Alberta School Library Council’s Blog

A Message from the ASLC President

November 07, 2015 (0 Comments)

Welcome back to school!

I am sure it has been a very busy few weeks for everyone as we get our classrooms, libraries and schools up and running for a brand new year. The Alberta School Library Council has been busy as well, reviewing our vision and mission and preparing to best serve our members.


The Alberta School Library Council is a proactive and progressive advocate for our members in building, cultivating and enhancing effective school library learning commons practices through leadership and professional development.


The Alberta School Library Council promotes and supports our members in advancing excellence in teaching and learning through effective school library learning commons practices.

So what has the ASLC done this past year?

Members of the ASLC were instrumental in bringing Alberta’s voice to the new Canadian Association of School Library’s document Leading Learning, an amazing resource for all who are interested in building a Learning Commons approach to their school library.

(There have been many questions from all stakeholders about what, exactly, a Learning Commons is, and how it is different from a library. I have always liked Joyce Valenza’s take on the Learning Commons approach:  ...a library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!)

Our website has information and toolkits for schools to move their libraries into this new, global world.

ASLC Litpicks offers our members up to date reviews on new books, focusing both on great reads for students and the Alberta curriculum, reviewed by Alberta library staff who are passionate about teaching and reading. We offer Best of the Best presentations in the fall and the spring in Edmonton and Calgary (more information about specific dates coming soon).

Whether you are an administrator, a teacher or a teacher librarian, we want to hear from you! How can we help you achieve your goals for your school? We are looking to create Professional Development workshops that are geared to YOU! This link will take you to our Google Form where you can let us know what workshops and PD you would like to see.  


Looking forward to working with you all!

Lissa Davies

President, Alberta School Library Council



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A Day in the Life

November 14, 2014 (2 Comments)

Another Wednesday in the Learning Commons.  Thirty minutes before school, it would be nice to say that everyone here is on track & knuckled down to work toward those top academic awards, however… There are only a couple dozen people here. Two are staff who are signed into the computers, a third staff member is writing the day’s lesson plan on the whiteboard in the computer lab.  Three girls are chatting as they edit a video project for English, coffee in hand, glad to see each other. Others are curled in the reading chairs, escaping into books.  Some are frantically printing assignments due first class, and the odd one is trying to sneak in an early morning gaming session. A young couple, clearly besotted, are very closely “collaborating”.  Sprinkle in sporadic table work, and it’s a typical day.

I’ve collected my mail, caught the newspaper headlines, planned out the day with my Library Assistant, answered a phone call, trouble-shot a printer, and helped a student get sorted out with his ID.  I’ve checked on my crowd, and all is well.  I will soon tackle the email that collects relentlessly, try and connect with the lady from Alberta Gaming about our grant writing options, then progress to one of eight piles on my desk waiting for attention. Wishful thinking I know.

There was a time when my schedule was 100% flexible and I could have gone up to that teacher in the front, now that her 35 students have arrived, and seen if I could be of assistance. Then I would have looked up the new teacher who I was told could use a hand with some planning, then shown the photography teacher the great book I picked up two days ago called Digital Outdoor Photography. But I have three classes to teach later, nothing to do with literacy or numeracy or research, but classes nonetheless.  Classes come first, and if I take out time now to join forces with staff, then my own teaching and learning won’t be at prime. 

10 a.m: The students who arrived to video here had waaaay too much fun. Perhaps that is why they came with an Ed Assistant. They seem to be cooperating well after I heard both sides of their power struggle. I located elusive videos for a Social Studies teacher, and tried to figure out why a DeweyDecimalClassification for a Pocahontas biography was 975 rather than 921. We will ask the two cataloguers left downtown before we process our video.

3:50 p.m:  Thought I would be able to blog throughout the day, but I haven’t had a chance – nor have I eaten half my lunch.  Luckily, I managed to make it to the bathroom a couple of times. One of my students arriving for my morning class, appeared OK, then burst into inconsolable tears five minutes into class. Something about her previous teacher!  Moved her out of the room during a student presentation which I was supposed to be assessing, & managed to get someone from Student Services to get to the bottom of this. Clearly I was meant to be a teacher, not a counsellor.  This put me to noon with my attendance not done, my rubric for the presentation unmarked, and no time for lunch.  The class right after lunch is an energized group of thirty-four Grade 8 students, nine of whom are coded. Such class size in Grade 8 should be against the law, and still doesn’t explain why the three students presenting were randomly supplementing their presentation with a YouTube video about volunteering for Meals on Wheels ??? But 42 minutes later, off they went.  Eighty-two minutes between classes to find two sources of information for a student for the Battle of Falaise in August of 1944, photocopy some lost handouts, answer a couple of emails, email a teacher I am working with, schedule in the Red Cross speakers for health, check with the circulation desk to see if all is well, and say hi to my Student Teaching Assistant. She’s a great kid, and I wish I had time to do more than write her notes.

With the last class completed, I just met our school tech specialist to talk about the meeting she had Friday re putting a sound studio in the band room.  I’m the Tech Committee Chair, officially Learning Leader Research and Technology, and this conversation is part of our $400,000 needs assessment as to purchases requested from staff for this year. Our Parent Advisory Council is totally onside after presenting to them last week. We just need $400,000.  OK, $300,000 if we knock a few things off the list. 

It’s now 4:45 and luckily I didn’t eat all my lunch today so I can nibble away.  I’ve added a ninth pile to my desk to tackle tomorrow, still have to read the principal’s two emails, and see why I can print to three printers but not the fourth.  At least with no one else here, I can turn up the volume on my music, rock on, & check those emails.  Before I go, I’ll collect the things I need to take home tonite, check my day timer and get ready for class tomorrow.  In the morning I’ll check if I have coverage for my class on Friday, as Outdoor Ed class needed a supervisor for a trip to the zoo, but I will need a sub for my own class. I love my job, and I say that sincerely.  There’s no place I’d rather be.  

