School Libraries

Book Reviews, Research, Issues

Reinventing the school along with the library

Think Both/And rather than either/or.   What does that mean? I have read two excellent current books I recommend: What School Could be,  by Ted Dintersmith and Tom Perkins and, Reinventing Education by John D. Couch. Both as you might guess decry the test prep virus of American Education and offer major suggestions of schools offering creativity, self-directed learning, invention, making, entrepreneurship,and other exciting alternatives. My question is whether the library learning commons can  be that island of choice in the school where traditional and experimental ideas can coexist rather than dictating to us one path or the other? And, would such a diverse learning environment be worth showcasing at:


September 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Documenting the impact of the Library Learning Commons

In showcasing our impact on teaching and learning in the school, we could all take a look at the Innovation Playlist as one possible technique. Taking important topics from standards, Future Ready, and other state and local initiatives, the idea is to write a brief narrative about an important cutting-edge practice accompanied by a number of videos showcasing real students, teachers, professional LLC staff, etc.  It’s all part of an effort by the creators of the LIIIITES Model to illuminate and showcase our best foot forward. What do you think? P.S. How about encouraging students to make these videos?

Link to Innovation Playlist:

Link to the LIIIITES Model website:

September 18, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LIIIITES Model Introduction

In an effort to assist every school librarian interested in adopting new standards, initiatives, or school improvement programs designed to move toward the center of teaching and learning, take a look at the following free website and challenge that might help. It is titled: The LIIIITES Model (pronounced The Lights Model): Eight Ways to Shape and Illuminate the Contribution of Library Learning Commons Professionals. Here you will find many ideas to implement cutting-edge practices in Literacies, Information Inquiry, Instruction, Innovation, Technology, Expertise, and Service. And then you can accept the challenge to be a showcase school where parents, communities, administrators, and boards can visit to see what an exciting 21st century library learning commons looks like, feels like, and actually contributes.  Here is the link:

Thank you for sharing this with colleagues, administrators, parents, organizations, and other educators.

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Deeper Learning, Inquiry, and the Teacher Librarian

 While teacher librarians would like to claim center stage when it comes to inquiry, many other experts and organizations besides AASL claim inquiry as their specialty. From our perspective, such initiatives often run on parallel tracks without the acknowledgement of other ideas. Discussions about inquiry are most often insular, turf proactive, and an effort to gain traction in a crowded field of educational ideas.

Models of inquiry are commonplace, ranging from those in the field of librarianship to the ISTE standards for students, to the four Cs, and to the efforts from such organizations as Edutopia. Recently, an amazing document has appeared from an organization named Digital Promice. They are in the business of creating and issuing micro credentials. The idea is that educators would decide for themselves a goal of excellence—something they want to know and be able to do—and then assemble a group of “short courses” that would be individually tailored for each person. Instead of a district or state defining a goal and a required pathway to demonstrate expertise, the responsibility rests with the individual to design their own pathway where their strengths aren’t over-used and their weaknesses can be addressed in short, or micro, units that document expertise. Such pathways are disruptive to the “normal” way of doing things, and whether school districts and states can recognize such competencies is the chief concern toward further development of the idea.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-1-58-19-pmThe document issued by Digital Promise ( is titled: Developing a System of Micro-credentials: Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom and can be dowloaded at:

The publication outlines six major ideas in a framework that describes the behavior of learners who are adept at deeper learning. Below, I present the six major framework ideas and after each, and in Italics, summarize a longer set of descriptive statements. The reader is encouraged to consult the original document for the full exposition of ideas. Here is the shortened version:

Framework for Deeper Learning

  1. Master core academic content
    1. Know and understanding content knowledge
  2. Think critically and solve complex problems
    1. Become a smart learner
  3. Work collaboratively
    1. Be effective as a team member
  4. Communicate effectively
    1. Create and deliver clear messages
  5. Learn how to learn
    1. Become a great learner
  6. Develop academic mindsets
    1. Act like a pro                        

The framework above is then used by an educator to check personal knowledge and recognize deficiencies. Then the document describes some 40 micro courses that the educator can select from to build and demonstrate competence in the entire framework. It is like starting with a puzzle picture for which you might have half the pieces and then “earning” the rest of the pieces to complete the puzzle.

