Leading Learning Receives OLA President’s Award

Leading LearningOne of the great privileges I had as the 2014 president of the Ontario Library Association was to select the recipient of the OLA President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement.

The President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement acknowledges an outstanding action or contribution that has in a major or unique way enhanced or furthered librarianship in Ontario. The selection is at the full discretion of the President of the OLA. Awards are only given if there is something of true historic significance to recognize. The publication of Leading Learning: Standard of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada certainly meets those criteria.

Presentation of the award took place on Friday January 30, at Super Conference 2015. It gives me great pleasure to share my introductory remarks, and the acceptance speech given by the Leading Learning writing coordinator Carol Koechlin.

OLA President's Award

L-R: Phillip Jeffrey, project focus group, Cindy van Wonderen, steering committee, OLA president Anita Brooks Kirkland, CLA president Marie de Young, Carol Koechlin, steering committee, and Ruth Hall, project focus group.

Introduction: Leading Learning Project

The President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement acknowledges an outstanding action or contribution that has in a major or unique way enhanced or furthered librarianship in Ontario.

The publication of Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Libraries in Canada is an event of true historic significance. As the document says, “Learners have a right to expect good school libraries in every school in Canada.” Standards can indeed help measure practice, but Leading Learning does much more. By focusing on the needs of the learner, Leading Learning provides a framework for growth. Every school, no matter the status of its library program, can find itself in this framework and decide on tangible steps for improvement. The development of Leading Learning brought together input from every province and territory in the country, and successfully developed standards for growth that are meaningful within this very disparate context. This is a remarkable achievement.

In the Ontario context, Leading Learning provides a sympathetic framework for achieving the vision of our own OSLA guideline, Together for Learning, and as such, is particularly deserving of this award for enhancing and furthering librarianship in this province.

This award recognizes the strength of the Leading Learning vision. It recognizes the extraordinary accomplishment of the project’s steering committee led by project coordinator Judith Sykes and the focus group for capturing a vision and framework that has such great potential for all schools in Canada. The award recognizes Ontario’s particular contribution to the project, and it recognizes the support of the Canadian Library Association in making all of this possible.

We are very happy to have the following representatives of the Leading Learning Project with us today: Cindy van Wonderen and Carol Koechlin from the project steering committee, and Ruth Hall and Phillip Jeffrey from the project focus group. We are also very pleased to recognize Marie de Young, president of the Canadian Library Association.

It gives me great pleasure to invite Carol Koechlin, the Leading Learning writing coordinator, to accept this award on the project’s behalf.

Acceptance Speech by Carol Koechlin

On behalf of the Leading Learning Project team I am truly honoured to accept this prestigious award this afternoon. Our sincere thanks to the Ontario Library Association, and President, Anita Brooks Kirkland for this important recognition. The project team also thank the Canadian Library Association for their sponsorship and for providing the many supports we received along the way. For this project to have any meaning and impact in Canadian schools it had to be a national document and together we have accomplished that. Thank you CLA. I will not try to name all the contributors to this work for reasons I will make clear in a moment but we must give a cheer of gratitude to the unwavering leaderships of Judith Sykes, our project chair.

Think it Do it! What a great conference theme and it pretty much sums up the story of the Leading Learning Project. It is important to note however the collaborative nature of this project to understand its authenticity. You may not realize that the document has its roots in the pulse of school libraries right around our diverse country. Committees and dedicated individuals from every province and territory in Canada joined the work. Some 90 individuals added their voice and that is a modest estimate. Every step of the way was transparent and collaborative and truly exciting for everyone involved.

We didn’t go for a quick fix but rather a complete transformation of school libraries to address evolving learner needs and pedagogical shifts. Educators are grappling with a new culture of learning to quote the book title of our distinguished guest speaker, John Seely Brown. I love his analogy of the work in the new culture of learning to be like that of the dynamics of a petri dish where nutrients combine and are transformed. That is what a Learning Commons should be…. a petri dish…an environment and impetus for the chemistry of learning…..experimentation, play and knowledge building.

Coupled with this vision and the belief that every student in Canada deserves and needs the benefits of excellent school library programs and facilities, we began the research and writing. Despite uncovering the many challenges school libraries face we also rejoiced in finding many exemplars of schools and districts that understood and valued the work of the school library. These library programs were busy leading their schools into the future and we knew that we were on the right track. Keeping the learner central to our vision we established bold standards, and rich indicators of practice illustrated by real examples that are happening in schools right around the country. We developed a growth continuum so every school in Canada can find points of entry into the standards, no matter the status of their current library. The results are rich and reflective of our combined vision for leading learning with futures-oriented learning environments and building literacies and dispositions to empower all learners in Canada.

Although Leading Learning is designed to transform school libraries, we believe that the five standards framing Leading Learning can apply to any library community, not just school libraries. So our invitation to you no matter what kind of library you represent is to join us. Help us. Lead the way to preparing learners to question, inquire, experiment, play and create, think and do. Lead the way to bringing equity of opportunity to your communities. Lead the way to reinvestment in the culture and future of Canada. The future is now. Let’s do it! Let’s do it together!

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