Equitable Access for All

When I considered the question, “Should libraries in economically developing nations rely on donations and weeded books from more economically developed nations?”, I immediately thought of Chimamanda Adichie’s (2009) TED talk where she describes growing up in Nigeria reading stories from Europe or North America about children who eat apples and always talk about the weather.  Her talk made me question the value of sending weeded books from our school libraries to Africa, as was the practice for many years in our district.  Boxes of discarded books were sent to the Afretech Aid Society (2013) without consideration of their appropriateness.  Instead of receiving boxes of old books, shouldn’t children in developing nations have access to current technology?

In researching the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) website, I discovered the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Libraries are in a unique position to be able to have an impact on all of these goals in developing countries around the world.


Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of IFLA – CC BY 4.0

After searching the Library Map of the World link, I found one of the SDG stories that intrigued me.  Coding for Kids in Libraries in Romania was a pilot project set up in 2017 to develop the coding skills of 450 Romanian children.  The project focused on using public libraries to help highschool students learn coding.  The results were impressive: “a significant improvement in kids’ skills, a decrease of time they spend on internet as consumers of entertainment and an increase of time they spend for educational purposes, librarians are more confident in working with youth and, due to better communication, services they offer to kids are more diverse” (Progress Foundation, 2017).  These children were learning valuable skills that would help them get jobs in the future.

Another story that highlights the use of mobile devices is the Lubuto Literacy Partners (LLP) of Zambia that developed curriculum materials that were accessed on mobile devices to teach children to read in one of the 7 major languages.  The youth participants used the low-cost, durable One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops that were available in the Lubuto libraries to learn to read in their mother tongue.  This initiative had profound impacts on teaching literacy to vulnerable children and youth (Meyers, 2016).

Both stories highlight how ensuring children from economically developing nations have equitable access to technology benefits their societies in many ways.  Children can learn new ICT skills as well as build stronger ties to their own communities.  Sending our used books to other countries, although a noble intention, does not appear to meet the needs of developing nations; rather technology, accessed through libraries, has a far greater and more meaningful impact on people’s lives.

Adichie, C.N. (2009, July). The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Afretech Aid Society. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.afretech.org/

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/

Meyers, J. K. (June 10, 2016). LubutoLiteracy: Use of Digital Technology to Teach Reading in Zambia. Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/node/10521

Progress Foundation. (August 19, 2017). Coding for Kids in Libraries.  Retrieved from https://librarymap.ifla.org/stories/Romania/CODING-FOR-KIDS-IN-LIBRARIES/20

Supporting my Colleagues

At my school, teachers are expected to have expertise in technology as each student regularly uses either their own laptops (required in Grades 4-7) or ipads (used by students in K-3).  Therefore, the Teacher-Librarian is not viewed as the only expert in the building.  Sharing strategies, resources, and technology is built into our culture.

Once a month, our administrators and teaching staff, including ELL and LST teachers, meet for Collaboration Time 2:00 – 3:00 pm before our regular staff meeting (3:00 – 4:30 pm).  During this time, we share new practices, websites, apps, or other technology resources.  Next year, I will use this time to share district-wide database collections and school-based collections and how to locate them on our internal staff website.  My goal is to use Destiny Collections to create “pathfinders” for teachers and students to access from the main Destiny Homepage.  These collections will be public to all West Vancouver users and will focus on resources used in Inquiry Units focused on the Big Ideas in BC’s New Curriculum.

Destiny Collections

Image retrieved from West Vancouver School Libraries Destiny Collections

In order to ensure these resources are suitable and relevant, I will consult with grade group teachers during their Team Collaboration Time.  I will request access to their shared Inquiry Units on Google Docs, so that I can support them in finding resources that meet the needs of their students.

Another way I can support my colleagues is to showcase professional and student resources in the staff room.  When we purchased a large quantity of Indigenous Education books in April, we put them in the staff room before they went into regular circulation in the Library.  Teachers browsed through the books and found titles that gave them ideas for lessons and their Inquiry Units.

Finally, I will continue to use district email and Twitter to connect with my colleagues on new books and professional resources that they may be interested in.  As the school’s Professional Development Rep. and new Teacher-Librarian, I will share teaching strategies, resources, and technologies with my colleagues to support their teaching of students in our school.

Twitter share

Image retrieved from @andreaasmith45 Messages

Follett Corporation. (2018). Collections by Destiny. Retrieved from https://www.follettlearning.com/technology/products/library-management-system/collections-by-destiny.

Province of British Columbia. (2018). BC’s New Curriculum.  Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/.