For the teacher librarian, merging the information and technology environment with the deeper learning projects going on in the classroom makes a great deal of sense. The advantage to any teacher who collaborates with the teacher librarian is that together they face an increasingly diverse group of students in their classrooms. The opportunity to mentor diversity in a personalized way with a plethora of tools and a variety of information makes a huge difference if one looks at the percentage of students in the class who meet expectations.

However, the mastery of what is already known about any area of topical knowledge is just one piece of a larger role that library learning commons can play. Consider carefully the following role target.

Complementary Functions of the Library Learning Commons

Suppose we embrace the idea that a young person can not only master the known, but can contribute novel and inventive ideas to the pool of knowledge. Such a position has not generally been considered as a part of education, but young entrepreneurs, inventors, and creative kids constantly prove adults wrong in this arena. Every year the President of the U.S. recognizes young inventors, and a search of YouTube or a visit to a Maker Faire reminds us all that there is a huge hole if we only encourage the young in a single effort. The picture below encourages teacher librarians to create an environment in the library learning commons where knowledge can be created as well as mastered.


After a visit to a Maker Faire in New York City a couple of years ago, I and two other colleagues sat down to reflect on what we had seen during the Faire. Kids and teens had created amazing things, and we saw the process a creative person goes through on the path to creation and invention. The uTEC Maker Model was the result and it is pictured below with its accompanying description of stages from “using” to “creating.”

The uTEC Maker Model



  • Enjoying; Sampling; Engaging; Playing: Participate or experience what others have created


  • Playing, Messing Around, Questioning, Researching: Making Personal changes to Other’s creation


  • Building/Trying/Failing; Repurposing: Modifying and testing theories; Learning from failure / success


  • Inventing; Producing; Entrepreneurship: Novel product; Ideas; Innovations

What we observed as we interacted with young inventors was not just the path they had taken toward creativity, but also the development of various dispositions along the way that mirrored many of the dispositions recognized in the push toward deeper learning. The major difference was that instead of being required to summarize what others knew, the emphasis of the adults was to liberate the young learner toward the creativity pathway. It was our own discovery of what Sir Ken Robinson has been advocating now across the world.

Thus, I recommend, and really challenge, each teacher librarian, school administrator, and classroom teacher to consider is whether the dual role is already at work in the school. If not, or even if it is undeveloped, imagine how the environment of the traditional library could be transformed to embrace creativity, making, inventing, and doing as a partnership with content mastery. Carol Koeschlin and I’s newly revised website dealing with the transformation to a library learning commons might be a great starting point or a checklist for those already working in the transformation.

September 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Metacognition and Inquiry

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 9.49.29 AMMinshift often publishes excellent summaries of research studies and this one about metacognition is no exception.  The author describes metacognition as thinking about thinking and traces its effectiveness, particularly by struggling learners as one major way to improve learning.

See it at:

Years ago, when Carol Koeschlin and I were developing high level inquiry projects that we recommended to teacher librarians who were coteaching alongside classroom teachers, we recognized that many teacher librarians were struggling with the teaching of inquiry. We often heard complaints that every year, it seemed as though students involved in research projects had to be taught the same thing over and over. College librarians were complaining that students came to them unequipped to do research for term papers even though these same students had done multiple papers in high school.

Why were students forgetting inquiry and research skills? Taking the clues from the idea of metacognition, we developed eight different metacognitive strategies that could be used by classroom teachers and teacher librarians AFTER an inquiry project was over and after the grades were in. The idea was that the students would be more open and honest after the learning event than before the “final test or assessment.” we also took our clue from sports coaches who regularly tape sports events and then have their athletes watch and analyze what went right or wrong during the game, and while the outcome of that game could not be changed, the outcome of upcoming games could be affected.

One such strategy would be the bringing to the class an expert after a learning experience was over. The class could explore what they learned; how that compared with the expert’s ideas and then think forward. The next time we do research together what should be do differently than we did this time? What did we learn? How did we learn it? What could we do to become better?

