Category Archives: School Library

A flawed assumption that the Internet simply replaces strong teaching practices of school librarians

It is such a deep sterotype that even in 2015, any librarian is just a keeper of books, that intelligent people think the Internet solves all just by its mere existence. That logic is akin to to ‘guns don’t kill, people do’ or that simply writing seat belt legislation stops automobile injury. Clearly, the education lobby that ignores the value added services of a teacher-librarian, in favour of only an adoption of more technology, is very misguided or doesn’t understand how students grow. People only know what they know- and unless one has experienced the exemplary school library program in action, they easily adopt flawed assumptions. Like the vintage photo below, the endearing imagery has become a barrier to reality. Not nurturing school libraries will indeed close libraries because these invaluable services are not frills but integral enterprises to any progressive schools. If the Internet and all its gargantuan bytes of noise were the answer then why have schools at all? Why should we desire coaches, piano teachers, doctors? Why not just ‘google everything? What have priests or mechanics? Why not just let us all be moulded by the machine? Technocractic oppression is still tyranny. Our children need more than a screen to look at, they need a mind that critiques and assesses right from wrong and truth from myth. Isn’t that what we want? 



In the broad constellation of professionals who make up public schools, it is important to pause and acknowledge the forgotten education professionals who aide and support teachers. These include the librarians, nurses, social workers, learning specialists, and guidance counselors. They contribute to the growth and development of our young people but often find themselves left out of broader discussions about the preservation of public education. They provide a range of critical support and intervention frequently invisible to us. Most certainly, their value has escaped the notice of so-called education reformers and politicians. All too often, these champions of a “new order” have taken aim at the forgotten teachers in their ever-expanding quest to cut public school funding.

“…With the advent of the internet and digital resources in particular,
the flawed assumption surfaced that these positions are no longer necessary. “

….To be clear, budget and personnel cuts have hurt the profession across the board. However, professionals in these areas bear greater risk, given widespread misperceptions about the essential services they provide that remain vital to public schools. …
Another equally hard hit position is that of the school librarian. Fifty years ago, it was inconceivable to imagine schools without appropriate library resources and the personnel to staff them. The disparity in library facilities, for instance, helped civil rights attorneys demonstrate the inherent inequality in segregated schools. With the advent of the internet and digital resources in particular, the flawed assumption surfaced that these positions are no longer necessary. Librarians remain important conduits for student support in ways that many might be surprised to learn. Contrary to popular perception, librarians do more than curate collections of dusty books; they teach critical research skills and often serve as the first destination for young people on the road to quality research.(Williams, Huffingtonpost) 

Article…. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html



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Story Time. Image. Vintage Librarians. Christchurch City Libraries. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/christchurchcitylibraries/sets/&nbsp;72157633383010966/>.

Williams, Yohuru. “Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html&gt;.

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Serving up a Learning Commons recipe …

A blog post by Chris Kennedy of West Vancouver, recently inspired me to add my own spices to what is cooking in the learning commons kitchen. I couldn’t agree more when he writes, “While the physical spaces are exciting, the changes to our mindsets are far more powerful. “( Kennedy)

As an experienced teacher-librarian and kitchen hacker, I believe that an exemplary school library is a dynamic learning process not just a nice space. A learning commons model is more than a new space that people congregate in but a cultural, social hub of learning. My librarian mentors knew this for years-some time before David Loetscher or Watters started promoting it. (Loetscher ) The collective wisdom of teacher-librarians has been cooking up innovation in schools for years. (Kuhn) It’s refreshing nevertheless to see revitalization of school library programs and perhaps this will ebb the tide of reductions or library closures. Libraries aren’t simply replaced by the mechanics of web2.0 but rather the new capacity can teach us how librarianship supports learning.

