Category Archives: School Library

thank you Heather Daly and BCTLA

Thanks to my BCTLA, fellow TL members and President Heather Daly for your thanks and good wishes. OMG I can’t believe it! What a journey. My career as a teacher since 1980 has been varied and rewarding. My chapter as a teacher-librarian was such a challenge, delight and motivation. Our school libraries in BC contribute so much to our kids education. 

My reflections-

I thank many professionals but now especially you, Heather Daly. So many of my BCTLA colleagues have been supporters and motivators for my TL pursuits. My short stint on the BCTLA Executive was inspiring and illuminating. My predecessors hooked me with the advocacy concept and helped me raise my game- the challenging and vital role as a school librarian. People like Sylvia, Karen, Val, Bonnie, Gordon? Etc and you Heather, were such beacons of excellence for me. Furthermore, my own network expanded with TL’s like Jeff Yasinchuk and Nicola Kuhn. The social media world was exploding and my BCTLA connections matured.


Me and my stalker TA, Elspeth. 2014


 There was a time I felt like a such a novice until the BCTLA experience gave me confidence and a vision that I knew I could contribute.  I now have great memories and professional satisfaction but also many TL contacts around the globe. Our PSA has been sustaining and proactive. #bced is so enriched by you all. 

Your contributions Heather, on programs and governance has been so exemplary and unsung! I plead daily with my TL colleagues to get involved, not just for school libraries but their own individual job satisfaction. I celebrate my exit today because my career was rewarding not simply a job.  I now have 2 stellar teacher-librarians, supported by their LSA, sustaining our investment in the KSS program. Our teens will be well served.  I was so lucky to inherit a vital school library with Kay Treadgold and share developments with Sharon Bede. We have been the lucky ones and our school learning community has been rewarded. 

I humbly acknowledge that our school now lives the spirit of a school learning commons and it is a contribution to public education in Kelowna.  The legacy is that our program is bigger any one individual.  This TL goal would not be realized without the support of COTLA and the BCTLA. My own district and local Admin deserve credit too for giving us and other schools their support and confidence. Regardless of how hard you may build capacity in your school or advocate for libraries, success is measured by attributes of a culture that embraces it’s library. 

thank you so much Heather for your contributions, not just of my growth, but for your commitment to empowering our teacher colleagues with progressive methods and insight. There are many stronger libraries today because of your influence and many others that have been rescued from political bonfire. 

Thanks, with love, 

Al Smith, Kelowna. 

On Wednesday, June 24, 2015, Daly, Heather <> wrote:

Good evening,
This school year was a challenging one which began with a prolonged strike and the loss of a beloved member of our teacher-librarian community. The ramifications of the strike affected BCTLA’s financial and operational capacity. Thanks to a successful BCTLA 75th anniversary gala dinner and conference, we will begin the next school year with only moderately lower finances and membership. This year saw additional successes, including the launch of From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change. Download the document at and watch the webinar at Learning Commons Webinar – January 28h, 2015. 
Upcoming professional opportunities:
* Join us on August 31 for the BCTLA Summer Institute: Makerspaces (9:00 to 4:00, Two Rivers Art Gallery, Prince George). Where does one begin with makerspaces? Learn what works best from some K-12 makerspace pioneers! Next, try it out at the Two Rivers Art Gallery MakerLab and take away some practical makerspace ideas for your library or classroom. More information about the summer institute, including registration details, can be found at  
* Planning for the 2015 BCTLA conference in Surrey is underway. This year’s theme is, “Charting New Paths” and the keynote speakers are Lyn Hay and Lee Watanabe Crockett. For more information, check out the conference website at   
Thank you and congratulations:
Thank you to the 2014-15 BCTLA Executive: Heather Daly, Grahame Rainey, Devika Chudy, Ann Titford, Moira Ekdahl, April Hilland, Emiline Downs, Maria McAllister, Wendy Amy, Patricia Baisi, Gordon Powell, Marilyn Lunde and Rhea Woolgar. Thanks also to those individuals who have retired from the Executive this year—Jeff Yasinchuk, Sylvia Zubke, and Lindsay Ross—for all of their contributions. Thank you also to the BCTLA Chapter Councillors and to all of our Chapter Executive members, to our formal liaison representatives to other associations, and last but not least, to our Members and Subscribers.
Congratulations goes out to the incomparable BCTLA President’s Award winner Al Smith and to an amazing BC Teacher-Librarian of the Year, Sylvia Zubke. Al and Sylvia are two of our many incredible teacher-librarian colleagues retiring this June. Congratulations, Al and Sylvia! We love you and wish you and all of our retiring teacher-librarian colleagues all the best!     
Have a great summer!
Thank you for your continuing support,
Heather Daly
BCTLA President
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Filed under BCTLA, COTLA, Library Update, Personal Learning Network, School Library, Teacher Professional

