Climbing to Excellence: Defining Characteristics of Successful Learning Commons

Khera, Michelle

Educational Theory and Practice (ET)

Loertscher, David V, & Koechlin, Carol. (2014). Climbing to Excellence: Defining Characteristics of Successful Learning Commons.(FEATURE). Knowledge Quest, 14.

This is an interesting article on what a learning commons is and the ever changing definition and idea of what a school library is and should be. I liked the emphasis on the different behaviors that might be seen in a learning commons, such as playing, creating, tinkering, building, making, experimenting, sharing, performing, producing, doing, constructing, connecting, accessing, and self-monitoring. I argue that reading still needs to be emphasized, because I worry that we will get too far away from the reading aspect of libraries, but overall, this is a super useful article relating to educational theory and I plan on taking it to my director in hopes of encouraging a learning commons on our school campus.

A Review of the 2018 AASL Standards

Sasaki, Lori


Loertscher, D.V. (2018). A Review (National School Library Standards — AASL). Teacher Librarian, 45(3), p. 36-48. Retrieved from

This is a lengthy and detailed review and analysis of the new AASL 2018 standards. The review points out a few strengths, namely that the standards address inquiry in more detail, and many, many areas of concern. Some areas of concern that stand out include the role of the library in affecting learning in the greater school vision, the lack of a central role for technology, and the absence of free and independent reading. For all of the concerns, there is also a section with recommendations for “thinking ahead.”

This article should be required reading for anyone working in school libraries, whether they have tried to make sense of the new AASL standards or not. Underlying the entire review is the sense of urgency for the profession to demonstrate the indispensability of the role of teacher librarians and school libraries in a time when their existence is being questioned. The recommendations push teacher librarians to think deeply and critically about their role in learning, to imagine what learning can look like, and to create learning commons for 21st century learners.

Parent book clubs

Goering, Patricia


Deuschle, K. (2017). Using parent book clubs to build a school-wide reading community. Knowledge Quest, 46(2), 16-20. Retrieved from

Deuschle describes how she implemented a parent book club to create a community of readers. She gives a detailed, easy-to-replicated, description of how she organized the book club in order to keep it simple for both her and her students’ busy parents. The club’s activities consisted of mostly email-initiated contact with two events per year.

I found this to be an interesting idea, that seems relatively simple to implement, yet has the possibility to make a big difference. The positive effect Deuschel describes also makes sense considering that the biggest indicator of a student being an avid reading is if their parents are readers.

‘Teaching at the desk’

Goering, Patricia


Elmborg, J. K. (2002). Teaching at the desk: Toward a reference pedagogy. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 2(3): 455-464. doi:10.1353/pla.2002.0050

Elmborg describes how one-on-one interactions with students at the reference desk can model the writing conference and use socratic-style questioning to lead students to finding their own answers to reference questions, learning valuable information literacy skills in the process, instead of simply giving them the answer or a list of best sources.

As a teacher librarian, I found this source to be a practical tool to take advantage of reference questions as teachable moments.

Community Collaboration for Inquiry Success

Moreno, Mary


Fuller, C. F, Byerly, G. G., Kearley, D. D., & Ramin, L. L. (2014). Community collaboration for inquiry success. Knowledge Quest, 43(2), 56-59.  


As we have discussed during class, it is often the case that one plus one equals three, at least when it comes to collaboration. In this article, the authors describe what was a one community, one book program turning into renewed focus on student performance and developing a stronger workforce with broad information skills. Inquiry skills would be taught K-12, but the partnership also included college and university librarians who would build on and continue the curriculum. What resulted was the Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning organization. The DI4LL chose Guided Inquiry Design as their model. A new curriculum for K-20 was developed, and teacher librarians learned new methods of providing instruction “throughout the inquiry process rather than just instruction on accessing information and resources.”


What stood out to me in this article is the range of the collaboration. I’ve never heard of K-20 planning before, and I think it is an amazing idea. The authors were honest about some of the growing pains associated with this process: staff found finding time challenging, and shifting perspectives wasn’t always smooth. The group had a can-do attitude, however. Grants were written for additional staff and PD opportunities. The new relationships built through this process promoted success, and the group developed an integrated ID curriculum that librarians are excited about.

School Librarian Leadership

Felix Davila III
ROOTS LEWIS, ,KATHRYN. (2016). The school librarian and leadership what can be learned? (cover story). Teacher Librarian, 43(4), 18-21. Retrieved from
Roots Lewis discusses key methods of positioning oneself in the best way to achieve success within the school environment through harnessing leadership traits and practices. She focuses on three major steps that can shift librarians into a positive direction. She highlights consistent research as a major key, noting that understanding trends, changes, resources and advancements informs and prepares practice. She acknowledges that relationships with the principal are crucial. Knowing that librarian goals are in line with the principals mindset can do wonders for progress. She is also a proponent for “highlighting” one’s program, not being afraid to sort of brag or at least showcase what the library does. This all combines to show the library can be important and a difference maker.

I appreciated Roots Lewis’ take mainly because I have seen it first hand. At my job, the principal is incredibly supportive of our efforts and enjoys that the library staff is passionate about work. In addition, our work is constantly displayed or highlighted in faculty emails and newsletters, to not only show what work is done, but to show that the principal fully backs what is done as well. This article was very important to me, as it reminds us to consider how much librarians can positively impact their own situations.

A great resource for school (and all) librarians

We Need Diverse Books is an organization that is dedicated to supporting diverse authors and promoting diverse books. The group started with a hashtag and has grown by leaps and bounds to become a force in the publishing and children’s books world. The website includes TONS of resources and links to websites by and about diverse authors, their books, and the world of diversity in schools and school libraries.

Check out the blog, and follow them on Instagram, too.