Library as the hub of school improvement: OLA jot notes
Third in a series by Natalie C, one of our fabulous reference librarians who attended this year’s OLA Super conference.
Teacher-Librarians were out in full force at Super Conference, with many presenting on the new and innovative projects they were undertaking in their Library Learning Commons and Makerspaces.
One such presentation was offered by a Principal/Teacher-Librarian (TL) team from the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. Working at a small school in a small community, school administrator Alison Osborne and TL Lea French discussed how they took advantage of all of their community’s resources — the public library, engaged parents, and local artists — to turn their library into the thriving hub of their school’s community.
What they did wasn’t necessarily complicated, but a lot of small things added up to make a sizable difference for their students:
- Refreshing their Environment: In addition to purchasing new comfortable, versatile furniture, Alison & Lea enlisted the help of a local artist to create a collaborative art installation for the library with the students at their school.
- Rebranding: Rather than calling the school library a makerspace or library learning commons — terms that they thought might not resonate with their students — they opted to name the space The Hub, because that’s what they wanted it to be: the centre of their students’ learning
- Active Learning: Alison & Lea developed simple activities to help students feel involved in the space, including a Blackout Poetry exercise, Tearable Puns, and a bookmark design contest
- Know Your Stats: Alison & Lea knew that intermediate students were the lowest users of the library so they encouraged teachers to issue Research Passes to these students that they could use to come down to the library during class-time for help with researching an assignment
- Parents as Partners: Relying heavily on the assistance of parents in their community during their school library’s revitalization, Alison & Lea applied for a Parents Reaching Out grant to provide their parents with compensation for their time
- Hitting the Books: To help their students cultivate a love of reading, Alison & Lea applied to First Book Canada, which provides books to students in impoverished communities. They also organized an Earth Day Book Swap where students could bring in books they’d already read to trade with their peers.
- Creating a Safe Space: To provide alternative spaces for students, Lea offers Mindful Mornings in the library, opening The Hub early so students looking for a quiet space can take some time to themselves
- Developing a Lifelong Love of Libraries: To foster a love of libraries in all their forms, Alison & Lea partnered with their small public library to offer students regular library field trips
In addition to their dedication to transforming their school library space through these many projects, what I found most inspiring about Alison & Lea was their collaborative and trusting relationship. Alison evidently was passionate about her school’s library, but she said that she might not have necessarily seen it as a priority if Lea hadn’t knocked on her door and said: “Hey, I’m a Teacher-Librarian and I don’t know why I’m teaching grade 5.”
Because of Lea’s advocacy and the pair’s dedication to making the school library a hub for literacy and learning, Lea’s full-time space is now the library. The pair made a commitment to each other to stay at their school for 3 years and see their project through. Just a year after starting their revitalization, their school has already seen increases in its academic and attitude data. It is a motivating story of what Principals and Teacher-Librarians can accomplish together.
I’m sure that there are many of these examples from TDSB Teacher-Librarians as well. If you have a great school library revitalization story, start thinking about your OLA Super Conference proposal for next year!