Climbing the teaching mountain – a reflection

So I finally reached my summit. After 35 years of teaching, I’m hanging up my teacher gear- bag, tools and first aid kit. I write perhaps with with far too much sentimentality but with sincerity. Most of you know I hold little back. :-)

I use the my beloved mountain climbing hobby as a metaphor.  it seems an appropriate device but I am a reader not a writer. Like climbing rock, a gradual and arduous task, despite the glory of reaching various summits, has crux and crag. As a teacher, we experience some heavy lifting. Being a professional is never easy but the  current generation of colleagues embrace a task more complicated than my own. I write to my predecessors but mostly my junior colleagues.  Teaching need not be just one trek but a series of climbs and opportunities. You have to work at something. Try to love what you do. Forget ‘missionary zeal’ just have fun whenever you can. Your authenticity is what makes you unique and worthy of guiding our grandkids. 


I notate ‘opportunities’ because I’ve been a lucky teacher to have dabbled for 35 years in a variety of professional assignments.  SD23, despite my frequent rants of impatience, has offered me transitions and opportunities that met my diverse yearnings.  From teaching high school PE to eventually landing my dream job as teacher-librarian at Kelowna Secondary, I respect the flexibility our District accommodated my professional growth.  I never dreamt or planned on a library career but maybe that’s why it’s worked out so well for me- I had passion and insight when the door opened. I have taught something to ever grade K to 12.  It’s been a trek not a stroll in the park but I only wish the same to the talented hard working educators behind me. 

In 1981, I took an temporary assignment as a PE teacher at KLO Secondary, as this was my major and obsession at the time, I was naturally delighted.  Jobs were tough to acquire in 1980, so it was a timely opportunity. I was soon pulled out and asked to teach a Grade 7 class at Raymer Elementary because of an urgent vacancy. Having completed half my SFU practicum in elementary school in Vernon, it was fortuitous. I loved my novice years at Raymer but mostly it affirmed my career choice as an educator.  I have now taught these students’ children- a surreal but rewarding experience. Many of my predessors have commented on the same truth. Kids, and teachers come and go. 

I moved schools initially because an admin/mentor Al Stonehouse argued that 5-7 years at a school is the most impactful.  Off to Hudson and Pearson Elementary, where I learned the art and science of teaching and had many terrific experiences and relationships. I explored other curricula and the burgeoning education technology  field, including post-graduate studies at SFU. The experience was a trek that almost broke me but I acquired new insights and many skills. This phase was a series of small delightful hikes as opposed to an ‘Everest’ expedition. I was taxed but now I knew I wanted to try other destinations.  I had the encouragement of District staff to attempt a revisit to high school. They had an opening at Mount Boucherie Secondary School in the Ed-Tech field so as the manic risk-taker I can be, I gave my k-7 binders away and brought my Apple Mac Plus to high school- 20mb drive and all! 

Although I had the chance to venture out and explore interests like fine arts, outdoor education, and even some special education, my focus was on an information technology program. At the time, it was an alien notion. It wasn’t business or computer science but a new field trying to react to the new internet world.  What I didn’t comprehend was that my trek through elementary instruction and technology, not PE, would lead me to a career as a teacher-librarian. A novel ascent I never even considered, never mind aspired to.  I spent hundreds of self-taught hours and grabbed many courses and workshops along the way but I would soon be transformed as a librarian. 

