TMC6 Corso

Libraries and The New Basics 

by Christine Corso

This paper presents and discusses longitudinal trends in school library staffing across the province of Ontario as collected in the People for Education Organization’s Annual Ontario School Survey from 1998 to 2019. The author seeks to discover the preparedness of schools in addressing the skills and competencies students today need for their futures which the library learning commons, as defined in Leading Learning, can foster.

Read the paper

Christine Corso is the Research Manager at People for Education. She is a former teacher from Edmonton, Alberta and earned her Masters at OISE at the University of Toronto, where her research focused on assessment in K-12 education. She is currently working towards her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Program at OISE/UT. Christine’s research interests include policy, knowledge mobilization, and assessment and motivation in the K-12 school system.


  1. Christine, thank you for taking the time to share such a detailed summary of the varied staffing models, funding challenges and lack of access to the school library learning commons for children across Ontario. The data collected and distributed by People For Education is essential for those of us advocating for cutting edge educational practices in our schools. Despite the political tensions, funding shortfalls and staffing challenges, we all know that a thriving school library learning commons has a positive impact on student success. Reconsidering the “New Basics” and the unknown future is often difficult for policy-makers, politicians and concerned parents/caregivers. As adults, envisioning a school experience that varies completely from our own can be scary. Letting go of the “back to basics” 3Rs is hard for many outside the education profession. Your paper offers a clear explanation of the need for these changes. I found myself particularly struck by the following quote regarding the “New Basics”, “If these, rather than the 3Rs, are to be the new set of basics in school, then the way in which we teach children must be interrogated.”

    For me, your paper is a call to action to continue to interrogate the way we teach children and the importance of the school library learning commons in the future of education.

    Thank you again,
    Jenn Brown

  2. While I do not have the numbers for Saskatchewan, I have little doubt that we would find similar trends in this province. I liked the New Basics that were identified in this paper. Thank you for sharing these findings with us.

  3. Christine,

    Thanks for contributing to TMC6. What makes your paper special is that it is longitudinal - so many research studies often conclude with statements like "we need longitudinal data" and P4E has it.

    I am fascinated that so many provinces have recently undertaken changes (Saskatchewan, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick). Why now? What's encouraging the reflection?

    P4E has always been on the cutting edge of examining education - I remember the Measuring What Matters initiative with admiration.

    Those numbers certainly are interesting ...

    Diana M

  4. Hi Christine,
    Thank you for your contribution to TMC6. You have made a valid observation that is this day and age, if we are to prepare our students to live in the real world, they need to be prepared to communicate and function in a world that is overwhelmingly multimodal. I always wonder who makes the decision to make cut to library staffing. Never mind the overwhelming research that has shown that a qualified school library staff with adequate funding can be correlated to an increase in student achievement, all one has to do is look around them to see the multi-rich literacy life we all lead. Everything always come down to saving money rather than doing the right thing for students. Teacher-librarian staffing, although not stellar in Manitoba, has stayed very similar in the past 30 years. I am fearful that with the education review currently underway in Manitoba, that to save money, the teacher-librarians we do have will be replaced by library technicians. It will save money in the short term but have detrimental affects to the education of students in the long term. Teacher-librarians in Manitoba are on pins and needles waiting for the review to be released.

    Perhaps I am incorrect, but many of the reports published by People for Education that I have read are all about Ontario. As a Canadian think tank, do you ever do research like this in Manitoba?

  5. Hi Jo-Anne, there has been a lot of research coming out of other provinces over the years, but perhaps it has not been on topics that are particularly meaningful to you? Researchers generally follow their own passions, and they find funding to do that work (and for many researchers that process begins with their doctoral work). An NGO like PfE is a rare bird! Dianne O

  6. Hi Christine,
    The "New Basics" you write about align perfectly with BC's Redesigned Curriculum. It places the Core Competencies (Thinking/Communication/Personal-Social) as a foundation for all learning
    I love that you call them the "new" basics - I think I will use this term often.
    It is fascinating for me to learn about the Ontario context. In BC we have a provincial minimum of 1 TL for 702 students. This is sometimes better in some districts, but it cannot go below that number. We do not have any contractual language regarding Library Technicians, so that is determined locally. I would love to see a study similar to yours for BC.

  7. Christine, I really appreciate the geographical and income based nature of your findings. I wonder if we could map this and then hold the local governments accountable? Eric Walters has a goal of getting politicians involved in Canadian literature promotion....why couldn’t we see this as well?


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