Moving Learning Forward: Improving References Services and Resources

Libraries today are intended to be dynamic, innovative, and collaborative learning spaces.  Library programs are aimed at meeting the needs of 21st century learners, especially in the development of information skills.  In their Leading Learning (2014) document, the Canadian Library Association envisions the library learning commons as this:

“The library learning commons is the physical and virtual collaborative learning hub of the school.  It is designed to engineer and drive future-oriented learning and teaching throughout the entire school.  Inquiry, project/problem-based learning experiences are designed as catalysts for intellectual engagement with information, ideas, thinking, and dialogue.  Reading thrives, learning literacies and technology competencies evolve, and critical thinking, creativity, innovation and playing to learn are nourished” (p.5).

The vision outlined above is a holistic, exciting, and forward-thinking one.  A key focus of this vision is the ways in which technology infuses library programming; supporting students to integrate its use into their learning, thereby ensuring that they develop the information literacy skills so crucial to navigating their 21st century world.  The CLA asserts that “a myriad of new technologies, the explosion of digital information, and the potential of collaborative working spaces and networks are driving pedagogical changes to school curricula” (Leading Learning, p.7).  Teacher-librarians are perfectly positioned and expertly qualified to provide students with the “…instruction and guidance to become sophisticated users of information and ideas in our complex world” (Leading Learning, p.7).

Furthermore, Ann Riedling (2012) states that “in the technological, global society of today, information literacy, defined as the effective use of information sources in all formats, cannot be overlooked” (p.7).  This statement, along with the CLA’s (2014) that “…honing of information management and literacy skills are key goals of the learning commons” and that “…opportunities to utilize a variety of resources…” (p.15) really resonated with me.  To effectively meet the needs of learners today, students need to access technology to develop their digital and information literacy skills, and they must be provided with a variety of materials in order to maximize their learning.  Print materials are no longer enough to meet the expanded literacies that are the result of our digital world.  Riedling (2012) acknowledges that “it is now an anomaly to use only printed resources in the realm of reference work” (p.14).


At the time of this assignment, I had begun a teacher-librarian position in addition to my regular part-time classroom job.  This has allowed me to gain insight into the established library program and the current status of the reference services and materials that are offered and provided at my school, and to see how I can move learning forward.  With the understanding that students of all ages need opportunities to engage in participatory learning, require a variety of formats to meet their information needs, and need to access technology to support the development of their information literacy skills, I want to improve reference services to incorporate the use of technology in the form of online databases, with a focus on primary students in particular.  The Leading Learning document provides outstanding guidance for improving reference services to reflect the learning needs of students in the 21st century.

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In my experience as a classroom teacher at the school, technology is predominantly used in the intermediate grades, and sees limited or no integration into the learning activities of primary-aged students.  This is reflective of the present conditions of the reference services at my school.  There are eight primary classes at our school, and about 40% of these teachers take their classes to our computer lab for activities and lessons that are separate from the library program.  One grade 2/3 class has worked with the previous teacher-librarian on a research project this year. Additionally, I recently surveyed teachers to inquire about their knowledge and use of our library’s on-line databases.  The same grade 2/3 teacher says she is aware of World Book databases and has used them in the past, but not this year.  A grade 1/2 teacher is aware of online databases from having been on a district technology committee.  Five of the seven primary teachers report that they are unaware of the databases available through our school’s website.

In considering the use of encyclopedias with primary students, I looked through this section of our print reference collection.  The school library currently has six types of World Book Encyclopedia sets.  They are as follows:

Title Volumes Index Bibliographical


Publishing Date
The World Book Encyclopedia 22 Yes N/A 2002
The World Book Encyclopedia 22 Yes Yes 2006
The World Book Encyclopedia of People and Places 6 Yes Yes 2007
The World Book Student Discovery Encyclopedia 13 Yes N/A 2000
World Book Discovery Encyclopedia 13 Yes N/A 2009
The World Book Student Discovery Science Encyclopedia 13 Yes Yes 2006

