The Heart of a School: A "Day in the Life"" of a Teacher-Librarian

Jody Howcroft

“The heart of a school.”1  Roch Carrier, Canadian author and National Librarian,  used this phrase to describe school libraries. Think of a school library you have visited recently. Would you describe it in the same way?

The fact is that if we took a tour across the province there would be a huge discrepancy,  from shining examples of the ideal library to libraries  that languish in a state of neglect.

Let’s stop for a moment on our imaginary tour at one school: Cathy Wever Elementary  School in Hamilton, a school that celebrated its one-year anniversary  this past September.  It is a model of what every school of today should be: a beacon within its gritty, downtown neighbourhood.  The library in Cathy Wever is an example of the ideal – truly the “heart of the school” – and it is here where we will spend the day.

Only 10 percent of Ontario elementary schools have a full-time teacher-librarian, compared with 42 percent 25 years ago.2

7:45 a.m.
By its location within steps of the school’s front door, the library signals its status in the school. A sign says “Welcome” and the doors are wide open.
Sue MacLachlan, the school’s full-time teacher- librarian, is out making her rounds. She adeptly juggles a tangle of bulbs and wires while making repairs to AV equipment and determining which pieces need to be sent out for repair. Cathy Wever is a school of 654 students, with two floors and a generous footprint, making this a time-consuming  task.  This  multitasking master  chats  with colleagues at the same time, updating them on new arrivals in the library, planning opportunities to work as a team, and fielding their requests for materials: “Is there a picture  book  suitable for Intermediate-level students touching on the theme  of  acceptance?” “Could  a  collection  of books on pioneers be set aside?”


8:30 a.m.
Back in the library, MacLachlan starts pulling books for the staff she connected with on her rounds while  bracing for the bell to ring. Ten minutes to go … This  room  shines. Windows  cover  one  full length of the room. The furniture is comfortable, unblemished, and  clean. The  space allows for an enviable floor plan consisting of computers, tables, a desk, a carpeted area for read-alouds, comfortable seating, two offices, a professional library, a  book  room,  a  circulation  desk, and books – precisely organized shelves stocked with a large, current collection.


8:40 a.m.
The bell rings. Today,  like  every  day,  MacLachlan  will  see students from Primary, Junior and Intermediate divisions. This  is her preparation time. She does a  quick  survey: Lessons planned? Teaching materials organized? Marked  work  ready to return? She spends some time finishing marking and recording the results. For students in grades 6 to



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