During a typical school year, if a classroom teacher engaged in three inquiry projects with the teacher librarian, we might expect improvement over time.  The first time, we would reflect on a number of problems and possible solutions. Before starting on the second project, we would reflect on what went right and wrong during the previous one  and resolve to do better. And, the third time, we would do the same. The hope is that the sophistication level of inquiry would grow over the year just as a basketball team would improve after watching and analyzing every game they played.

Teachers often say they don’t have time for such activities because of the pressure of the next topic on their docket. We argued in our The Big Think  book that if you don’t take the metacognitive thinking time, you will continue to have a losing season of inquiry projects…

Challenge: There is only one way, we think to test out this idea in your own school. First, sit through a number of critique sessions with an athletic coach, then try different strategies when you have inquiry projects. Then ask yourself the so what questions and then ask what’s next.

August 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OERs and the Library Learning Commons

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.48.13 AM

OERs or Open Educational Resources are free materials that can be used by students for instructional purposes and many teachers are starting to replace textbooks with them. At the very least, these resources can be used to supplement textbooks that presume that one size fits all learners. In a recent article, the case for OERs is strengthened.  Se it at:

In my own work with graduate students in the School of Information at San Jose state University, we have been creating several important resources that are examples of what the teacher librarian and their colleagues in a school district, a region, a state, or even from a nation, could create that suggests that the library learning commons can be an important factor in this effort.

Our first example is an entire fourth grade curriculum for fourth graders on California history based on the 2016 social studies framework developed by the State of California.  It is at:

This is a participatory site that invites both teachers and students to contribute as well as use the resources. We have found that so many wonderful materials are available from libraries, museums, state agencies, organizations, etc. But what is even more important is the fact that our students have created major lesson plans that encourage classroom teachers to coteach alongside their teacher librarian for a much higher percent of students who meet or exceed both adult’s expectations.

The second example is a Symbaloo webmix known as The Virtual Makerspace. It is available at: or, just google “Symvaloo the virtual makerspace”

Here, over 50 tools for various grade levels have been curated to provide any school the opportunity to have a free virtual makerspace alongside their physical one. The tools help kids and teens build, create, invent, and do things on their own without have to be required or “taught” how to do things.  It is a source worth checking out.

Challenge: What could your local teacher librarians do to contribute OERs that support the curriculum in your school?




August 10, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Computer Algorithms and the Future of Jobs

A TED talk about advance of smart computer algoritms is worth watching several times by teachers and those whom they teach. it is at:

One popular solution is to teach everyone coding during their school years. While coding can help in many ways, I think it should be accompanied by the idea of making, creativity, inventing, and even entrepreneurship during childhood and teen years. Such can be included in the opportunities provided by the professional staff in the school library learning commons. For many bored students, a fresh creative and participatory learning environment is as refreshing to the mind as recess is to the body.

Challenge: Have the learners in your school help you reinvent what goes on in your library learning commons on a regular basis.

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Syracuse researchers link higher test scores with certified librarians in schools

Quoted from:

Preliminary findings of research conducted by iSchool professor Ruth Small and graduate students in the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL) show a statistically significant increase in the ELA test scores—almost a 10 point difference—among fourth-grade students whose schools had certified librarians over students in schools without certified librarians.

“We believe these findings are important to consider, not only because of the higher ELA test scores. These certified librarians are having a larger impact on students’ overall learning as well,” says Small, who directs the school library media program at the iSchool and was recently appointed to the Governor’s New York State Council for Universal Broadband’s Digital Literacy Committee. “Although we’re still analyzing the data, our preliminary results show that certified librarians are also more likely to provide students with materials that present more diverse points of view and that better support the curriculum than non-certified librarians.”

Certified librarians are currently not mandated at the elementary level in New York state, but they are at the secondary level.

“This preliminary report reaffirms what 19 other state studies have shown, that school libraries staffed by certified librarians and equipped with current books and technology can have a positive impact on student academic achievement,” says Michael J. Borges, executive director of the New York Library Association.