Shirley McGowan,
B.Ed., M.Ed. in Teacher Librarianship
Teacher Librarian at Queen Elizabeth HS in Calgary

e-books are awesome

October 21, 2014 (0 Comments)

In June 2014, Willow Park Middle School’s eLibrary went live. Over the summer, early adopter teachers and students started reading online. Some of us took our eLibrary traveling all summer. It was awesome!

I know. Some people think that students need to feel paper, that reading on screen causes eye strain and that a device that could die if dropped in a bathtub, can’t be seen in harsh sunlight and depends on battery life is so far inferior to a book it’s not even worth trying, never mind investing in a library of said choices. Fair enough.

For naysayers, I know that you know that eBooks are a done deal. They exist with or without your approval. For those people that don’t want to read eBooks, don’t. For those people that do… here’s what we love about eBooks:

  • they are delivered instantaneously
  • they are available every where, all the time
  • they take up very little space
  • you can read them on a laptop, computer, phone, tablet…
  • they’re simple to download or read in a browser
  • they’re leveled

We’re using OverDrive. It’s an expensive subscription and it contains eBooks and audiobooks. We choose it because of the ease of enrolling our school population and because the Calgary Public Library uses it. We have a pretty strong partnership with Fish Creek Public Library. For those of us that were already using the OverDrive app, it was really simple to just add a new library.

One of the coolest things about OverDrive School Library is the Book Club ebook. OverDrive has a program called “Big Library Read”. It’s world wide and your school can borrow unlimited copies of “Anatomy of A Misfit” by Andrea Portes in either an audio or eBook version. They’re marketing it as “Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being Being a Wallflower” and so far the Willow Park Book Club loves it!

If you’re thinking about using eBooks in your library, you’ll have some serious things to consider. With OverDrive you buy a subscription… every year. With Follett you buy the book one time and you have it forever. We’ve tried having a few tablets with certain eBooks and audio books on them available for sign out and we didn’t find huge success with that route. We are finding huge success with our eLibrary, because it suits our student population. We’ve also had a huge amount of success with students creating their own eBooks and eMagazines. I don’t think eBooks are going away, just like I still read hard copy books and I don’t see them going anywhere fast either. I choose to embrace them. To me it’s not should we use eBooks, it’s how should we use eBooks?

Karena Munroe

Karena is a Learning Commons Teacher. She works at Willow Park Arts-Centred MIddle School in Calgary.

Interesting Podcasts on CBC Radio’s Spark

May 26, 2014 (0 Comments)

CBC Radio’s Spark with Nora Young has recently run some interesting segments about technology and reading – great content for teacher-librarians, or anyone interested in digital culture and literacy. We recommend the following:

Scanning and skimming (Sunday, May 11, 2014)
Maryanne Wolf's research explores the differences between screen reading and paper reading, and what the move to digital is doing to our brains. Plus, Bookfuturist Tim Carmody talks about the changes in 'serious' reading he's seen as a result of all that scanning and skimming on screens. Wolf's book Proust and the Squid was recently a Calgary Reads selection.

Bite-sized reading (Sunday, May 11, 2014)
Yael Goldstein Love explains Rooster, a smartphone app that offers bite-sized, subscription-based books. Plus, Bookfuturist Tim Carmody talks about his take on immersive reading.

E-library letdown (Friday, May 23, 2014)
This story first aired in April, 2013. The frustrations of borrowing an e-book from the public library has Spark take look at the lessons of digital adaptation with a panel of book, library, and policy experts. 

Kids and the Right to Read

May 20, 2014 (0 Comments)

I was dismayed to read about the recent situation in Idaho, where parents called the police about students handing out banned books.

The backstory: apparently a group of parents in Meridian School District convinced administrators to ban Sherman Alexie's novel Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from the Grade 10 curriculum, as they felt the book contained inappropriate language and sexual activity. Some students didn’t agree with the decision, and launched a petition. They collected over 350 student signatures, but the ban was upheld. The students response: a protest, where they distributed free copies of Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to those who had signed the petition. That's when parents called the police.

As a senior high school teacher-librarian, I take the principles of intellectual freedom seriously, and I fully stand behind the right of students to freely choose their reading material. At my school, we work hard to build a library collection that gives our school community access to a broad spectrum of ideas, and a diversity of viewpoints. We select our resources based on their individual strengths, and never make decisions about including or excluding a book on the basis of controversial content, language or topic. Not everyone will agree with every one of our selections, but we hope every reader will find a book that resonates with them.

Does this mean I don’t respect the right of parents to be involved in shaping the moral and intellectual development of their children? Not at all. I just don’t think banning books is the route to take. Reading is central to kids’ intellectual, emotional and moral growth. Within the pages of books, children find a safe space to explore ideas, scenarios and circumstances. Reading, for young people, is part of the process of becoming – and that process demands the right of kids to freely define their choices, and explore the themes that interest or concern them.

That’s not to say parents shouldn’t be involved in their children’s reading. What better way to start authentic conversations about important ideas or moral choices than by discussing a book? Parents should be paying attention to what their kids are reading, and they should be asking questions. Equally important, they need to listen carefully to the answers their questions prompt. Meaningful, respectful conversation helps to build moral, ethical citizens; banning books doesn’t.

Nancy Prentice is the teacher-librarian at Western Canada High School in Calgary, Alberta.


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