Wikipedia entry defines a LC …

Learning commons, also known as scholars’ commons, information commons or digital commons, are educational spaces, similar to libraries and classrooms that share space for information technology, remote or online education, tutoring, collaboration, content creation, meetings and reading or study. or study.( Wikipedia)

Like a great classroom, it should be an experience as much as a room.  Like cooking a five star meal, it takes more than a set of instructions. A school learning commons needs a team of chefs, great ingredients, effective execution and a creative spirit. Like a great restaurant, a learning commons needs a welcoming environment, great service and a comprehensive menu that prides itself on the experience of building a culture of scholarship.

The school’s hub of learning also needs to cater to diverse demographics.  It needs to be well prepared for the multiple needs that demand support. A school library cannot transition into a learning commons(LC) model overnight.  A LC can be a very exciting and powerful ‘learning’ asset because a progressive program addresses diverse student opportunities that nurture school goals and promote achievement.

Student achievement is a complex matter. If it was easy, we all could do it. A simple recipe for education innovation is seldom effective or enduring.  The new ‘learning commons’ if not built organically will also be doomed and a 2015 footnote. A successful school library is a cultural reality not simply a physical space regardless of how modern it may appear.  It takes experience, expertise and vision by many educators to develop a program that serves the needs of each unique school.

As a teacher-librarian in a large senior high school, our library program has demands and patrons quite different than a small middle school. It tales a team of people to assess, design and implement a sustainable service. An effective library program needs to evolve not revolutionize. Innovation can take time.

When I reflect on our successes and failures, it was planning and people that was the driver. It is my opinion that a library program that effectively serves its clientele is a dynamic social experience not just a physical asset. .  When learners/patrons are engaged with quality resources and services there are substantial costs. The physical space needs attributes that allow the community to thrive. Resources need to be acquired, updated and managed by trained personnel.  The teacher-librarian may be the chef but the entity needs many others to truly create delicacies.

A learning commons is the natural evolution of an exemplary school library program. A school cannot create a LC by simply borrowing a recipe. To build something meaningful from scratch is a major hurdle. A school with a tradition that recognized the diverse contributions of its library has the roots to grow.

The development a great ‘learning commons’ takes more than a nice presentation or directive. It takes a difficult execution of a plan that finds inspiration from the gifts of each school. An effective learning commons demands a school culture that always places learning and scholarship as a priority over appearances or expediency. It takes a culture of trust and collaboration. Teachers need to respect and value the library staff and students need to believe it benefits them collectively. It is not just a holding area. Not unlike a superior restaurant, a library needs a restauranteur, chefs, servers, etc all working effectively toward inspiration.

A beautiful restaurant that serves uninspiring food is a waste. Delivering great services and opportunities without a great space is almost impossible. Unlike the old ‘book truck’ , a modern library now needs to be more than just a great ‘eat street’ sandwich truck. Schools need a library that can provide a large nutritious and creative menu 24/7.

Much like a chef starts with quality ingredients , an inspiring menu and trained staff, a LC needs a great space, appropriate resources and a qualified teacher-librarian. Like superb waiters, that deliver the best dining experience, an LC also needs library clerical expertise. ( my mother would say – tables don’t get cleared and dishes don’t get washed by themselves. ) The learning commons model demands even more social interaction, resource management and instructional design than the ‘library’ before it. Like good food, one cannot rush the preparation or cooking. It needs to be an institutional designed process not simply an experiment. Without these conditions the LC will not be sustainable. I believe this because I know teaching and learning is a complex social endeavour not just an exercise in handing out books.

With many misconceptions around the library’s transformation into a ‘learning commons’ the Kelowna Secondary School LC is derived from an excellent traditional of fine dining. The teacher-librarians, has worked with admin, teachers, and students to develop a culture of inquiry not just trendy fast food. We collectively desire a library that’s provides quality
main courses that match the school’s positive cuisine.

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We don’t remove books ( we buy more) and replace them with comfy chairs( we’ve had those for a decade) We remind ourselves that a common area that includes measurable student learning must also require some careful planning and slow cooking. One cannot just buy ingredients and throw them in small space and hope it tastes delicious!

