on the company we keep …

What does information literacy instruction look like at your school?

As independent school librarians, this would seem to be a pretty basic question. A question that, I think, we should be asking each other often.  As busy, practicing, independent school librarians, though, how often do we really have the opportunity to take the time to sit down with other librarians and compare notes?  If your experience is anything like mine, the opportunity is rare–zero times in twelve years to be exact.

In our last week of instruction before Winter break, a group of fifteen librarians representing ten independent schools in Southern California gathered together to discuss information literacy instruction, look at standards from different organizations, share, and compare notes on our programs. The Independent School Library Exchange (ISLE)  serves as the main professional organization for independent school librarians in Southern California and a discussion thread posted by Darla Magana, librarian at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, on the ISLE Ning page and interest in information literacy instruction expressed at an ISLE meeting in the Fall inspired us to finally stop talking about the need to work together and just start doing it!

Librarians at work

Because the meeting was very much a grassroots unconference-like endeavor, the Munger Library at the Harvard-Westlake Middle School provided the space, the coffee, and the food, but the programming and content was all potluck! Before the actual gathering, interested librarians shared agenda ideas and interests via a shared Google Doc, and Sarah Clark and Cielo Botello-Williams, amazing librarians at The Windward School  did us the great service of stepping up and shaping our shared ideas into a workable agenda for the day.

google doc link

As a group, we had an amazing day learning from each other!  After sharing and some discussion, there appeared to be some consensus that developing a common framework of information literacy skills for students in college preparatory independent schools which can then be modified for our individual institutions’ needs would be a worthwhile outcome toward which we would like to work. From the start we were under no illusion (Delusion perhaps? LOL!) that we could develop a framework in a single 5-hour session.  This first meeting was to serve as just the start of our collaborative journey.  

Our first group gathering in the 3-D world took place on December 18th.  It was a date chosen rather randomly because it was a day that there were no other groups expecting guests on our campus so there was parking available (always a consideration here in Los Angeles).  As it turned out, the date worked out particularly well. Because it was exam period for many schools, scheduling a day away was made a bit easier for a number of librarians.


We scheduled a follow-up meeting for January 22nd. Nora Murphy, librarian over at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy has generously offered to host us.

We’ll see where we go from here!  As the saying commonly attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu goes, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” I don’t know about the others, but in all honesty, I’m am really hoping to avoid a thousand mile slog …

No matter how long this journey turns out to be, though, it is sure is wonderfully reassuring and nice to have some truly great company along the way!

6 thoughts on “on the company we keep …

  1. Thank you for this timely post, complete with links to your google docs! This is a treasure trove. My colleagues & I are taking a close look at how to better teach information literacy skills to our students. Seeing scope & sequences like Dave’s reassures me that we are heading in the right direction. Ditto to Sarah’s comment: “I’d love to do some show and tell of actual lessons involving info lit skills.” Please let us know how your collective journey goes!

    • Hi Shelly,
      The scope and sequence posted is VERY MUCH a DRAFT. We work on a draft and let it sit for a bit. When we revisit it after some time away we frequently realize that we’ve missed a concept or skill that we need to address. It’s tough!

    • Hi Clarissa!
      I’d love to see how you’re shaping your curriculum! The audience for the Plain English document is our content area teachers so we’re trying to be clear yet keep it as simple as it can possibly be. Our goal at this point is to try to have a document that almost acts like a menu of information literacy skills that we can use to help guide teachers as they, in turn, guide their students (even when they aren’t coming in to for a “library day”).

  2. At our school, we developed a new curriculum mapping program this year. I have been asking for years to develop a scope and sequence, and I have finally started to work on it. I will be following along to hear about your process as you continue to develop this.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Dave!. Many departments at my school are starting to work on scope and sequences, including us, and this gives me lots to consider before I get started!

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