Talking Library at Queen’s Park

It was #libraryday at Queen’s Park today and I was part of it! Today was the first of many annual events to come where library advocates from the Ontario Library Association meet with MPP’s, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Policy Advisors to share information about the impact of libraries across our province.

#libraryday@ Queens Park

#libraryday@ Queens Park

My team began our day meeting with Deputy Minister of Education George Zegarac and Assistant Deputy Minister Grant Clarke. We had a wonderful conversation talking about the impact of effective school library programs on student literacy, TL’s as leaders in digital literacy, the importance of the  library learning commons as community connectors and safe havens for our students. We also discussed the importance of embedding the role of the Teacher Librarian in pre-service training for teachers, how effective library commons can support the needs of First Nation, Metis and Inuit learners and curriculum. It was a great conversation and the Minister was very interested in learning how the OSLA and Teacher Librarians across the province could support teachers in all of these areas. Our team was very encouraged and look forward to following up on this conversation.

Shortly after we had the opportunity to meet with Katie Williams, the Policy Advisor to Education Minister Liz Sandals, she too was very supportive in our conversation and was eager to learn more about the impact of The Forest of Reading programs on student literacy.  We will be inviting Katie and the Minister to our upcoming Superconference and Forest of Reading Celebration for sure!

I attended question period in the house for the first time in my life! What a ruckus!! It was interesting to see Premier Kathleen Wynne and all the MPP’s in action, but I certainly was left wondering how anything actually gets done! However, seeing this part of the democratic process in action in real time was pretty darn interesting.

Our day was wrapped up by each team member meeting as constituents with our respective MPP’s to share the big picture messages about School Libraries, Public Libraries, First Nations Libraries, and Academic Libraries.  The conversations were rich and focused on our home turf.

So now I’m home and I’m thinking about the day, the impact we may or may not have made and about our next steps. I am encouraged that so many of our elected officials are interested in hearing our stories and learning about how libraries curate the culture, support communities, engage all learners and are so very relevant in a digital age.


Thinking about Inquiry

T4L Inquiry copy

From Together for Learning, OLA, 2010

I spent last weekend working with a roomful of very clever people.  We were discussing Inquiry Based Learning in the Social Sciences, Social Studies and History & Geography Curricula in Ontario and how challenging many people are finding this shift in pedagogy.

As a Teacher Librarian, I am familiar with the Inquiry Process and I’m absolutely thrilled that we are now being explicitly encouraged to embed the process in our teaching practice with these revised curricula.  This is such a wonderful convergence of the work of the TL and the classroom teacher! It supports the ideas of co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessment, and co-reflection and encourages classroom teachers to collaborate with the TL in the Library Learning Commons.

The key to this process is helping our learners develop good questions that will encourage them to engage directly with meaningful learning.  The TL can support and guide students with digital and traditional resources, searching strategies, lessons about bias and fair use of information, support in the use of a variety of technologies and more. Both the classroom teacher and TL have to take on the role of guide and allow students the time (the four letter word) to explore and think.

I think the biggest challenge will be convincing my colleagues that inquiry does not have to be the massive ISU assignment but can be broken down into smaller, relevant experiences that will help guide our learners deeper into the Inquiry Process. It’s an interesting journey.  One that is supported by the OSLA Document Together for Learning and one that I can’t wait to begin!

eBooks and School Library Collections

This year we decided to begin develop a collection of eBooks for our student collection.  This is an interesting activity since vendors are very interested in the school library sector. It appears that in this day and age publishers are still struggling with a vision of what reading looks like and how to monetize what we interpret as “book”.Ebook

I came to e-reading reluctantly.  I purchased a Kindle device about five years ago, fully expecting to hate it.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered how much I truly loved reading on this thing!  Not only could I carry my library with me, I could add to it whenever I wanted and I increase the font for my aging eyes. Gone were the days when I the most important packing for travel was the selection of books I would need for the length of my holiday.  Additionally, I could create my personal wish list online and purchase as I see fit.

Now in the context of a library collection I am doing the same thing. What I find challenging is selecting titles that give me the best bang for the buck in my ever decreasing library budget, while trying to balance multiple access titles with the traditional metaphor of “book” i.e. one to one lending. I understand that costs around the actual artistic creation of a book cannot change, but we do need to re-think the pricing of the digital content and some of strange ideas some publishing houses have about limits and pricing of content.

