also spent some time this week adding to my collection of good examples of high school library websites.  These are some of the sites I will use as inspirations when I build my own:

Walnut Grove Secondary Library
Right in my own district!  This site has an attractive layout and easy to find links to online databases, student and teacher resources, new books and a whole lot more.

The Learning Commons at Elgin Park
Again an attractive layout and an easy to navigate selection of links to student and staff resources.

Learning Commons at South Delta
An interesting feature of this school is they offer a credit course for students called Library 11 which is a blend of hands-on work in the library and learning about library skills.

The Beak @ MEI
This library site has an attractive engaging layout and a good social media presence with a Facebook and Pinterest site.