TMC6 Brown

Reflections in the Library Learning Commons: Collaboration 

by Jennifer Brown

Author focus - Thinking about the theme of TMC6, Participatory Learning in the LLC, I found myself full of ideas but struggling to narrow my focus.  At the same time, I was working with our entire school community to explore a variety of new tools and resources in our library learning commons including a giant floor size map, podcasting equipment and various methods of pedagogical documentation. I ultimately realized that collaboration was the big idea that connected all of this work and since developing a climate of collaboration is essential for truly authentic participatory learning I had found my focus.  Using an action research approach I began to map out my own understanding of collaboration in my library learning commons practice. Looking back at my first experience as a teacher librarian almost 10 years ago I ventured to document and share how collaborative learning opportunities impact student learning and educator practice. Initially, I planned to write a paper for this submission, but as I sketched out my thinking and revisited supporting research I realized that I needed to explore alternative methods of sharing my learning. My intention is to continue to maintain and update the Google Site, Reflections from the LLC, with new podcasts, resources and documentation slides.

Visit the Site

Jennifer Brown is a teacher librarian in the Peel District School Board in Brampton, Ontario. In her current role at a K to 8 dual track school, she has the tremendous privilege of co-constructing the vision for the library learning commons with students, staff & community members. Jennifer has demonstrated a passion for & interest in social justice & equity in education throughout her more than 20 year career. Her work as a teacher librarian reflects this dedication to equity, inclusion and student empowerment. Grounded in the vision set forth in OSLA’s Together For Learning, Jenn strives to create a library learning commons based on student voice, trust and believing in children to guide their learning.  As a Librarianship Specialist, she actively engages in the ongoing study & implementation of innovative pedagogical practices in the school library learning commons to support & mentor fellow educators & foster student success. Jennifer is the 2019 OSLA President, a contributor to both The Teaching Librarian Magazine & Open Shelf the OLA online magazine, as well as a steering committee member for the Peel Elementary Teacher Librarian Association. Through the incredible school library community, Jennifer has had opportunities to speak at OLA Super Conference, Quebec School Librarians Network Symposium, Quebec Library Association Annual Conference, ETFO Summer Academy, York University AQ Librarianship Combined Parts 1/2/Specialist, MakeChange Toronto Conference and MakerEd Toronto Conference as well as participate in various podcasts, events and review committees.

Feel free to connect with her and learn more via Twitter @JennMacBrown or email


  1. Hi Jenn,

    First off the bat - thank you for being brave. In a format where "academic papers" are expected, you model breaking boxes (not just thinking outside the proverbial box). The great thing about your audio and site is that, to use media literacy language, you are teaching both *about* and *through* the media types. Also, by creating mini-audio clips, you force us to slow down and listen. This comment is only based on the first three sections / recordings on your site (because silly me, I tried to multi-task but that doesn't work); I hope to comment on the rest later.

    Even though I know this, because I've heard you say it in AQ courses and other presentations, it amazes me that some of the big pivotal changes in your LLC journey didn't happen until 2015, when you opened your new school. I hope Tim (your admin) realizes how much he has supported and influenced this portion of the journey.

    Two important points you make:
    1) we can't control what others believe collaboration is - I wonder how it would be possible to increased the common or shared understanding of collaboration, at bare minimum so that a classroom teacher doesn't think dropping off their students and then disappearing to make phone calls or photocopying counts as collaboration
    2) collaboration is better for everyone and that includes both students and educators - when in our past we've seen other practices masquerading as collaboration, we are reluctant to engage in true collaboration (e.g. "group work" or "cooperative projects") - I'm sure your next audio files will explain in depth how to reteach what it actually means to collaborate with others

    How wonderfully frank you were in that third section (on your first time in the LLC) to say that you didn't quite "get" what you had to do in your job. I've been at it for 23 years and I still can't say I have a handle on it! Not centering yourself is a true challenge - if it's not about you, or the space, or the tech, then how do you sell it? (this is what some may ask)

    You also made me smile when you admitted that you felt the "library police" would come get you for not "doing it properly".

    I look forward to listening to more of your reflections - and I need to figure out what to do with my eyes while I do, to avoid the temptation of trying to finish something else simultaneously!

