This has been a whirlwind of a few days. Since picking up David Loertscher at the airport in Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon, he and I have nearly finished revisions on a new edition of his library collection mapping book, talked to a large number of students at both the St. George’s Jr and Senior School, hosted a fantastic presentation on the School Learning Commons in our newly renovated learning commons, travelled to Victoria where he was to facilitate Treasure Mountain Canada (a school learning commons research retreat and I presented a paper on Personal Learning Environments in a formal educational setting, witness the unveiling of a new set of national standards for the School Library Learning Commons and discuss the contents and ways of putting into action these new standards. There was so much that went on, the best that I can do as I sit waiting for the ferry on the way back to Vancouver is offer some reflections on some of the myriad of ideas that are rolling through my head at the moment.
First and foremost, this has been a week of making new connections. Some of this has been meeting people who’s names I have known or I have communicated with digitally but had never had a chance to meet in person. Others are new friends, met for the first time. West Coast folks will understand that we feel a deep connection to Canada, but we often feel very separated from those who live east of us. For a Vancouverite to travel to the closest Canadian city of comparable size, we have to cross two significant mountain ranges, the Coast Mountains and the Rockies. Both physically and psychologically, this can be a big distance. As the folks from eastern Canada were complaining and we do as well, it is often cheaper for us to travel overseas than it is to travel to the opposite Coast or even to fly from Vancouver to Toronto or Montreal. I hear stories of great things happening in Toronto like the Ontario Library Association’s Super-Conference, but have not considered swallowing the expense of actually attending. Meeting a number of folks who are movers and shakers in the OLA started to give me a much greater sense of what is going on in our country in terms of schools and school libraries. These are connections that I hope will continue to grow as I, hopefully, further immerse myself in the national school library “scene.” I also touched base with a few friends and colleagues in our provincial network of independent schools and in the BC Teacher Librarians Association. While our independent school network is growing ever stronger, I truly hope that the connection with our public school colleagues also continues to grow. Despite the differences in politics and funding, we have much in common and can only help each other to grow stronger.
David Loertscher is an amazing man. Not that I didn’t know this before, but spending four full days with him reminded me of how much of an inspiration he is to me and to so many others. It seemed that I couldn’t go ten feet without someone telling a story of how David had made them think, reconsider their stance, or rework their ideas. He pushes everyone and notices everything. I loved watching him interact with our students at St George’s. He was genuinely interested in what they were doing, thinking, and planning. He would happily answer questions about his “fancy” googles that he wears in order that he can read. He would listen intently to every student that he spoke to from grades 2-12 and would often be able to unveil things that were hidden to me who spends much more time with these same boys. He is a brilliant man, yet he is always interested in everyone else’s ideas and perspectives. He is more prone to ask questions than pontificate on what he thinks. As a musician, I would try to surround myself and observe great musicians so that I could learn from them and emulate them. As an educator and librarian, David serves as that kind of role model for me.
The new Canadian standards document, Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada, is a fantastic new document that serves as a beacon and guide for the school library’s and teacher librarian’s role in schools going forward. It focuses on learning rather than resources. It is suggestive and mentoring rather than prescriptive. Yet it contains enough meat that teacher librarians, administrators and other school leaders can use it as a model and inspiration. It is chalk full of examples of how each standard can be enacted without ever saying that to be a great service to your educational community you must do X. I have to admit that I was worried when I read a preview copy of the document back in March. I missed the stats that can be so helpful to us in advocating for support. I worried that without a document that said that collections should be of a certain size and staff of a certain number, cash-strapped admins and boards would continue to erode the library’s position in the school. The fact that this document is intended to work in parallel with the Achieving Information Literacy document published in 2003 and that the current document demonstrates how the Library Learning Commons is essential in its role as the inquiry hub of the school makes me feel assured that it is an important addition to our arsenal of evidence and advocacy for the roles we play. I look forward to seeing how this document is translated into it’s collaborative living edition and how people begin to implement these standards across the country.
I am constantly amazed at the talents and achievements of my colleagues. One trademark of Treasure Mountain retreats is the table talks that allow folks to share what they’ve been working on and thinking about. These more intimate sharing sessions are fantastic for dialogue and exploring these ideas in a fair bit of depth considering the short amount of time that we have with each presenter. Each paper is published and pre-reading is encouraged. I was particularly intrigued by the work of Pippa Davies with her version of the Virtual Learning Commons, Allana King and her study of transliteracy and Judith Sykes talking about “Mentoring, Accountability, Research, and Community” in the school learning commons. Not only was the content interesting, but many of the presenters of the day were not university professors who are paid, in part, to conduct research and present papers, but practitioners who are mindful and reflect in their work and are willing and able to share the fruits of that reflective practice with others. You folks are an inspiration to me.
I’m not sure where I go from here in terms of keeping the connections, ideas and inspiration alive, but I am so thankful for the time with these inspiring minds and look forward to the text opportunity to work with them again.