August 17

Reader’s Choice: Creating a Student-Centered Library

No one goes to the library to be prescribed a book. Allowing students to choose their own books helps create ownership – they are more likely to read them. When students ask for recommendations, I always point out at least five titles or a number of authors.

This doesn’t mean that I am not quick to suggest my favourite recent reads or new additions to the collection but time and again I see un-cracked books returned because the student took the book without buy-in.

Idea: I’ve been known to pull under-appreciated gems and add them to my shelving cart, where students sometimes gravitate to find popular books.


The time to get a new book is when you’ve finished the last one, not at 1:25 on Wednesdays. Ensure that the Learning Commons has frequent but not necessarily lengthy open-book exchange periods. Students will soon learn that the time is to be used wisely and it encourages students to look critically at their selections.

Avoid regularly scheduling upper intermediate classes for a whole class book exchange. The belief that it’s the only time they come to the library’ just doesn’t wash – if you build a collection with books they want – they will come.

The students that truly resist are likely not cracking the books they are forced to take out anyway – other, more individualized strategies are needed there.


Even though Melvil and I have basically broken up, Dewey did have one thing right…library books should not be levelled. Dewey’s system is the great equalizer – where students that struggle with reading would take out their non-fiction right beside everyone else.

One reader might benefit from the illustrations, another from the captions and a third from all the text cover to cover. Having said that, I do have a ‘Yellow Sticker’ section with beginner chapter books. We just don’t call them ‘Early Chapter books’ – they are simply the yellow sticker books. Yes, the students know, but it is less stigma.

Idea: Text Features are a must with any non-fiction. For more on this see my SlideShare on Elementary Non-Fiction Collection


There seems to be too much focus on helping students find that one ‘just right’ book. Rather, view the Reader as being on a continuum.

A developmental, trial and error process whereby books are sampled, a little absorbed, and exchanged – upgraded – to books that will hold attention longer. There is actually, no error in this process – each attempt brings the Reader more able to make critical choices and problem solve, and more able to narrow down the kinds of books that will hold interest.


You can bring in all the comfy seating, lowered shelving, open exchange you like but if the collection is not over-the-top high interest, the Readers will not come. Of course we all strive to develop a collection that reflects the diversity of today’s students but beyond that, what are the driving interests in your school community?

When I took over the library I could have been forgiven for thinking that the students were avid figure skaters, loved horses and were fascinated by Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In truth, they are none of these things. In our library, hockey, origami, humorous angst and Fantasy rule.

The non-fiction doesn’t have to cover everything. It can’t. It just has to be continually morphing to mirror the student’s interests. Build a collection where students are reading for information but perhaps more importantly, reading for fun.

Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. Bye-Bye, Dewey. Hello, Chapters. I only have my intermediate fiction sorted by genre and it has made the world of difference. Circulation of novels went up, uncirculated books were discovered. Students love the arrangement.

It’s super easy for shelving and helping students find books during a busy exchange is much more streamlined: “Do you have any ghost stories?” “Why yes, check out the Supernatural section” Drops mic.


Reading reward programs, contests, district programs all have a valuable place in promoting reading. But to be sure, there is no substitute to encourage a reader better than the treasure of a well-matched book.

As students must have choice in what they read, prescribing books that may not suit their reading level or offering prizes in return for check marks, may help build the expectation of a culture of reading but it may not necessarily build Readers.


In the words of Elsa, ‘Let it Go’. Books will get damaged, chewed, drawn on and any number of things that must not be named. I’m all for students learning about responsibility but if the solution to a lost book impacts the ability of the student to be a Reader and the ability of the Librarian to teach, then the solution is, in fact, the bigger problem.

It is up to each Librarian how they choose to handle this ubiquitous issue and there are lots of creative solutions. I have an ‘Oops’ program that works for us and there is another one here. Being too much of a Book Warden can damage relationships.



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April 7

Woot! Lots of learning at the Book Fair

Many thanks to all of the families who visited the Book Fair. Students had lots of fun choosing which books they would like to see added to the Vanier library collection. Students learned about customer service, money math, scheduling, and retail tidying up. Student leaders were exemplary in their commitment and showed a great sense of school spirit and responsibility. Proceeds from this fun literacy event go towards adding new books to the Vanier Learning Commons. Continue reading

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February 11

Using QR Codes to Celebrate Student Creations

Students celebrated their learning and the creations of their peers using QR codes.  There are a number of on-line ‘Quick Response’ Code generators available. I used Kaywa – select ‘Static’ for this free service.

Enter the URL of the destination website and click ‘Generate’. Then print the QR Code. Without adjustment, it will be 2″ by 2″.

QR Reader App Icon

I glued the codes onto hearts by way of ‘We Love Learning’ and posted about a dozen or so about the Learning Commons. Following a discussion on Quick Response Codes, we reviewed how to use the free app QR Reader.

The codes directed students to student work on our Vanier on Video site. Students were delighted to see their own work as well as the creations of other students in the school. I often use QR Codes to help spread the word about activities in the Vanier LC: from a footnote on September Kindergarten letters, by Learning Commons doorways and near bulletin boards.

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January 3

A Learning Community

We began the leap from a traditional library model to a library learning commons in September 2012. Here’s a top 10 list of some of the most striking benefits of a Learning Commons that we have observed:

1. Physical  LC: The space is open and inviting with no divisive stacks. There is space to create, to read, to build and to collaborate. Check out our transformation here.

2. Virtual LC: We use social media and digital student portfolios to share work and maintain a website that directs staff and students to the virtual learning commons. Continue reading

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September 17

Create vs. Consume

Choosing apps for school iPads can be a transformational task that might encourage discussion on learning goals and school missions. There are many great apps available but there are a few things to consider.

Photo 2016-02-29, 1 31 27 PM

Begin by clarifying your vision for the use of the devices. What are your objectives and goals, the ‘why’. Look at apps that help you meet those goals.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.39.19 AMLook for apps that are used to create rather than consume. Continue reading

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