My question now is how to bring our schools into this century as we add digital assets to our collections and expect our students to understand them? There seems to be a general acknowledgment that our learners do learn differently in a digital age, their connectivity is something that is a given these days.  What we need to consider is how we increase the depth and breadth of their understanding of the digital resources we have to offer them and engage them in thinking critically about digital content? Especially when their teachers are equally as unfamiliar with these types of resources as their students?

I am working on a five year plan with these resources, investing annually in e-books, promoting them with students, teachers and administrators with the intent that at the end of that time frame they become an expected and highly utilized part of our collection.  I’m hoping to see a convergence of technologies to search and support our library collections to help us along the way. Hopefully, in five years I’ll be writing about our success!

Image courtesy of Randy Rogers licensed Creative Commons

Advocating for Teacher Librarianship

This year I am Vice President of the Ontario School Library Association. Part of this three year commitment is that I attend the quarterly meetings of the Ontario Library Association Board and take part in interesting & challenging discussions with some of the smartest people in the field of Libraries, Knowledge and Technology.

Yesterday our activities were focused on planning forward for the OLA as a whole and specifically on the importance of advocating for the importance of Teacher Librarians in schools across the province of Ontario.

Advocacy is a big hairy monster of a discussion that is not for the feint of heart. It is also necessary to ensure that today’s learners, educators and administrators understand the important role we have in every publicly funded school in our province. Understanding our key role in the school community is imperative in order to advocate for the appropriate supports in our education system to ensure the Teacher Librarian and effective School Library programs continue to be part of every school.

So my question to Teacher Librarians in Ontario and beyond…..can you  effectively and succinctly describe your role to colleagues, administrators and the greater school community? Does your description align with the vision of literate graduates in the 21st Century? With this in place I think our path forward becomes clear.


Creative Commons License
This work by Mia MacMeekin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

February Blahs….

Now that we have fully experienced winter in Southern Ontario, I have to say I am truly sick an tired of winter. However, there are many reasons to be happy in February. Here is a short list of my ideas, I’m sure folks out there have many other ideas but here are mine:

  • The days are slowly getting longer (even though I have no motivation to be outside in the light)
  • Family Day
  • March Break is looming large (maybe it will be warm like last year?)
  • Spring is closer!

Additionally, I have some interesting activities I’m involved in to help me pass the winter weather. I have taken up knitting again and am enjoying work and knitting chat with others. I had opportunity to attend the OLA Superconference and had some great professional learning two weeks ago. I am beginning my term as Vice President of the OSLA, a commitment for the next three years! I am teaching Additional Qualification Courses for York again and really enjoying interacting with motivated learners. I love doing hot yoga two to three times a week to feel the heat, get some exercise and imagine I am in the Bahamas. I am transforming my school library into true learning commons with mobile technology, mobile furnishings, wireless access for students to bring their own devices with a mobile drop down zone, a virtual library collection to meet our learning needs and developing a culture of collaborative planning, teaching and learning for all.

I’m busy, but I need some vitamin D!

I’m on the Ballot!

t4lwordle copy

Wow, it feels kind of surreal but I am nominated for the role of Vice-President of the Ontario School Library Association. I’m really hoping to win this election since at this point in my career I know I have a lot to offer.

I’ve been a school librarian now for close to 14 years! Now four of those years I was a librarian sans library.  What that means is librarian in my heart whilst working centrally as the Consultant for School Libraries in YRDSB and three years as Program Leader with the ABEL  and Learning Connections online learning communities. I’ve served on the OSLA council as counsellor for a three year term and I have been the Teacher Leader for face to face and online Additional Qualification courses for Librarianship I, II & III for about 10 years.

I have been an advocate for school libraries as long as I have been an educator and as Head of Library at Keswick High School I continue to do so. Never have school libraries ever been so important to school learning communities.  As we move toward our vision of the Learning Commons, it is vitally important to support our teachers and students in negotiating the vast array of digital media and resources they access daily. It is important to ensure that we model for our younger colleagues what effective teaching and learning looks like in the Learning Commons and how we can work collaboratively as we co-plan, co-teach, co-reflect upon this experience together. Additionally, it is important that we ensure all school districts have access to information through  Virtual Libraries that support student learning needs at home and at school.

I am passionate about school libraries and effective school programs. In this day and age TL’s need to be connected learners and leaders. I am a connected Leader and Learner and I am ready to work with our membership, Together for Learning.