By the opportunity of solving the dreaded timetables and the foresight of my colleague, Sharon Bede, I found myself hiking into the library one September day. I am a man for challenges, fed by, as I know now, my bipolar disorder; :-) so I naturally headed up the trail without much planning or awareness.   There would be nasty MBSS Bears on the trip but I wasn’t afraid- I was young and stupid.  Sharon asked the administration to fill the 0.3 TL with me rather than search outside. In my naive- and yes, manic, compulsive manner, I said yes. 

I loved the interaction with staff and the diverse curricula.  I was a voracious reader, so it seemed prudent to build on the opportunity to stretch myself. I went back to school and lifted my professional development up this unique unpredictable climb as a librarian.  I had Bede as a guide, so I wasn’t going to fall in a crevasse! I was delighted with the burgeoning new role of school libraries and could see that my resume would equip me well. I had so many rewarding and fascinating years at Mt. Boo. I worked with so many master teachers, like Bede, Colin Castle, Rob Eikenaar, Lois Flavelle, Bob Dickeson, Catherine Heymen, Barry Kingsley and Don Treadgold to name a few. People like Hugh Gloster, Dave Swanzey and Terry Bush, who showed confidence in me to lead students into the alpine, emboldened my sense of value as a teacher. I had opportunities like travelling to Europe with Rob Eikenaar, other chaperones and senior students, including a trip with my son to Italy. I have so many fond memories of our adventures but it was librarianship that had become my new obsession.  The Library at MBSS was so valued by the school it felt like an honourable vocational to aspire to. I was an impatient man who needed change but the librarian role felt appropriate and enduring.

I hated to leave my dear friend and supporter, Sharon, but the door opened up for a transfer to Kelowna Secondary School as a 0.5 part-time librarian. The timing was perfect for another new trip. My children were going to enter KSS and as a lifelong coach, participating with my children in their sporting life was ideal. Having my children at my alma mater seemed a sentimental but practical option.  I knew Kay Treadgold, the award winning TL at KSS, and was assured the Owls were a good choice.  knew I was fortunate to find another expert guide, not just for librarianship but my life. 

I have playfully called myself, a ‘Sherpa-librarian’ because I realized I too had become a library guide. My expeditions were scary, venturing into the Internet with students. There was resistance.  Not everyone was a willing member of the digital reality but Kay kept me motivated and resilient, especially when we both planned and moved to a new library at the newly built KSS at Raymer Ave.  Leaders like Rick Shave, Craig McLeish and Bill Lang invited me into the process. I could contribute to the building of a new Everest expedition. Kay and I could design and plan a newer vision of school libraries by constructing a facility that would take us out a dark old library into a large bright centre that could provide teaching opportunities we only dreamt about. The training and new gear set us up to deliver services to a school that we knew would be embraced by fellow trekkers. 

We soon found ourselves putting the expedition into high gear when Principal, Susannah Brown, encouraged our vision. Our energetic, passionate staff soon joined us in a progressive approach to a school library program. Unlike the old stereotype, our library was not wear old teachers go to pasture.  We were not your ‘grandmothers library’.  I think our friend Sharin Bede, at MBSS, was now envious but always a cheerleader, along with our friends at the Central Okanagan LSA. It was a heady time with many new potential methods, resources and curricula to explore.  Wow! I had found myself on a trek into the high alpine. I was on an ascent of Everest of soon I would be rejoined by Sherpa Bede- the Hungarian guide extraordinaire. 

With some trepidation, knowing Kay was retiring soon, we found ourselves in a crux. Finding a top notch TL to replace Kay was a daunting ascent.  This time, Susannah Brown was the guide who had a map. We would recruit, steal, bribe Bede to cross the bridge to the dark side. Now how could I not be happy? Luck, Grace or Brown’s divine  intervention, I had my partner back. Kay could not be happier. Win. Win. 