Starter Recipe for Learning Commons:
1. Add a quest for knowing and finding meaning
2. Mix with spaces that provide a variety of activities
3. Frequent stirring by a teacher-librarian
3. Add scholarship to taste and
4. Cook well with heaps of love.
Yield: happy people that grow

Also Read: http://cultureofyes.ca/2015/02/12/the-learning-commons-mindset/ “I like the library metaphor from Joan Frye Williams (shared in this blog from Joyce Valenza):

“Our libraries should transition to places to do stuff, not simply places to get stuff. The library will become a laboratory in which community members tinker, build, learn, and communicate. We need to stop being the grocery store or candy store and become the kitchen. We should emphasize hospitality, comfort, convenience and create work environments that invite exploration and creativity both virtually and physically.” ( Valenza)

-Al Smith

@kssreads

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Kennedy, Chris. “The Learning Commons Mindset.” The Culture of Yes. 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

Kuhn, Nicola. ‘ Evidence Based Inquiry of the Role of teacher-librarians’, The Bookmark. BCTLA. Web. 2011.

Loertscher, D (2014). “Makers, Self-Directed Learners, and the Library Learning Commons”. Teacher Librarian 41 (5): 35–38.

Watters, Audrey (23 November 2011). “Libraries and Museums Become Hands-On Learning Labs”. KQED MindShift. Retrieved 1 August 2013.

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Enjoy the retrospective post from MCrompton

There is nothing “New” in Libraries in the 21st Century

A brief thought this morning.  I was reading through my Twitter stream over a cup of coffee and found a tweet of a Mindshift article from back in June on what the “next-generation” school library looks like.  Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good ideas in the article, many of which I explore in my own space, but these are not new.  Or at least the ideas behind them aren’t.  The more we speak of how libraries are different than in the past, the more we do a disservice to what libraries have always been, long before books were ever “a thing.”

unnamed

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Sensibility- teacher-librarians in schools -Huffington

Glad to read a ‘sensible’ review of a forgotten and eroding asset. Sadly the ratio of Teacher-Librarians (TL) in schools is way down. Relentlessly, TLs have been advocating their virtues for 2 decades but largely have gone unheeded. Not a single educator in 1975 would be heard espousing the slashing of this valuable specialist. The skills, training, experience and positioning of a TL provides unique collaboration, personalization, innovation and support in vital areas like project learning, technology and literacy. Who better supports and rallies behind the love and benefits of reading? Thanks Huffington Post! For publishing Mr. Williams.
…more…http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

Yohuru Williams Headshot
Historian, professor, education activist and author of Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook (2008)

In the broad constellation of professionals who make up public schools, it is important to pause and acknowledge the forgotten education professionals who aide and support teachers. These include the librarians, nurses, social workers, learning specialists, and guidance counselors. They contribute to the growth and development of our young people but often find themselves left out of broader discussions about the preservation of public education. They provide a range of critical support and intervention frequently invisible to us. Most certainly, their value has escaped the notice of so-called education reformers and politicians. All too often, these champions of a “new order” have taken aim at the forgotten teachers in their ever-expanding quest to cut public school funding.

To be clear, budget and personnel cuts have hurt the profession across the board. However, professionals in these areas bear greater risk, given widespread misperceptions about the essential services they provide that remain vital to public schools. As a youngster, for instance, I benefitted from the expertise of a speech pathologist in helping me overcome a minor speech impediment. Having the problem addressed early in my education boosted my self-esteem and ended years of torment at the hands of insensitive friends and classmates. I would not have understood this as a significant moment of formation in my academic and personal growth if not for countless recent news stories about proposed cuts to these position in school districts across the country.(Huffington)

…more…http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

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Williams, Yohuru. “Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 02 Jan. 2014. Web. 04 Jan. 2015. .

