Meeting the Future: New National School Library Association Survey
Results and Analysis Report
The purpose of this national survey was to determine the will of the school library community with regard to the formation of a new national organization given the imminent dissolution of the Canadian Library Association (CLA). The survey, Do We Need a New National School Library Association? was designed by a small working group of CLA school library affiliates and distributed to those who attended the additional meeting organized for Treasure Mountain Canada (TMC) in Toronto, January 2016, provincial committee chairs for the Leading Learning standards project, past paper writers and attendees of TMC as well as provincial association presidents. The survey thus gathered the ideas and wisdom of hundreds interested in the future of school libraries in Canada. The results as documented in the analysis in this report demonstrate overwhelming support for establishing a national school library group as well as valued advice for work focus and future directions. Because of the impending dissolution of CLA, there was a need for the working group to move very quickly in setting up a new organization. Canadian Voices for School Libraries (CVSL) has been established and a website domain secured to host the future launch and work of your new national organization. We wish to heartily thank all those who responded to the survey and provided their valuable comments. We will keep you informed as promised and look forward to the work ahead which can and will involve many of you to develop and position CVSL as a valuable professional organization dedicated to fostering the growth of the school library learning commons in Canada and developing a national network of school library practitioners and supporters.
Demographics of the Survey Responses
- The survey went out on February 10th, 2016 and closed April 30, 2016, garnering 156 responses from school library professionals across Canada. Several of the responses were submitted on behalf of organizations thus representing contributions from many more hundred individuals, thus the breadth of responses to the survey is significant. (See Table 1)
- Responses also represented diverse interests e.g. teacher librarians, librarians, technicians, education consultants and district school library coordinators.
- Responses were representative of a wide range of institutions – elementary, secondary, public, catholic, and independent schools as well as faculties of education and a ministry of education representative.
- The responses ranged across our diverse school library community to demonstrate wide interest in a new national association for school libraries in Canada. (See Table 2)
- Email addresses were provided by 105 respondents expressing the desire to be updated on a new national school library organization progress and 45 respondents indicated that they want to actively be involved and help build the new organization.
Question Responses and Analysis
Each question targeted attention to a specific area of interest to guide the development and scope of the potential new association.The following charts and analysis summarize the findings.
Although 84% rated their response as important/very important we observed in the comments that many had misinterpreted the question. Nevertheless the majority of comments confirmed the value of this historic school library e-journal as a needed voice for professional issues, research and advocacy.
CVSL Take Away
SLiC is a valued resource for those who know it well. Making SLiC a must have accessible resource for our professional learning community and the voice of the future is the goal.
The response to Question 2 was very positive with 87% rating the continued development of Leading Learning as important/very important. Some concern was voiced in regard to the need to keep the standards and indicators up to date and ‘alive’.
CVSL Take Away
Consensus for investment in the standards document was overwhelming. Comments revealed that Leading Learning has been a ‘game changer’ in their districts putting school libraries in a new light at the center of learning and school improvement.
The survey responses provided solid support for the continued work of TMC (Treasure Mountain Canada) with 71.8% rating this bi-annual school library symposium as important/very important. A small number of contributors stated that they were unfamiliar with the work of TMC.
CVSL Take Away
Continuance of this unique national ‘think tank’ of school library issues and growth is needed to encourage teacher librarians in schools and university preparation programs, learning commons lead teachers, librarians, technicians, education consultants and district school library coordinators to conduct and share home grown research of learning commons practice. Promotion is needed, and the hosting of future symposia by provincial groups to spread out participation will be ongoing work.
The survey indicated a very strong response to the need of a national network for school library practitioners with a 90% rating as important/very important. Comments revealed a need to provide community for school library personnel who frequently are the only one in a school. Inclusion of both professional and technical staff was a repeated request. Comments re strengthening the network include:
- School library learning commons issues are similar and we really can learn a lot from each other, strengthening and not duplicating efforts
- Staffing at all professional levels must be included in the discussion
- Alignment with other national groups with similar interests also provides powerful potential
- Leverage technology to bridge our geographical distance from each other
- Innovative approaches shows the whole country that we are cutting edge & valuable
- A life line to connect and share ideas/advocacy
- Need more school library specific professional development opportunities
CVSL Take Away
Building a national network of practitioners, scholars, and advocates is an important base from which to draw expertise and strengthen local work. Engaging with the many and diverse needs of regions across the country will be a key goal of the new association.
Although education in Canada is a provincial/territorial mandate for the most part a very high percentage of respondents saw that a cohesive national voice was needed for issues of common concern with a 93% rate as important/very important. Comments re a national voice include:
- Provincial voices are most important
- Important that all voices in the discussion be heard
- Big idea concepts become stronger when we are all working on the same page e.g. Leading Learning standards of practice, copyright, digital citizenship, Canadian culture, special needs, equity etc.
- Need to be cognizant of the diversity of our country and that needs and demands will always differ across Canada
- Connecting school libraries into other organizations, educational communities, parent organizations, etc.
- National voice about common concerns is often important in spreading the line of support for a local issue
- Any national voice must be broadly inclusive and recognize the contributions of ALL school library practitioners (and their advocates)
CVSL Take Away
All voices need to be heard and encouraged to contribute. The new association has an additional role in the social justice side of advocacy to advocate for those whose voices are in the minority or who do not have the capacity to lobby for the work of school library learning commons.
What should a new association look like?
The seven possibilities presented in the survey were endorsed very highly by respondents.
CVSL Take Away
This response has given the new association high levels of support for building a new association as an active participant and learning leader in education and library communities in Canada.The diverse needs of each school library and each region in our vast country was a concern raised repeatedly by respondents and thus a priority for the new organization.
The survey Do We Need a New National School Library Association? fulfilled its purpose of determining the will of the school library community across Canada with regard to forming a new national organization given the imminent dissolution of CLA. The survey attracted a healthy participation rate and originated a wealth of commentary, cautions, ideas and suggestions for why and how a national school library association is needed to support the growth and development of school library learning commons standards of practice across a diverse and continually evolving Canadian educational landscape. The response led to the urgency of creating “Canadian Voices for School Libraries” and establishing a web presence for future goals around our professional journal, School Libraries in Canada (SLiC), Leading Learning standards of practice, Treasure Mountain Canada school library research symposia, and the strengthening of provincial/territorial connections, collaborations, supports, sharing and championing of the work of school library learning commons in every province and territory. Unique in our diversity but similar in goals and standards of practice, the survey has demonstrated that a new school library association is needed to engage school library practitioners in a wide variety of professional activities that can impact their work around leading learning and teaching in every school.
Working Group Members
Judith Sykes, Alberta. CLA School Library Advisory Committee
Linda Shantz-Keresztes, Alberta. CLA School Library Advisory Committee
Cindy Van Wonderen, Ontario. CLA Voices for School Libraries Network
Jo-Anne Gibson, Manitoba. CLA Voices for School Libraries Network
Derrick Grose, Ontario. Editor, School Libraries in Canada
Carol Koechlin, Ontario. TMC Founder and Co-Chair
Liz Kerr, Ontario. TMC Founder and Co-Chair
Anita Brooks Kirkland, Ontario. TMC Committee