Now I’m saying that my journey wasn’t without blisters, scrapes and fatigue. I battled personal  issues for years. I had spells of bad health and personal challenges but my fellow professionals helped pick me up- literally. We sadly have just witnessed Sharon’s health ordeal. Colleagues get sick, transfer, retire- whatever. It’s life.  Life intervenes, like the weather, and one can’t direct every course but only dress for the cold and wet, hoping for sunshine. My vocation had intimately become part of my life over the years. Colleagues, and even students have guided me to safety.  KSS rescued me from the abyss many times.  I could not have climbed my mountains without the help of fellow hikers.  I like to think I grabbed a hand or two over the years.  Like my friend and hiking mate, Roger Kirk, says, “not arriving home safe isn’t an option. Safety first.” Look after yourself. Put the safety of your family first. JSS thrives as a team effort.

Last year, with fellow teacher Sherpas, Kirk, Moisan, and Pendray, I fell short of summiting Mount Rainier, but succeeded nonetheless. I reached new high ground.  Teaching has been like mountaineering, you aspire to some insane, lofty goal but enjoy the trip regardless of what altitude or landmark you accomplish. You ascent as a team but not every person summits. That is the way.  The school library program at KSS became my Rainier and I climbed it. 

Teaching is a very intense demanding human service. It’s a very honourable profession with very little respect and a modest renumiration but the rewards can be a personal and social journey. We occasionally can find solace, if not glory; like when we see girls grow into women and boys into men.  I’m always humbled by the huge transformation we can see in our teens.  We sometimes cannot believe our eyes. Periodically, like sunshine after a storm,  they even seek you out and thank you for being there- as a cherished guide- a compass.  During my career, I have had alumni connect and share their gratitude.  Although rare, even parents write letters of gratitude.  Our career is a sacred one. Cherish it. Defend it. Our efforts are respected, even admired, by the coalition of the willing.   

Those moments of dignity, help heal the frustration and isolation that many of our fellow Sherpas periodically feel. When the cycle of despair occasionally hits you- and it will- lean on your fellow climbers and focus on your own family. If you stumble or find yourself exhausted from the trek, remember that any hike is a reward in itself and ultimately, you grunt your way uphill for them. 

With love, devotion, and fond memories,

Your Sherpa-librarian,

– Al Smith, KSS 1999-2015


A few images to reflect my journey…

Outdoor Ed, MBSS, ‘I really took teens up here!’ 

Every new climb is a new success    

Nancy and I trekking skis up Kokanee Glacier- on a weekend! Really? Youthful indiscretion 



It takes all kinds of Sherpas. These ladies can carry a heavy pack.


excellent service, including access, welcoming scholarship and things like free books…


Despite hazards like Sharon’s absence, 2015 was a special year. Thank you


COTLA. Fellow Sherpa-librarians


Remember, witnessing students apply your guidance and strategies, large or small,  is a landmark event.

Athletic challenges at KSS, as player, coach or organizer, since 1973! A rare tradition 


Not all accomplishments are on mountain tops. Sometimes it’s just getting yourself a new glorious view.
Chez Moisan- Preparation need not be complicated. 

Celebrate every hill. You earned it. 


Integrate your personal experiences into your classroom world.


Find gratifying ways to convert one success into new endeavours


Experiment – take chances with things that you love. [ like trying to paint the ones you love ;-) ]


Grad ‘speed dating’ – we host WWII & WWIII


Gotta love teens make themselves at home :-)


Even big kids can read little kids big books. These 2 read aloud Henry Climbs a Mountain, ” you mean you guys have that book?!” Cute. 

Some students learn to own it. 


Access and opportunity- the rest is up to them

Authentic traditions are worth the effort to uphold.  


Thanks Pierre, for being my Sherpa! 


