Halifax Libraries: Contexts & Possibilities

Halifax Central Library

Halifax Central Library

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, to speak at a professional learning event for library support specialists in the Halifax Regional School Board. Our topic was the school library as a learning commons.

Schools in the Halifax area can draw great inspiration from the public library’s new central branch. Great libraries understand their mission in helping their constituent communities realize their aspirations. When libraries do this well they also open people’s eyes, minds and spirits to greater potential.

Halifax Central Library

Connected to the heart of the community.

The Halifax Central Library, developed with extensive community consultation and the most innovative thinking in librarianship and architecture, epitomizes this phenomenon. Mid-afternoon on a weekday, the library was very busy, but felt as relaxed and comfortable as my living room. Children, teens, adults, students – all were pursuing their interests individually or collaboratively in this great public space, dedicated to the free exploration of ideas and creativity.

Schools Can Take Inspiration

Leading Learning

Leading Learning: A vision for Canada’s school libraries.

The Halifax Public Library understands its role in developing the community it serves. Do schools in the area understand the potential of their own libraries for leading new ways of learning?

The free exploration of ideas is a foundational value of libraries – an approach that has huge potential for supporting inquiry, discovery and creativity. Many area schools are making great strides in developing a learning commons approach, and library support specialists are deepening their understanding of the unique value proposition of the library in realizing larger goals for learning. Our workshop focused on how to use the national standards document, Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada to frame program growth.

Differentiated Spaces

Halifax Central Library Teen Space and First Nations Circle.

Many thanks to my host, Halifax Regional School Board library consultant Donna Gillespie, and to Halifax Public Library children’s services librarian Heather Doepner for taking us on a marvellous tour of the central library.

HRSB library support specialists are eager to capture the imagination of the community of educators in the same way that the public library has inspired the greater community. How fortunate Halifax educators are to have such an inspiring example of the possibilities right there in the heart of this great city.

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Engagement in the School Library Learning Commons

I’m speaking today!

HRSBHalifax Regional School Board Professional Learning,  May 13, 2016
Engagement in the School Library Learning Commons

Keynote Session (9:00 -10:15)
Leading Learning from the Library Learning Commons

“Learners have a right to expect good school libraries in every school in Canada.” So states the Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada (2014). Developed with input from every province and territory, Leading Learning sets itself apart from previous standards. Its framework is about growth and building capacity, not about setting unrealistic and unachievable benchmarks. Leading Learning focuses on the learner, and that vision can indeed help every school to realize the potential of the library learning commons. Join me as we explore how Leading Learning can help all school libraries develop into vibrant physical and virtual collaborative learning hubs within a participatory learning community.

Breakout Session (1:00 – 2:00)
Moving Forward with the School Library Learning Commons

The CLA’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada (2014) describes a vision of the library as a physical and virtual collaborative learning hub. As energizing as that vision is, the challenge of making it happen can seem overwhelming to library staff. But Leading Learning is about growth and building capacity and a whole school approach, providing a practical framework for every school to succeed. In this session we will explore how to move forward with a team approach, so that your school can fully leverage the library’s role in realizing its goals for student success.

Connect to session materials here!

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Designing for Learning

I have always thought that libraries from different sectors have more in common than we think, and that we can all learn from each others’ practice. I have noticed that public, and particularly post-secondary libraries are recognizing the importance of sound instructional practices. With some humility, but nevertheless quite confidently, I think that this is where other library sectors can learn from teacher-librarians. Teacher-librarianship is grounded in instructional practice, as we are teachers first, and library specialists second.

I have had two recent opportunities recently to work with librarians from other sectors on designing instruction for learning, most recently for librarians at the University of Toronto, and have a large collection of resources that may be useful for librarians in all sectors for understanding the difference between designing a lesson to designing for learning. I invite you to explore:

Design for Learning: My  webpage, with links to relevant articles, blog posts and presentations

Designing for Learning: Moving from Covering Information to Uncovering Understanding: My presentation resources for a workshop for University of Toronto librarians, April 2016

Design for Learning: A Discovery Guide for Librarians: A By the Brooks sub-site exploring current instructional design models from school librarianship that have relevance for librarians from all sectors.

Design for Learning



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