I continue to be impressed with the great work being undertaken in by the Ontario Library Association for school libraries. Earlier this year they commissioned a study by the coalition People for Education and researchers at Queen’s University on exemplary libraries.
As stated in their media release, “Libraries should be the “hub” of the school. For this groundbreaking Queen’s University/People for Education study, researchers examined a number of school libraries to find out what made them more effective than most. Though each library was unique, there were ten essential characteristics that made them “exemplary”:
1. The school library acted as a “hub” of teaching and
learning for the whole school. Both the library and the teacher-librarian
were recognized by the rest of the school staff as playing a critical role
in supporting the educational outcomes of the school.
2. The principal regarded the teacher-librarian as a key
teaching member of the staff and allocated adequate resources to the
3. The principal expected classroom teachers to partner
with the teacher-librarian.
4. The teacher-librarian collaborated with classroom
teachers. They planned lessons together, cooperated on professional
development, and even taught classes together.
5. The principal and classroom teachers understood how to
work with a teacher-librarian.
6. The teacher-librarian did not have to cover excessive
amounts of other teachers’ preparation time.
7. The teacher-librarian was full-time.
8. The teacher-librarian was an active, dedicated and
9. Classroom teachers and the administrators considered
the library a classroom and a place for learning.
10. The school library had multiple roles, beyond book
selection, reading and research.”
As in Australia, policy and funding have focused for a number of years on literacy teaching paradoxically neglecting the integral role of school libraries. The situation in our government schools is very similar.
The release goes on to say
1. Funding is the biggest challenge facing school libraries. It determines the amount of time the teacher-librarian can devote to teaching.
2. There is no provincial policy to ensure all schools have fully-functioning libraries. As long a school libraries are not an integral part of the educational system at the provincial level, through provincial funding, and staffing policy the school library cannot realize its full potential
3. A lack of experience and an unawareness of how school library programs can contribute to education often prevents teachers, administrators and policy makers from considering school library programs as an essential component of education. Many principals and classroom teachers have not had the experience with library programs which would allow them to understand how well-supported library programs can contribute to the school’s educational goals.
4. Principals in the study identified the use of the teacher-librarian to cover preparation time as an increasing pressure. Preparation time must be covered by other qualified teachers in the school, and teacher-librarians are frequently assigned this role. The greater amount of time that a teacher-librarian must devote to prep coverage the more restraints there are on instructional collaboration with teachers and the more restrictions on open scheduling
For a powerful powerpoint to present to your principal, see the OLA’s