TMC6 Brooks Kirkland Koechlin

The Eric Walters School Library Summer Lending Challenge:
Findings from the Research 

by Anita Brooks Kirkland and Carol Koechlin

CSL Summer Lending Handout 8x14
As part of an ongoing focus on the role of the school library learning commons in addressing summer reading loss, the co-editors of the Canadian School Libraries Journal invited best-selling author Eric Walters to contribute an article on the topic. The article called for participation in his summer lending challenge, and a wonderful opportunity for Canadian School Libraries (CSL) to investigate whether summer lending programs in Canada’s school libraries could be successful, and if so, what factors would contribute to that success. Working with Walters, the researchers gathered information from participating schools. What emerged very strongly through the research is that losing the opportunity to read to whatever degree is not good for any children. School libraries provide a simple, doable and inexpensive way to make sure that all children have the opportunity to continue reading over the summer or to read more than they would otherwise. School libraries provide access to reading materials, and encourage freedom of choice. A strong theme that emerged through the research was that the fear of book losses which inhibits schools from summer lending are largely unfounded. Students wanted to be trusted, and followed through with their responsibility to return materials in September. Losses incurred through summer lending are minimal, and worth the investment.

Read the Paper

As a writer, presenter and consultant, Anita Brooks Kirkland specializes in the areas of information and digital literacy and the role of the school library learning commons. She draws on her extensive experience as a teacher educator, both as an instructor in teacher-librarianship for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, and in her previous role as the Consultant for K-12 Libraries at the Waterloo Region District School Board. Anita was a contributing writer to Together for Learning, Ontario’s guideline document for the school library learning commons. Anita is very active in professional organizations, currently serving as chair of Canadian School Libraries. She was the 2014 president of the Ontario Library Association, and has also served as president of the Ontario School Library Association (2005) and co-chaired The Association of Library Consultants and Coordinators of Ontario (2011-13). Anita shares an extensive collection of program resources, articles, and presentations on her website and blog,

Carol Koechlin is an experienced educator who has contributed to the field of information literacy and school librarianship writing professional books, articles for professional journals, facilitating on-line courses, and presenting workshops in Canada, United States and Australia. Working with Dr. David V.Loertscher, the team has developed foundations for the transformation of school libraries and computer labs into a Physical and Virtual participatory Learning Commons. Explore their work at The School Library Learning Commons – Future Forward. Carol is a founding member of Treasure Mountain Canada (TMC) and has co-chaired TMC Symposiums since 2010. Carol was a contributing writer for Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons and writing coordinator for Leading Learning: Standards Of Practice For School Library Learning Commons In Canada (Canadian Library Association, 2014). She is currently a director of Canadian School Libraries (CSL). Carol’s favourite saying, “Empower students to own the question.”


  1. Anita & Carol - I tend to gush over everything that you do but truly this paper is a triumph and an invaluable support for the importance of, not only the existence of the school library learning commons but also, the value of equitable access to reading materials for all students throughout the ENTIRE year.

    As one of the participating schools, I can attest to the positive and appreciative response from students and their families. In our school we not only encouraged students to keep books over the summer, but also opened the school LLC once a week over a five week period. The paper you have so eloquently written provides all the details anyone needs to advocate for this approach and reconsider the tradition of leaving all the books neatly on the shelves for the months of July and August.

    One of my favourite stories from our experience was actually when our Summer Reading Program was announced over the PA system in June. A classroom educator shared with me that her entire class had let out an audible gasp followed by a spontaneous cheer at the idea of keeping their library books until September and being able to come visit during the summer. That moment cannot be measured but it can be felt. It’s that feeling that all well-funded, professionally staffed and effectively supported school library learning commons have the potential to create.

    It is my genuine hope that all those currently taking college, university and AQ level courses in librarianship will have this paper added to their reading lists. You continue to inspire us all to rethink our practice and the systemic structures that impact the future of the school library learning commons.

    Thank you for this and more than you know,
    Jenn Brown

  2. Hi Carol and Anita,
    Thank you for providing a very thorough investigation into the benefits of school library summer lending programs. I was particularly curious about the literature review and the recent work of Kuhfeld and Von Hippel that rightfully questions some of the "classic" research done by Heyns and Cooper that relies on data collected in the 1970s and 1980s. It reminds me of the recent work calling into question the "million word gap" (see or I also appreciated the amount of Canadian research you quoted, such as the work done by TPL with their Summer Reading program. Like Jen Brown who commented above, I was also one of the participating schools. I did lose books, but losing books is part of the package. As Jen Brown has schooled me, "people are more important than things". I hope to do it (summer loans) again this coming school year, but with more advanced notice and promotion. Thank you all! - Diana

    1. You are quite right Diana, last spring we had to work quickly to launch the campaign and many schools just didn't have enough lead time to organize. Watch for an earlier start this spring:)

  3. I am so glad I finally got the push via this initiative to just go for it and sign books out for the summer (I'd always kind of wanted to).
    The results were overwhelming positive.
    I enjoyed the thorough research in this paper, as well as the inclusion of the charts and graphs at the end.
    I hope the publication of this paper, combined with more promotion of the idea this year, will lead to far more schools joining in.
    I'm expecting to have many more students and families participate this summer at my site as I'll have more lead time and some word of mouth testimonials to make it more successful.

    1. Great to know the campaign reaped positive results for you and your students. We hope to launch again next spring and hopefully 'free' many more books for the summer!

  4. When I first heard about this initiative, I knew it wasn't going to be difficult for us to get involved. I'm the summer school teacher librarian at my own school so it wasn't a problem for students to come in an check out books if they wanted to. Our school also has access to SORA and we encouraged our students to take out e-books and audiobooks online, especially if they were travelling. They never had to worry about loss or damage or the book being overdue. And they didn't have to leave the comfort of their own home if they wanted to read. I'm not sure how many schools have access to online e-book and audiobook collections, but it makes the facilitation of summer reading programs easier for teacher-librarians who might be in remote locations or who travel most of the summer and cannot facilitate summer book checkouts within their schools. I think this is a wonderful initiative that I am sure will grow in popularity. We have some great ideas for promoting it with our students for the summer and we hope to get more parental involvement as well. Thank you for sharing this paper!

    Warm regards,

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