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New national school library standards for the 21st century officially launched

June 2014

Remember the traditional library where deep silence prevailed, staff were quick to shush, and finding books efficiently required a deep understanding of the Dewey Decimal system?

Remnants of that library still exist but in many schools the digital revolution has pushed learning to new frontiers and libraries are continually adapting to the emerging realties.

Two years ago a group of school librarians and other educators from across the country began the complex task of establishing a new set of standards that will help school libraries both evolve and flourish.

“We’ve had standards for years but we wanted to develop something that was more in tune with the 21st century,” explained Acadia teacher-librarian Jo-Anne Gibson. “If we’re going to stay relevant we have to make changes.”

Ms. Gibson co-chaired the Manitoba committee working on the standards along with Chancellor School teacher-librarian Vivianne Fogarty. Other Pembina Trails staff and representatives on the Manitoba committee included Edna Johnson, library technician at Acadia, Isabelle Carvalho, a student at Acadia, Ian Smith, a classroom teacher at General Byng, and Peggy Hobson, principal at Henry G. Izatt School.

The goal of the new standards is to create something that will reflect the reality in Canadian school libraries and offer a vision, framework and practical resources. School libraries are making the transition from traditional libraries to a “learning commons” model but they’re not all shifting at the same rate, for a variety of reasons, said Ms. Fogarty. The new standards needed to accommodate this continuum.

So what is meant by a “learning commons”? “It’s a way of thinking about libraries,” said Ms. Gibson. “It’s not just a place where kids come to consume stuff, like books—they also create stuff. It’s about connecting with experts and information around the world.”

“We are still very much about reading and literacy along with the other knowledge building activities,” explained Ms. Fogarty. “The library learning commons is a hybrid composed of physical and virtual spaces where students and staff are encouraged to think, learn, explore, collaborate and create original knowledge.”

Most regions of Canada contributed to the standards and it was a proud moment when they were officially launched at the Canadian Library Association national conference in Victoria in May this year. The publication, entitled Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada is a dynamic, 37-page digital document and a model for the development and implementation of the school library as a library learning commons.

“Each of the five colour-coded principles in the document are broken down into applicable themes of best practices for school library learning commons,” says Ms. Gibson in a written report. “Each best practice contains “live” links to examples from school library learning commons programs from across Canada.

Next steps include introducing the new standards into schools and translating them into French, says Ms. Fogarty.

“The Manitoba School Library Association needs to be given credit for their support of the project,” said Ms. Gibson. “They partially sponsored Vivianne and my way to Victoria and they are the link to the Canadian School Library Association.”

Both Ms. Gibson and Ms. Fogarty have held national leadership roles with the Canadian School Library Association (CLA). Ms. Fogarty is past member of the CLA’s School Libraries Issues Advisory Committee and Ms. Gibson is currently co-chair of CLA’s Voices for School Libraries Network.

Download the new standards free-of-charge from the School Libraries in Canada website.

Click for a more complete report.


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