Well it’s finally here! The Canadian Library Association released Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada during its recent conference in Victoria, BC.
Leading Learning is a transformational document. Its core theme is how the school library learning commons facilitates learning, and the document sets a framework for growth. Gone are the days of setting benchmarks for facilities, collection size, circulation, etc. that are largely unachievable in most schools. Those kinds of measures do not tell the full story. Good metrics are the product of good program, not the cause. There is no doubt that collection quality and good facilities are critical factors, but without a meaningful program that connects with the learning goals of the school and school district, they are likely not sustainable. It is unlikely that such investment would be maintained over time without positive and tangible outcomes that clearly demonstrate the value of the investment.
A Framework for Growth
Leading Learning takes a fresh approach. Firstly, the standards are about frameworks for learning, not about meaningless metrics. The language here is about collaborative learning communities, achieving school goals, effective instructional design, fostering literacies and designing learning environments.
Secondly, Leading Learning identifies themes in each standard, and presents relevant stages of growth: Exploring, Emerging, Evolving, Established, and Leading into the Future. It provides growth indicators for each stage, broken down by specific themes. Every school can find its place in this framework, with the learning commons team assessing their own program, and picking areas for growth that most directly match the school’s goals.
Leading Learning is replete with Canadian examples at each stage of growth. It provides guidance for transformation at the provincial/territorial level and at individual schools, with a Library Learning Commons Leadership Team.
A Sense of Hope and a Sense of Urgency
There is huge disparity in the state of Canada’s school libraries across the country, and even within provinces and communities. Some Canadian students have the benefit of vibrant learning commons programs staffed by professionals. In many communities libraries have devolved into dusty book rooms maintained by volunteers.
That this document even exists is a testament to the collaborative vision of educators and members of the extended educational community from across the country. Teams from every province and territory provided input. That this could be achieved when there is such wide disparity in investment in programs and models for staffing and delivery is truly remarkable.
Leading Learning provides something tangible to frame growth for all jurisdictions and for every school in Canada. There is some urgency to the situation. The library learning commons has never been as relevant as it is now, in our complex age of information and media, when being literate means being multi-literate. Understanding the library as a learning commons, focused on learning and focused on the learner is crucial in this context.
More About Leading Learning
Canadian Library Association & Treasure Mountain Canada: A Vision for Canadian School Library Learning Commons
Saskatchewan School Library Association: Transforming School Libraries in Canada: Leading Learning from the Learning Commons
Pembina Trails School Division: New national school library standards for the 21st century officially launched
Anita Brooks Kirkland: From Hubris to Humility: Welcoming New Standards for School Libraries in Canada