Valuable Professional Development

A couple of times each year on our district professional development days, the library staff from most of the 13 schools in my district get together. For the last two years, we have been meeting at each others’ libraries, a practice that we have found to be invaluable. I’ve decided to share our day here to summarize for my group as well as to suggest to others that if you are not already (1) getting together with other library people and (2) taking advantage of professional services available to you (in our case through our regional library), then you really ought to consider both. My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures to share. Next time I will.

On Friday, we spent the morning at Fort Assiniboine School library, which is a combined school and public library serving the K-9 school, the village and much of the very large Woodlands County. The partnership works very well, with the county providing such faithful support that the school benefits from a very attractive, well-stocked library with a full-time manager and part time clerk. A large-screen TV sits above a Wii station in a comfy den-style alcove. (Unfortunately, if you weren’t there, you’ll have to use your imagination since I didn’t take pictures.)

After a good chat with everyone as they arrived, we enjoyed a tour of the school, discovering a gorgeous hand-crafted tree-house reading-loft in the Kindergarten room (how I wish I had brought a camera) among the always unique and inspiring classrooms and common areas. (It was especially fun to see the graduation photo of one of our group members who attended the school a few years ago).

(Because I couldn't go any farther without a picture.)

Returning to the library, we then settled in to talk about e-readers and the learning commons concept with Yellowhead Regional Library consultant, Jocie Wilson. Before we got started Elaine Dickie from Barrhead Elementary, brought up the possibility of sharing subscriptions for journals like School Librarian and School Library Journal. The discussion led to the idea of asking YRL, through Jocie, to put together a package of journals including the above plus Quill & Quire, Resource Links and others, that could rotate through our schools by inter-school courier before being sent back. Elaine will compile a routing list.

Library manager, Louise Davison had closed the library for the day, but while we were there she admitted several patrons to browse while we continued on with our meeting in the middle of the library. Her words on my query about being closed were: “They have driven 20 kilometres to get here. We’re open.” That’s library service.

Jocie showed us some images of school libraries he had recently toured in Edmonton, that in many ways exemplified learning commons. We saw libraries that were the centre of their schools and were open, accessible, flexible and indispensable to students and teachers. I was surprised to learn that teacher-librarians managed these libraries, two of only six in the Edmonton public school system. One, however, was only half-time in the library, with no assistance, and the other was seldom in the library at all, doing team-teaching for research projects with mobile laptop labs in classrooms, while a library technician managed the library.

Jocie brought some e-readers to look at and we discussed the dismal progress of affordable solutions for schools in purchasing multiple copies of eBooks or utilizing Overdrive. Jocie described cloud solutions coming online recently, where a fixed number of e-books could be purchased and downloaded on any number of devices. Because of the inflexibility of titles available in any given ‘cloud’, (no access to new or otherwise requested books), this would only be worthwhile, in my opinion, if the cloud contained all titles commonly accessed for novel studies in all grades in Alberta.

We had a wonderful lunch provided by the Fort Assiniboine Public Library Board after which we reassembled at Barrhead Composite High School library, which serves Grades 7 to 12. We all stopped at the ‘Great Books’ display, where Library manager, Hilda Froese deceives trendy teens by displaying hidden gems among new books, ensuring their discovery and inevitable check-out.

With shelving angled in a pleasing design for maximum line-of-sign at the edges of this large and cheerful space, there is plenty of room in the centre of Hilda’s library for tables, where we participated in a 10-minute-read exercise with numerous graphic novels that Jocie had brought to show us. She gave us a book-talk guide and instructed us to examine the front and back covers, any summaries or blurbs we could find, then read the first chapter or 10-20 pages, a small section in the middle and at least a few pages at end.

This was a challenge for me. I chose Black Butler by Yana Toboso, a black-and-white manga, which happened to be #5 and chapters 20-23 of the series. Now, I can negotiate an Archie comic with the best of them, but I have to admit that I have completely neglected my manga-reading skills. I gathered that it was set in India during British colonialism and was about a cooking contest. Somebody got tied up in the middle of the book, but must have been freed because the good-guys won. I couldn’t think of any of my students who might be interested in it.

After we had all given our brief book talks, Jocie commented that although she had had a similar reaction to Black Butler, she had recently encountered a group of students who informed her that it was the best series ever! Just goes to show that hockey players shouldn’t try to choose toe-shoes for ballerinas. Listen to your students!

Below are some of the other books reviewed and recommended. Click on any image for the GoodReads page with reader reviews.


All in all, it was a productive, rejuvenating and affirming day. Being isolated, as we nearly all are in one-person libraries, we all get feeling that no-one knows what we do. There is no one with whom to discuss our successes and challenges. When we get together like this, we find others who can relate, who can admire and commiserate. We learn so much from each other and appreciate our YRL consultant lending her expertise to keep us on track and motivated.

But next time, I’m going to bring a camera. Oh, right. Next time is to be in my library.

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Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, eReaders in the School Library, Library Management

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