The School Library Learning Commons: More than a new coat of paint and flexible furnishings!

July 09, 2013 (2 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC

I have been watching with some interest over the past few years as schools throughout the province struggle with the transformation from traditional school library models to a learning commons philosophy. This transformation is supported by Alberta Education's Guide to Education: ECS to Grade 12 2013-2014, which clearly states that "students in Alberta schools should have access to effective school library services such as a learning commons approach integrated with instructional programs. Such integration improves student opportunities for achieving a basic education (p.69)." In an effort to comply with this mandate, some school boards in the province are providing funding incentives to convert from a traditional school library model to a learning commons. However, in most schools that I have visited, that funding is being used to paint the walls and purchase flexible furnishings. Although esthetic changes to the school library are nice, in my opinion, most schools are forgetting the fundamental premise that IT IS GREAT STAFF, NOT GREAT STUFF that lead to a successful school learning commons initiative. A more careful reading of this Alberta Education document reveals that "to promote integration, opportunities for cooperative planning between teachers and teacher–librarians should be provided (p.69)." How can this possibly happen, when 90% of schools throughout the province do not even have a qualified teacher-librarian on staff (Alberta Education (2010), School Library Survey Summary of Results, p. 2)? This initiative, like so many others, is doomed to fail unless schools have the understanding and the financial support to hire qualified, passionate teacher-librarians with a clear vision of the school library not as a repository of books, but as the physical and virtual space where collaborative, personalized, inquiry-based teaching and learning opportunities take place on a daily basis.These quality educational experiences are something no new paint job or flexible furnishings will ever be able to provide.


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