Filed under Editorial, Library Update, Personal Learning Network, Photos, Professional Development, Reflective Learning, School Library, Teacher Professional

Hub, MOOC, Learning Commons- all serve an aspiration

i recently read an Open Book blog post and was reminded of how all our modern systems and paradigms are really just what all exemplary libraries aspired to be. Bygone days or new variants, libraries serve the needs of patrons- of people. Oddly, our culture rewards an institution of progressive services with anchors of stereotypes. Libraries are just old irrelevant dusty books. Librarians are either old cranky grannies or sexy introverts. The reality in public libraries or school libraries is quite contrasting. The library as an access point for resources or discourse has never been so vital and frequently adopted. The stereotype still prevails while Google and hitech resources get all the accolades yet serve just the mechanics. If you want quick facts by all means Google but this doesn’t serve the majority of patron needs. People visit libraries more than ever for diversified content, expertise and service. They patronize libraries for cultural reasons not simply fact finding. 

Jaqueline Van Dyk, Open Book blog, writes about a public MOOC. Although my experience with moocs was an academic course with edtech background, it was clear the concept of open and integrated connected learning would sustain itself. It’s not all roses but serves many social learning needs. I say social learning as opposed to prescribed learning. Credit or GED etc all have specific exit outcomes that are mostly indifferent to the learner. Not that standards are evil but a MOOC addresses a user driven model more than a administrative model. Libraries, as a whole have adopted these personalized learning options for ages. It’s in their DNA to serve from a patron’s view of needs. Service is foundational. Librarians embrace open access and sharing just as we cherish breathing. 

Sometimes learning is playful and other times just damn hard work. Fulfilling your learning needs is a personal and time specific exercise. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Falling down repeatedly in order to grasp wakeboarding. Learning how to read and write at 30years old. Occasionally learning is fun and seems easy but that’s in conjunction with a persons background, goals and degree of task. Whether a public library MOOC or high school virtual library, librarians usually are driven by patron service. Our sexy little librarian or reserve matron are images that fulfill parodies or fantasies but not reflect our reality. 

The trend for finding a ‘learning commons’ is none other than trying to leverage the roots of all library programs. Advocacy, marketing or good design; MOOCs, learning commons or damn good library, all are driven by serving others. It’s like first aid for the mind. :-) 

-Al Smith. Middle aged, male, extrovert, high school librarian. Where did they find me?! ;-)

…as an extension of what we’ve been doing as libraries in facilitating lifelong learning. What’s new is that we’re creating an atmosphere for that, for bringing people together to do that. It makes the library more of a place of connection. In that regard, it’s a professional departure – by facilitating these activities and using the technology as activities unto themselves, we’re extending what we’ve been good at traditionally in new and interesting ways with our programs…
Paul’s view is that this experiment represents an exciting professional departure. “With the MOOC, we’re providing recreation – people are having fun, getting to know each other – and it provides interest in more reading materials. We’re providing an opportunity to learn and absorb materials together and talk them over and people are lapping it up. Traditionally, people used libraries for education as a solitary activity. Now we’re providing the same educational role, but with an opportunity to share and enhance their learning by learning together. We are extending what we’ve been good at traditionally in interesting new ways.”  (VanDyk)


“What’s a Mooc and Why You Should Know and Care!” Social Media Today. N.p., 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 May 2015. Image. <;.

Van Dyk, J. “Mooc Ecperiment.” Open Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2015. <;.

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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) 



Story Time. Image. Vintage Librarians. Christchurch City Libraries. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <;72157633383010966/>.

Williams, Yohuru. “Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools.” The Huffington Post., 2 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <;.

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Filed under criticism, Editorial, School Library, Teacher Professional

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.

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: “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











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.


Filed under Editorial, Library Events, Personal Learning Network, Professional Development, Reflective Learning, School Library, Teacher Professional

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.”


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Filed under Education, Personal Learning Network, Public Libraries, School Library

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.

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)


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


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Thanks Kidsbooks COTLA .. New book picks…

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

– “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,

– 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

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CBC Checkup discusses future of libraries..


“….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…. ”

Al Smith teacher-librarian

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Filed under Media Literacy, Public Libraries, School Library, Teacher Professional