    In appreciation,
    Diana M

  2. Diana - you are always so generous with your kind words and thoughtful reflections. I know that my choice of mixed formats requires a great deal of time from each "reader" and appreciate you taking that time. I am starting to think of this as a version of an online portfolio that needs further consideration and integration with my existing blog site, published articles and social media.

    I completely agree that Tim (my principal) has been an essential human element to my journey since 2015. His leadership provides not only the safe environment in which I can take risks but also the pedagogical mentorship I need to discuss my thinking. Perhaps that needs to be a new audio section of the site - "Fostering Collaborative Relationships with Administration" !

    I love you for your assumption that I will stick to my goal of adding to the site in the future. I might need you as an "accountability buddy" on that one. But I will say that the audio format and embedding the Google Slides were both quite comfortable for me and likely very manageable in the future.

  3. Jenn, this is amazing! I could spend eons in this space. What I really appreciate is the multiple entry points. I can keep going back and accessing different information and resources. I love that it's not static. It's not just a read and make notes process - it's almost a choose your own adventure learning opportunity.
    I did notice that the design thinking worksheet link took me to a slide deck about equity in the LLC, and I don't know if that was the right link (though I very much enjoyed that rabbit hole).

    The thing I appreciated the most, I think, was the documentation of learning - you had so much evidence here to show the vibrant community learning happening in your LLC. Thank you so much for this!

    1. Thank you Lisa! I have fixed the link - good catch! You really were reading closely! Now I know who to ask when I need a great editor ;)

      My hope is to keep adding BIG idea topics to the site in this format (was thinking Equity and Social Justice next, ironically). So feedback on the multiple entry points is perfect.

      The documentation part of my practice in the LLC has been the biggest struggle overall. I feel like I am just beginning to truly figure that out. I mention it in the podcast audio but I am so inspired by the work our DECE and OCT Kindergarten educators do in this area that I feel like I have so many mentors in my own school to help me along the way.

      Thank you for taking the time to explore the site.

  4. Thank you for your courage and honesty putting your thoughts out there in such an innovative ways. I don't know about Diana comment about not knowing where to put her eyes when she was listening. I just treated this like any other podcast I listen to and did other things as well. The inclusive model you have provided for our learning community is amazing. The multi-modality of your presentation allows anyone to participate in your learning journey. It will be an example I can use when talking to other educators of how multi-modal formats can lead to a rich display of as, of and for learning.

    I wish more of our school libraries could embrace the concept that only whole classes can use the library at one time. It's meant to be a flexible space for just-in-time learning. I can understand how this shift requires a leap of faith on the part of the teacher-librarian and the entire staff. But once embraced, I can see how this benefits both the teacher and student(s).

    I will also pass on to one of my teacher-librarians your podcast and slides regarding your collaboration with the large Indigenous floor map. We were just talking today about the possibilities of how to use it and how it can be used across the grades. Thanks for the amazing work you did documenting student learning. Seeing the thought progression and level of complexity in thinking as you proceeded through the grades was inspiring. Thanks for all the work you put into your TMC presentation!

    1. You inadvertently hit the nail on the head with your observation, Jo-Anne. I didn't treat it like a podcast; I acted like it was a website. It was how I approached the media text, and the painful truth that I cannot multi-task!

      Looking forward to seeing you all at TMC6!

  5. Jenn I really appreciate how many layers your definition of collaboration has. It reminds me of our TVO TeachOntario book clubs when we discovered that lurkers are participants too! I wonder if you could talk a little about the data that your multimedia website can track and how you’ll be using it or other measurements to focus your energy.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jenn! This site with its podcasts and slideshows is amazing. I've really enjoyed the format. Hearing a voice and seeing pictures brings it to a really personal level.
    Sharing your journey helps me to reflect on my own, and to be more forgiving of myself as I reshape our LLC. We've successfully moved to free flow book exchange, due in large part to the encouraging discussions we had at the ETFO workshop this summer. Here, your many examples of what collaboration can look like have given me inspiration to keep trying new ways to connect with staff and students.
    We have the Indigenous floor map coming in March and I've been exploring different approaches to how to best share it. Your detailed slideshow has so many ideas to help make our school's experience even more powerful.
    I look forward to continuing these discussions at TMC6!


Please join in the conversation about TMC6 papers. Please identify yourself. We really don't want "Unknown" to dominate the conversation!