School Libraries

Book Reviews, Research, Issues

Help Needed

Next week, I am going to visit a large school district that has full time professionals with no paraprofessional help in every building.  They are on fixed scedules and want to reinvent themselves. Some neighboring districts are letting professionals go and replacing them wiht paras at each building with the only professional at the district level as supervisor. Fixed schedules will not be going away; not an option to turn to flex schedules.

Role 1, as we are all familiar with, has the children come in, exchange books, listen to a story or have a library lesson lasting ten or 14 min. And then go back to the classroom.  This role is the one most in danger because a para “can handle this” under the supervision of the professional at the district level.

In role 2, the professional tries to discover what is going on in the classroom and then does something complementary to classroom topics during library time.

Is there anyone out there who has solved this problem with new and inventive ideas and practices?  The folks in this workshop will be introduced to the idea of a virtual makerspace and will have new video production capabilities. But, what are they going to d with these new skills?  Do you have any ideas to share? Without a boost, I fear their jobs will be on the line sooner than later? But who cares? In their place will be instructional coaches who theoretically have a major impact on teaching and learning across the school.

Email your ideas to me at and I will gather them together and publish the results plus the ideas these librarian come up with in a couple of weeks.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Cry for Help

The following quote from a teacher librarian was received the other day and I reporduce it exactly except for the state name:


“I am in discussions with our Elementary Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum about reinventing the elementary library. I have introduced the library learning commons as a balanced approach marrying both traditional practices with modern, digital practices and activities. My Assistant Superintendent seemed interested especially when I mentioned “digital” and showed several pictures of a middle school digitized library that he visited in the _____. The room was physically “bookless,” and in its place were smart boards, whiteboards, wall projector and flexible furniture but overall a very sterile vibe. He was also excited about software that has built in comprehension and decoding tests etc…within ebooks while students read. We had quite the long, conversation where I presented the parent perspective not wanting my child on the screen to read interest based book as the sole choice, or from an educator’s perspective, why do students need to be tested on everything they read, and from both, having physical books in hand for the little ones is an important sensory and developmental offering. But I’m not so sure he was on board. When I asked him if we could go visit some successful elementary school learning common models, he said, “Nah, let’s just build one ourselves.” If possible, could you send me a variety of elementary school models that I can research and possibly even contact? It could be from any state, but ideally _____. And of course, any thoughts, ideas, articles welcome.”

Who can help? Who is ready to respond to the call for showcasing? See the challenge page at:

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is there a role for Student voice in the LLC?

When a YouTube video has been watched as much as this one, the question presses us to think twice about transforming a traditional school library into a library learning commons. What are these kids asking? “What is school For” video:

We see many cries across the educational community to respond not only to the voices of testing by also for a larger role in student voice. Thus, the major question: Can the library learning commons serve both the curricular demands of the adults and side by side have space for student driven creativity, projects, creativity, invention genius hour and a plethora of other student initiated discovery and showcasing? For example, could the LLC host a YouTube channel for both high level adult expectations as well as student creativity? And, would such a dual purpose learning environment be worth showcasing at:

October 2, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

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