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Thanks Kidsbooks COTLA .. New book picks…

http://goo.gl/7k5xw2

Thank you to Kidsbooks , Phyllis Simon- again! For decades of service and reading inspiration to the teachers, students and book lovers in the Okanagan. Your travelling and talks are so rewarding and contribute to quality of materials our COTLA teacher-librarians replenish every year for our students. Thx for all your visits :-)

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Some October Library News :-)

– October 27 has been proclaimed School Library Day in BC! We are once again challenging British Columbians to Drop Everything and Read. Last year, over 72,000 people participated. Will you join us this year for the 8th annual challenge? 2014 Drop Everything and Read posters are now available at http://bctf.ca/bctla/info/advocacy.html#dear.

– “From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change” is now available in draft on the BCTLA website for review. The document was developed in part to respond to requests for guidance and support around a shift to a learning commons model. Send feedback on the document to editor Moira Ekdahl, moira.ekdahl@gmail.com.

– The “Ethics of Information Use” poster, also known as the “HONESTY” poster, has been recreated as a 8.5 x 11 pdf. The poster is now available for download in English at http://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/index.html#honesty.

Follow @bctla

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CBC Checkup discusses future of libraries..

http://www.cbc.ca/books/mobile/touch/2014/09/cross-country-checkup-asks-what-is-the-future-of-the-library.html

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“….Cross-Country Checkup asks: What is the future of the library?
Friday, September 26, 2014
On Sept. 28, Cross-Country Checkup is hosting an episode dedicated to the library. What’s the future of the local library in the age of Google? Peter Mansbridge will guest host this special episode. Tune in at 4 p.m. ET.

If you are in Waterloo, Ont., you can join the live studio audience! Details are on the Cross-Country Checkup website.

Whatever form the library of the future takes, we know Canadians will continue to love their libraries. Check out the stories below for proof…. ”

From
Al Smith teacher-librarian

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Maker spaces?

As many progressive teacher-librarians are introducing spaces and activity opportunities for creation, most of us should also evaluate the efficiency and worthiness from a learning perspective. It’s not just about any experiential rewards but also about the outcomes that attempt to meet our curricula. I believe there is implicit value in exploring and challenging but there are boundaries as to whether the activities are justified, worthy and cost effective. ‘Play’ -at any age has terrific value but like any decisions professionals make, we must weigh any virtue with our goals.

“Kids have always made in my library.
We encouraged digital and visual and dramatic and rhetorical creativity before, during, and after school. But for a while, I’ve questioned the value of using already heavily used real estate to randomly carve out space for a 3D printer, electronics stations and sewing machines. I had my doubts about the makerspace movement in school libraries.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with Amos Blanton, project manager of the Scratch online community, and a member of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab. On his profile Amos notes: I design and sustain creative learning environments for people with agency.” ( Valenza )

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VALENZA, Joyce. ‘Neverending Search’. Sept. 09-24-2014. (Online)

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Learning hub indeed-what would Steve say?

http://digitalis.nwp.org/site-blog/3pm-library-thoughts-media-technology-sp/5704

Interesting… A library not for books and information inquiry but socializing, technology and constructivism….? What?

‘Maker spaces’? Interesting notion but maybe just a fad? Like Mark Crompton recently blogged, ” “then we need to look at what kind of learning the library is the hub of” . My response? “I believe the kind of learning is driven by the school culture and the kind of hub is the proportional relationship of the library team and their assets and vision. The hub does not work in a vacuum nor does a strong learning school culture thrive without spirited and valued support services including the library program.”

Can KSS implement a ‘maker space’ model in the immediate future? No. Maybe…. Steve Jobs said during a Stanford commencement address, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” He was provoking students to dream and innovate not with clinical business models but passion. Libraries as maker spaces? What role does a library play in any school- never mind the maker movement? So, what would Steve say?