Supported by Innovation

I am fortunate to work in a district where there is a culture of innovation and a willingness to try new ideas and practices.  Our Superintendent, Chris Kennedy, who writes a weekly blog, Culture of Yes , has been a strong leader in supporting innovative practices.  He has supported teachers to learn, unlearn, and relearn by bringing in guest speakers to our opening days including Yong Zhao, author of World Class Leaders, partnering with others to support the independently organized TEDxWestVancouverED conferences, eliminating letter grades from intermediate report cards, promoting the use of Twitter and blogging by staff and students, ensuring all teachers have a free laptop provided by the district, and instituting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for all Grade 4-7 students in the district.  The district has also provided multiple professional development opportunities for e-portfolios (FreshGrade) and Inquiry-based learning (Kath Murdoch), and ensured that schools have the digital resources needed such as Google Apps for Education, Discovery Education, short-throw projectors, and an upgraded internet infrastructure.  Finally, the district has supported teachers’ professional growth by providing Innovation Grants ($1000-$3500) for teams to investigate new ideas and practices. I feel like my teaching has transformed significantly in the last ten years since Chris arrived in our district.

As a result, I would not drop anything from my current practice, but I want to explore two of Richardson’s ideas:

Talk to strangers 

As Richardson (2012) notes, “it’s now easier than ever to communicate, create, and collaborate with others from around the globe who share our passion to learn.”  Although my school has a focus on technology, I feel that students need to connect more with others around the world and learn from them.  I know of teachers who have connected with classrooms through Twitter and my goal next year is to connect with an Australian school that is also using the same Inquiry Model at Caulfeild. I want the students to share their Big Ideas and Essential Questions and get different perspectives to expand their learning.

Do real work for real audiences –

Real-life inquiry-based learning is key to student engagement and ownership.  So often, students can not see the purpose of their learning.  By ensuring that their learning is tied to action, students will begin to see how what they are learning is meaningful and has an impact.  Richardson suggests that “real work for real audiences” may be hard to find, but it is worth it.  I found several examples in Ritchie’s (2017) article about Marc Prensky’s (2016) book on Real-World Education.  My goal is to attempt at least one such activity next year with students, using technology as Richardson suggests, and getting students to focus on their audience.  Students should not simply “do work” for their teachers, but instead share their learning with others.

Kennedy, C. (2018). Culture of Yes. Retrieved from https://cultureofyes.ca/

Prensky, M. (2016). Education to Better Their World:Unleashing the Power of 21st-Century Kids. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Richardson, W. (2012). Why School?: How Education Much Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00998J5YQ . TED Conferences Publishing. [EBOOK]

Ritchie, N. (March 2017). World Changers: A bold new educational paradigm is emerging that literally has the power to help students change the world. Melbourne’s Child. Retrieved from

Zhao, Y. (2012). World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Developing More Skills

Well, it’s official – I will be the new Teacher-Librarian two days a week at my school in September!  I will also work a half-day each week as the T-L at Eagle Harbour, a K-5 Montessori school.  Having been an elementary classroom teacher for the last 23 years, this will mark a significant change in what I will focus on for my own professional learning.  This change in role has sharpened my focus on what I can do to further develop my ICT skills and pedagogy next year.

1. Learn the Destiny Library Manager software – This action will be my priority this summer.  Since I now have login access to the platform, I will investigate the instructional videos on how to find circulation statistics and how to do an inventory of the collection.  I will use the steps outlined by Follett (2018) to categorize and organize the collection.

2. Connect with other T-Ls – I have been attending the monthly school district T-L meetings since February and will continue to stay connected with my colleagues via email, Twitter, and Google Docs.  Currently, the T-Ls are working on a shared Google Doc listing online and print resources related to the Big Ideas in Social Studies Curriculum from K to 7.  Also, I will continue to follow the numerous individuals and organizations on Twitter that continue to influence my learning over the past three years.


Image from @andreaasmith45

3. Document the changes to the Library Learning Commons space – I have spoken to administration, the former and new PAC chairs, the Library Assistant, and teacher colleagues about my ideas for the LC space in September.  I plan to update the space and organize the collection by genre.  In order to keep track of the transformation, I will post photos and videos of the changes on this Blog.

4. Attend the BCTLA Conference “Challenge Accepted” on October 19, 2018 – This will be my first conference in the role of T-L and I’m so excited to attend!  I really enjoy professional development and I am keen to learn more.  I joined the BCTLA PSA last year so I hope to make better use of this resource in my learning.


Image from @bctla

Follett Corporation. (2018). Genre Services and Best Practices. Retrieved from https://www.follettlearning.com/professional-services/simplify/library-services/genre-services