Theme One Reflection – Getting a handle on the Reference Section

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Images retrieved from: and

I think when many people think of school libraries, and especially the refernce section of the library, many immediately picture the first picture above: a dusty, old, under-utilized collection of heavy books. However, over the last few years there has been a push to revitalize school libraries and in the first theme of our Inforamtion Services course we looked at what the reference sections is and how to assess and evalutate resources so that they best serve your community and will encourage frequent, meaningful use (like the second picture!).

Our textbook for the course, Reference Skills for the School Librarian by Ann Marlow Riedling, Loretta Shake and Cynthia Houston goes into great detail about what falls into the generally accepted definition of a reference source, in that it “can be defined as materials, from book to periodical to photograph, designed to be consulted for definite items of information rather than to be examined consecutively.” This definition is clear, but I did also appreciate the inclusion of the more general working definition used by the Guide to Reference Sources from the American Library Association that is summed up perfectly as “you know when when you see one”. This acknowledged flexibility is important in a current climate of constant change and updates to reference sources, and changing attitudes towards digital media.

One topic that came up near the end of the theme that I believe connects to all the lessons, is that of framing the school library as a learning commons. The goal of a learning comons is to highlight the school library as a learning hub for the school – a place that is engaging, meaningful and fully resourced to support students, staff and the community. In this current climate, funding for school librarians and teaher librarian time is not adequate and one way to advocate for more support for libraries is to ensure they are seen as a valued and vital part of the school.

A school library’s value for users is tied to how useful it is, and whether users are able to achieve their learning goals. I appreciated the attention paid to Achieving Information Literacy, and in particular the standards for school libraries. The standards are practical and easily used by teacher librarians as as assessment tool in order to evaluate our current library connections and see how they measure up.  Also, having that criteria laid out is a great resource to use as support for advocacy around increased funding.

At the end of this theme I feel I have a good understanding of the refernce section in general, and ideas about how to improve it.



2 thoughts on “Theme One Reflection – Getting a handle on the Reference Section

  1. Some good discussion and reflection here. Your key highlights and new learning were useful to read about, and a couple of links to our course textbooks were helpful, but more connections, more links, more media (images, videos, etc, where appropriate) can be much more engaging for your visitors and audience. You can expand the types of media, include a bibliography and also connect with other libraries, exemplars and ideas. Overall, a good start!


  2. I liked your comment about underscoring the value of the library as the information hub of the school. As teacher-librarians, we are in leadership positions which require us to make connections with all library users and be proactive in serving their information needs. My current contract is three days per week, and the library is open most lunch hours hosting our newspaper, coding, homework and book clubs. I also try to keep the library doors open as often as possible after school, and encourage parents and teachers to visit during this time.


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