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#10: Why personalized learning should start in school libraries

Library experts discuss 6 specific ways libraries can best leverage personalized learning for every student.

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 3rd of this year, was our #10 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

With personalization a growing initiative in schools, the library may not be the first thing educators think of as a resource. However, according to Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan High School, CT, and Jackie Whiting, librarian at New Canaan High School, the library is often the best place to look for personalizing instruction through assessing, reading and making.

How Libraries are Personalized Learning Hotspots

1. Libraries can track unique student data

During Luhtala and Whiting’s webinar “Personalizing Instruction Through the Library,” hosted by and sponsored by Mackin Educational Resources, the library experts discussed how the New Canaan High School Library uses a database to keep track of the work done with students, enabling educators to keep tabs on any students in need of extra help.

2. Libraries can help close learning gaps

The library also has a “text the library” service, which allows students to anonymously text questions to the library. The webinar presenters said these questions help provide insight on any instructional gaps within the classroom, which the library can later give a lesson on. By encouraging the use of technology, the students can help take charge of their learning, as well as highlight what they would like to focus on during their lessons.

3. Libraries can encourage learning through personal interests

To personalize reading to the students, Whiting uses some of the library’s empty shelf space to create book displays based off themes of interest like movies, sports, and history. She also asked New Canaan’s teachers to take pictures with their favorite books and hung the pictures around the library. That way, she explained, students could get book recommendations from their favorite teachers. Luhtala and Whiting have also provided different spaces of the library for different kinds of learning. “We really want them to be thoughtful about how they’re going to use their time in the space and choose a space that suits their learning needs at that moment,” said Luhtala.

(Next page: How libraries encourage personalized learning 3-6)

4. Libraries can host real-world communication

New Canaan High School Library also participates in monthly virtual book clubs in which students discuss books over a Google Hangout, and different libraries take turns hosting the chat and leading the conversation each month.

5. Libraries can harness personalization through online tools

According to the presenters, libraries can personalize learning for students through the use of online tools. Using the free resource Mackin Classroom, students can choose resources, highlight sections, take notes, rate resources, and more. New Canaan High School also has a search feature on the library’s home page where students can search for resources from a number of databases and get alerts for new sources.

6. Libraries can be makerspaces

Lastly, personalized learning is encouraged within school libraries through making. In the library’s makerspace, students have the ability to choose what they want to create using a variety of resources; the students’ work is then showcased on the library’s’ Instagram as a way to demonstrate the effort that comes out of the makerspace.

Ultimately, personalizing instruction through the library is a “PR thing,” said Luhtala. School libraries must emphasize with faculty and administrators the crucial role that the library plays in this growing initiative.

Join the Community

Emerging Tech is a free professional learning community (PLC) where school librarians can explore all the ways to integrate technology and 21st century learning into school library programs. Members can post questions, start discussions, and get feedback from experts and peers on the issues and challenges of building and advocating for a school library program that is a critical support for teaching and learning in your school and district.

The recording of the webinar can be viewed by anyone at:

About the Presenter

Michelle Luhtala is the Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School in Connecticut and was one of five school librarians named as a “Mover and Shaker” by Library Journal in 2015. She is the winner of the 2011 “I Love My Librarian” Award and the Library Association’s 2010 Outstanding Librarian Award. The New Canaan High School Library won AASL’s National School Library Program of the year in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @mluhtala.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by View more events here.]

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