20131028-235909.jpgThe wild notion of the maker movement may not impact us immediately. The learning commons model at KSS evolved organically not prescriptively. High school, like a teenager, has a hierarchy of needs. The role of the library is never an urgent or pressing one. Our library has successful served the needs of our school while adapting educational practice with solid tested pedagogy and some old fashioned trial and error luck. The teacher-librarians over the years have been competent advocates and leaders and faculty were very collaborative. We are the lucky ones. We have a great school. Now the very basis of sound pedagogy is in flux because with social change, now even role of schools is unclear. What’s a library to do? Some schools have no library or no librarian or neither. “They have the Internet, right?” “Kids these days, are computer savvy.” Ya, so? Public school, home school, if children no it all, why do we bother? Of course we know better. School is more than just 3Rs and learning is more than just a bunch of facts on a book or a – screen.

A quality school strives to serve everyone in progressive ways while staying committed to the mandate of curricular standards, exam expectations and graduation concerns. These factors and many more, can squeeze the creative and experimental capacity of educators and our library program is no different. We must firstly support our team while we may nurture innovation when and where we can. This takes time. That said, all our innovations evolve from some unique once crazy lonely idea. Change comes from need and inspiration. Learning and teaching is a complex process of experiences not just technology. Even the late Mr. Tech, Steve Jobs of Apple, said,
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”(Brainyquote)

I wish we would get over our obsession with device driven solutions for everything. It is faulty. Educational best practice is a series actions and relationships developed and enacted with intent. It’s about ideas, skills and the person. BYOD bring your own device should be- Bring Your Own Dialogue, Discourse or Dreams. Libraries are more than books. Libraries are more than spaces. Libraries are environments or biomes of ideas. So perhaps if some 3D printers, modelling clay or green screens were added to the book stacks and computers it wouldn’t really be so weird. I think the hangup is more about control than about having the gear.

With the reality of now having ubiquitous digital content, coming to the library to GET information is not the only role of the space. Information is everywhere. Kids grab raw data from their phone but they need help framing thoughtful questions and probing answers or more questions. Google queries don’t teach you how to read screens nor how to critically think. Finding quality appropriate information that challenges student thinking takes good teaching from the entire team not just access to the Internet. Sticking a laptop or a BYOD in front of a kid and assuming because of his age, the Internet will suffice as a lesson planning makes me ANGRY. It is negligence to not guide students through the reading of digital content and design mindful tasks that empower learning and not just plagiarized regurgitation. We owe them that much. My ideal ‘maker space’ would be a ‘make ’em think’- first.

That is where a learning commons model comes in. Students get coaching all day even when outside of their classroom bell schedule. If faculty and teacher-librarian collaborate and share goals, methods and outcomes, a sophisticated learning hub can exist all day. Older teens CAN function at very high levels of inquiry and creative learning CAN occur in pockets or niches of activity. Quality designed lessons encourage students to reach beyond the teacher and the classroom and challenge the basic information. Investigate deeper for evidence. Students should be guided to create personal thesis statements and document reflections. Perhaps this is where the evolution of classroom, library, digital library, learning commons and maker space is revealed? Outcomes of evidence of learning are expressed beyond the quiz or written answer but in annotated and even constructed 3D models of data and the inquiry process. (Ekdahl)

At the the senior level, the redefining of ‘library’ space is coming whether we design it or fight it. I’m seeing it already- kids want service/access for digital content AND social flexible space. The KSS LIBRARY has organically been a learning commons before experts started calling modern library programs thus. Why? Because we provided multitasking, multipurpose, client focus service with learning, reading and scholarship as the core. If I was to teach another 5 years, I think I could see us implementing ‘maker stations’ rather like we do now with printers, scanners, AppleTV or paper cutters or iPads… IF we have the room? We would need to remove more stacks of useful books and renovate …but it won’t be me… ;-)

20131028-211117.jpg(mixed media by Hanna, narrative,topography,mathematics)