The research, which is being funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Studies, included survey responses from 1,612 schools, proportionately representing New York City; large upstate cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester; other high-needs schools from urban and rural districts; average-need schools; and low-need schools. Even when the need levels of schools were taken into consideration, there was still a 2.2 point difference in average test scores.

“These initial findings support our efforts to require school library media specialists in grades K-6, especially in those school districts that are not meeting state and federal standards,” says Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers.

The researchers are now currently analyzing more in-depth information gathered from surveys and focus groups involving school library media specialists, students, principals, teachers and parents from 48 elementary, middle and high schools across New York state. They will analyze these various groups’ perceptions of school library specialists and their effect on education.

“The New York State Assembly values libraries and believes they are an important part of our educational system. This preliminary report reinforces the need to continue to invest in our schools, especially those lacking a quality school library program,” says Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, chair of the Assembly Libraries and Educational Technology Committee.

Small hopes to better understand the impact these trained library media specialists have on motivating students to learn, influencing the adoption and use of technology and servicing students with disabilities and special needs.

“Our preliminary results support what school librarians already knew,” says Small. “Best intentions only go so far. We need people educated in school librarianship and dedicated to motivating students to read and learn in our schools.”

The New York Library Association is supporting an increase in library materials aid from $6.25 per pupil to $10 per pupil as recommended by the New York State Board of Regents. Library materials aid is used by schools to purchase books and other reading materials for their libraries. NYLA is also asking the governor and the legislature to amend the Contracts for Excellence initiative to allow the extra funds that high-need school districts receive to be spent on hiring school library media specialists and equipping libraries with up-to-date books and technology.

“This study confirms the direct impact of certified school librarians on the educational success of our children,” says state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Libraries. “That is why I am sponsoring legislation (S.1686) to ensure that every school in the state has a library and a school librarian. In recent years, the Senate has successfully proposed record increases in state aid to public libraries, and I will continue to promote support for school libraries. The New York State Senate has successfully proposed increases for libraries over the past two years, and we will continue to make library funding a priority.”

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Virtual Learning Commons

For two semesters, my graduate students have been developing the virtual learning commons both collaboratively in small groups and individually for their own school if they were employed. It is now to build upon that expertise in a year-long developmental project. The Virtual Learning Commons replaces the library web page which has always been a one-way form of communication between librarians and their patrons. The Virtual Learning Commons aims to create a giant school-wide conversation where students, classroom teachers, teacher librarians, teacher technologists, administrators, other school specialists, and parents are creating and constructing a giant informaiton space, work space, and museum. My graduate students will be participating in this year-long development project but others around the U.S. and the rest of the English-speaking world are welcome to experiment and create with us. This project will be done at: and readers of this blog can find there the link to the virtual learning commons construction page. Add your name to those interested in participating. We hope to develop a vaiety of templates that folks can pull down or duplicate in their own schools. Already, there is a list of various characteristics we would like to develop.

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Where are we in the education literature?

Over the past three years, I have reviewed hundreds of professional books in the area of school libraries and also in general education. At this point, I can count on one hand the number of times writers in education and technology mention the school library. When particularly disappointed about a particular writer’s lack of recognition, I usually email them and say that I am reviewing their book and ask about linking to the school library or the lack thereof. I get several common excuses. One is that they just presume that the school library is there waiting in the background to support thier ideas for teaching and learning. Another is shock that school librarians would be interested in their ideas for higher-level learning. A third is doubt that school librarians would really have the knowledge or interest in getting involved at a level I describe.. Realizing that we just have not become central in the education literature, I have recently announced a major initiative for the Treasure Mountain Research Retreat to be held during the preconference days of the AASL National Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina in November 2009. Readers can find information about this at: You may need a www on the front. The challenge is to have small teams select a major educational writer like Carol Ann Tomlinson or Jay McTigue and then request and conduct a 30 minute interview brainstorming with that author their ideas for transforming school libraries to  work at the center of their educational ideas. At the retreat, we will put all these interviews together and write some kind of white paper for broad distribution. As I write and work toward the reinvention of this field in the direction of a learning commons, it seems to me that we just have to move into the center of teaching and learning since the old model just doesn’t seem to work any more.  If you  as a reader would like to conduct an interview, please let me know at

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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