TMC6 Rubio

Innovation Grants: Supporting Professional Learning and Collaborative Inquiry in the Library Learning Commons

By Rebeca Rubio

The Coordinator for Libraries and Information Services from Richmond School District 38 in Vancouver, British Columbia, provides an overview of how two elementary and two secondary school schools implemented district innovation grants around new BC curriculum and student needs through school library learning commons collaborative projects. The exemplary projects motivate and inspire replication.

Read the Paper

Rebeca Rubio is the Coordinator for Libraries and Information Services in SD38 Richmond (BC) where she supports teacher-librarians in developing programs, redesigning flexible spaces and developing responsive Library Learning Commons. She also supports teachers and schools with resource acquisition, database navigation, digital literacy and other literacy initiatives. In addition, she manages and maintains the District Resource Centre, acquiring and circulating valuable resources for all educators. She is passionate about student engagement, Aboriginal studies, multiple literacies and libraries.


  1. I am so impressed with the purpose and structure of this grant process, Rebeca, to say nothing of the results. SD 38 Richmond continues to lead the way with Leading Learning and the role of the school library learning commons. Check out the video on this page from the school district's website, everyone! (You'll have to copy and paste the URL.)

    1. Thanks for sharing the clip. It was great to have a visual to go with the reading.

  2. Rebeca - thank you for sharing the incredible impact of the Innovation Grants on student learning in Richmond School District 38. I found myself genuinely enthralled by the inquiry questions created by the schools in your examples and the invaluable focus on scanning student voice. I am especially inspired by the TLs and other educators who wisely saw student behaviours as a form of communication alongside any verbal feedback they received. Clearly the district leaders, like yourself, and the in school educators understand that all behaviour is a form of communication and that we can adapt our learning environments and systemic structures to address those needs. The accountability to the grant application process also says a great deal about how much your district values student voice, the library learning commons and school wide learning experiences.

    As a reader, the initial chart you created to provide a snapshot of your district was very helpful. We know that across Canada each school board and district staff, funds and values the school library learning commons differently. The details you provided gave a very clear picture of the wonderful efforts in place to support the school library learning commons as a hub of learning and student expression in each of your schools.

    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Jenn Brown

  3. Rebeca,

    I really enjoyed reading your paper. There were several parts I wanted to comment on.

    Size: In my overlarge school board (TDSB, with 400+ elementary schools and nearly or over 100 secondary schools), it is encouraging and awe-inspiring to see that School District 38 has such as robust school library supports in place. Does the size help your sense of school library community?

    Money: I like how the $2000 is earmarked to use 50% for professional learning and 50% for "things". Who funds this? Where does the money come from? It reminds me a bit of the TLLP (Teaching Learning and Leadership Program) which is a partnership between the Ontario Teachers Federation and the Ministry of Education.

    Scanning: In the grant application and in the 4 case studies, the term "scanning" was used. I have my idea of what I think it means, but what does it entail? Is there a particular process? A certain way of documenting?

    The Projects: Please thanks Shannon Mills, Kelly Johnson, Lindsay Santos-Fox and Dita Verms (your school library professionals / TLs) for all the great work they did with their projects. They are all so captivating!

    The Quantifiable: Your conclusion suggests that it was more qualifiable gains that were made in the schools with the innovation grant. Is there anything measurable? Does the ability to count or graph the benefits mean the project might ever come into jeopardy and disappear?

    Thanks again for such a great, inspiring read!
    Diana M

  4. Hi Diana,

    You ask great questions! I'll do my best to answer them here, but we can definitely continue the conversation on Feb 1.
    Size: Our full-time TLs often comment that they are better able to connect with staff and students and run more robust programming, because they have a singular focus. Our goal is to have our libraries be the hub of the school and staffing definitely influences that.

    Money: The district funds IGs via board approval through the budget process.
    Scanning: The term "scanning" from Kaiser and Halbert’s Spirals of Inquiry ( which is our district’s inquiry framework. In the scanning phase, educators ask “What’s going on for our learners?” In this phase we gather information from the learners/community and then start to “develop a hunch” for how the inquiry should proceed.
    The Quantifiable: This is a great question. The data-gathering is always tricky because not everything can be measured in numbers. Having said that, some IGs are able to gather some useful data: how much circulation has increased; how much more traffic there is in the library; how much more proficient/comfortable students are with certain tech tools etc. As for continuity, the only certain thing is that there will be change! It is likely that the IGs will morph and change over time, but I cannot predict how that will play out.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing a process that is very similar to the one I'm using right now as Library Learning Commons Consultant for a division very similar in size to yours. I have based our learning about collaborative inquiry on a book with the same name by Jenni Donohoo and Moses Velasco. I have 5 groups of teacher-librarians studying various topics based on their choices based on division, school and personal learning goals. I love how you have incorporated Leading Learning into the process of identifying what will be studied and how it fits into school library learning commons practice. I will definitely think about adding this into my criteria for study groups, as well. Our school library study groups meet approximately once per month during our regularly scheduled professional learning sessions.
    Our teacher-librarians have full access to a division-wide professional development fund so they don't have to apply for funding. I found it interesting how your first case study is very similar to one of my study groups. They are currently conducting an ethnographic study of how the library is currently being used in order to best address the needs of the students using the libraries. Seems like we have similar issues with finding a balance between having a peaceful sanctuary and active learning centre that your schools are having. Certainly a good problem to have!

  6. Hi Rebeca,

    Your process of funding collaborating is great. Your district understands and funds your teacher librarians to collaborate in ways that better student learning.

    This should be done across Canada. Yet in Ontario, there are places without teacher librarians.

    The samples you shared are great too. I shared those with some of my teacher librarian colleagues at Simcoe County DSB and asked them to share your paper with the other TLs. I found a website that details how to make a lightboard for cheap by searching how to make a lightboard,

    Thank you,
    Greg Harris

  7. Rebeca, thanks for sharing these diverse and inspiring projects. Amazing how a small amount of funding can be used to create significant change! Dianne O


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