A warp in the commons universe I’ve noticed is the incongruence of opinion as to what the library should be. What is it? To a teen who only knows the library as a place to hang out and stay warm, being expected to demonstrate academic rigour or creative initiative now is a shock. To a student who only knows a middle school library as place to quietly read books, a senior high school learning commons is a busy, demanding and yes, sometimes noisy place. Today, I get asked a dozen times an hour, “May I borrow a laptop” or “why can’t I sit here?” Some students now see, a pre-reserved English 11 class, trumping their right to a chair or computer as an injustice! “What do you mean, I have to move or leave? WT? It’s my spare! It’s the library! ” The vast majority of our students though are fabulou, cooperative gems of youth but diverse expectations exist and I’m occasionally seen as the chair or laptop nazi.

When we don’t get feeder students until Grade 10, adopting cultural traditions or sharing community expectations of 2000 people is a huge challenge. If I simply MANDATE unilateral rules across the board, that doesn’t evolve into a healthy community of learning hub. I straddle priorities to serve teacher initiatives and open access for student centered projects like reading, homework or yes, creative endeavours. etc. Some exciting initiatives like ‘maker spaces’ tax space, people, inventory even further. With more kids working on personalized projects or streams, in an an open campus school, the learning commons model is a natural fit-but… It takes a welcoming well-equipped facility, supervision, support expertise and maintenance to keep the facility and clients all happy and productive. An effective learning hub for large schools is a challenge. Not unlike a classroom, on a grand scale, orchestrating all the elements and moving parts in a diverse collection of people and needs is as much art as science and a whole lot of faith.

It’s exciting. It’s busy. Both Sharon (and her temp Jeff) and I have been run off our feet but we really wouldn’t want it another way. Positive change needs energy. Nothing moves without inertia. The KSS Library currently is a healthy learning hub because the KSS admin, community and student culture supports it. Ultimately, success of any program is not about spaces but about people and relationships. Somehow it all just works. Like Steve a Jobs said, ” Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

It’s a nice problem to have- a competition for space and services. It is nice to be challenged by the competing needs of your services. It means the library is valued yet I also feel we(KSS) needs to re-evaluate the role of the school library and the teacher-librarian and design our own road map forward. It takes constant passionate coaching, encouragement and participation by teachers and administrators that THEIR LIBRARY is always focused on learning- a value added hub, as it were. Our Principal, Mrs. Kintzinger, has a goal for our school to be a ‘collaborative learning community’ where ‘ ‘Where All are Valued’. These are organic and people centered visions I would say. I’d say it sounds very much like a healthy library. What would Steve say? Is it hungry or crazy enough?
Again, Jobs was quoted, “Older people sit down and ask, ‘What is it?’ but the boy asks, ‘What can I do with it?’….So what can we do with it?

Works Cited

Crompton, Marc. “Bloom, Makerspaces and the Learning Commons.” Adventures in
Libraryland. N.p., 27 Oct. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
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Ekdahl, M., M. Farquharson, J. Robinson, L. Turner. 2010. The Points of Inquiry:
A Framework for In- formation Literacy and the 21st Century Learner.
Vancouver, BC: British Columbia Teacher- Librarians’ Association.

Jobs, Steve. Brainyquote.com Oct 28, 2013.

Jobs, Steve RIP. MacRumours. MacRumours, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
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Kroski, Ellyssa. “A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources.”
iLibrarian Blog. OEDB, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
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Rebora, Anthony. “Latest Curriculum Craze: Making Stuff.” Teaching Now.
EDweek.org, 4 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. .

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literateowl.com @literateowl
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*******************Al Smith*************************

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Action and Reflection: Aligning and Mapping the Work of a Library to Its Community of Learning

Action and Reflection: Aligning and Mapping the Work of a Library to Its Community of Learning.

Thanks to BuffyJHamilton again…:-)

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