According to Ann Riedling (2012), encyclopedias should be evaluated based on the following set of criteria: accuracy, authority, currency, format, indexing, objectivity, and scope (p.72).  Riedling indicates a general guideline for the replacement of print encyclopedias after 5 years (p.24).  The Canadian Association of School Libraries (2006) outlines that if “less than 50% of the collection” has “copyright dates within the last ten years”, those resources are considered to fall below their standards (p.33).  At my school, only 33% of the encyclopedias have copyright dates within the last 10 years.  Based on the publication dates listed above, currency of the print encyclopedia in the school library is significantly outdated, fall well below the standards of CASL and Riedling, and therefore raises concerns regarding their use; student learning is compromised when reference materials are so out of date.  Whereas with an online database version of World Book, currency is less of a concern as “electronic updates are provided more frequently” (Riedling, p.73).  In addition to concerns around currency, the format of the print encyclopedias at my school are also an issue.  More than half of the students enrolled at my school are in grades Kindergarten through grade three, and a large percentage of students struggle with achieving grade level reading skills.  These encyclopedias are very text-heavy, have a dated appearance, little visual appeal, and the format is not “user-friendly” as Riedling (2012, p.72) indicates it should be.  She also states that “the format of an encyclopedia should not interfere with the purpose” (p.73) and this is not the case currently.  The print encyclopedias in our collection have a format that far exceeds the reading and interest levels of the primary students in our school.  As a result, their ability to adequately and effectively extract information from the existing print encyclopedias is nearly impossible.  It should also be noted that the cost to replace print encyclopedias can quickly drain a school budget, making the online databases that we already have access to, a preferable and practical choice.


The Canadian Association of School Libraries (2006) outlines standards for “information and communications technologies” (p.49).  These guidelines are important to consider in terms of students’ ability to access technology in order to use our online databases.  In regards to a computer lab, our school falls within the exemplary category as we are fortunate enough to have a “full computer lab adjacent to and easily accessible from the school library” (p.49); our library shares a door with the lab.  With this configuration, facilitating students’ use of databases in connection to library use and programs is an incredible opportunity and should be capitalized upon.

Through the school’s website, library web resources can be accessed, including seven World Book on-line databases.  In addition to the World Book resources pictured below, we have access to World eBook.

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These databases cover a broad range of ages, including primary, and thus have interest and reading levels suitable to younger students.  Therefore, the scope of the World Book databases is “…appropriate for the age group [they] claim to serve” (p.72).  Digital formats should also “…be functional, clear, and suitable for the audience” and have “keyword and advanced search features” (Riedling, p.72), which the World Book databases encompass.  Additionally, they are user friendly and have immense visual appeal for young learners as the illustrations are engaging and there are plenty of actual photographs.  Thus, they are “…appropriate for the intended audience” (p.72).  And regardless of print or digital formats, one can always be assured of the authority of World Book for “since 1917, [it] has provided accuracy, objectivity, and reliability in research materials for both children and adults” (p.74).  And as the World Book databases are offered through my school district’s database, they have been vetted by ERAC, further ensuring reliability.

As previously mentioned, collaboration is a key part of planning for the improvement of reference services through the integration of technology and the use of online encyclopedia databases.  My survey provides insight that allows me to get a general sense of where primary teachers are at in terms of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) for change; almost all teachers are presently at the Non-use level and are somewhere in the lower three stages of concern: Awareness, Informational, or Personal, (Huang, n.d.).

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In order to implement the use of World Book databases to support students in the primary grades through collaboratively planned instruction, I have developed the following action plan:

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In moving learning and instruction forward, I will need to ensure that I continually check in and meet with staff members to ensure that our plan is on track.  It is my hope that through collaboration and co-teaching, my colleagues’ concerns will be addressed and that they will move to a higher level of use in the context of the CBAM approach, and that I can achieve the standards as outlined in Leading Learning.  Through focused collaboration that allows staff to initially explore the databases and identify the potential implications for instruction, primary teachers will have the opportunity to plan alongside me for the effective implementation of databases with their students.  In using databases with even the youngest of learners, we will put the wheels in motion for the early use of digital reference sources in an effort to provide exposure to such resources and to establish a foundation for future learning.

As a teacher-librarian, supporting inquiry-based learning and the integration of technology with a focus on increasing database usage into the learning of even the youngest students is an important personal goal in the area of reference services.  In order to achieve this, collaboration with my colleagues is a vital component, and I look forward to cultivating opportunities to work with teachers to support their curricular foci and develop their students’ information literacy skills.



British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association. (2011). The Points of Inquiry: A Framework for Information Literacy and the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). World Book Science Power. Retrieved from

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading Learning. Retrieved from

Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium. (2008). Evaluating, selecting and acquiring learning resources: a guide. British Columbia, Canada: Retrieved from

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Levels of use”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Stages of concern”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from

Kulyk, T. (26 July, 2012). The future of school libraries. Retrieved from

Riedling, A.M., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

World Book Inc. (25 September, 2013). WorldBook 640. Retrieved from

World Book Inc. (2017). World Book Encyclopedia. Retrieved from


One thought on “Moving Learning Forward: Improving References Services and Resources

  1. teachercoelho says:

    Congrats on the TL position! The timing was excellent as you can now implement your detailed plan to implement the World Book databases. Your connection with the CBAM while implementing your plan is a great connection with Assignment 2. It is the responsibility of TLs to ensure that our students become digitally literate citizens and you are definitely on the right track. Good luck! 🙂


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