Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BC Teacher-Librarians’s Association

BCTF Teacher Magazine: 2012 May/June

By Heather Daly 

The story of the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association begins in 1939, when it was founded under the name “BC School Librarians’ Association.” It was in that year, for the first time, that “all forty-nine elementary schools [in Vancouver] had libraries, making Vancouver the only city in Canada with that level of service” (Obee 115). At that time, Victoria librarian Margaret Clay noted that the libraries in schools should include “gramophone records and good periodicals” (115).

School libraries “…became more important in the instructional program, beginning in 1964, due to teaching methods that stressed independent learning and individualized instruction” (Haycock 22). In 1966, “The Department of Education conducted a Survey of British Columbia School Libraries giving support for a strong school library program to support inquiry and discovery learning” (22).

The BC School Librarians’ Association officially became a PSA in 1967, and the association was a founding member of the PSA Council in 1971.

In the mid-1970s, the term “teacher-librarian” was developed in BC to emphasize the teaching portion of the role and that the professional in the library was a teacher and BCTF member; concordantly, the school library came to be seen more as a classroom in its own right. In 1983, the BC School Librarians’ Association became the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association to reflect the changed role. The term “teacher-librarian” is now commonly used throughout the world.

Today, the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association (BCTLA) offers:
  • a year-round professional development program featuring an annual conference, webinars, and a summer institute.
  • the annual Drop Everything and Read day which last year had over 60,000 participants, and other events including Love Your School Library Day.
  • social media options, including seven blogs, three wikis, two Twitter accounts, a Ning, and a Facebook group.
  • professional publications such as The Bookmark journal, school library position statements, and BCTLA book reviews.
  • guides and tools for all BC educators, including The Points of Inquiry: A Framework for Information Literacy and the 21st-Century Learner and Ethics of Information Use: A Guide for Teachers.
  • 14 awards and grants, including one to support teacher-librarian professional inquiry.
  • resources and statistics to support school library and teacher-librarian advocacy efforts, including the results from BCTLA’s nearly 30 years of annual BC school library working and learning conditions surveys.
It is important to note that from its inception, BCTLA has drawn its strength from its chapters. In addition to the initiatives and opportunities that are offered at the provincial level, the BCTLA’s chapters (local specialist associations) provide professional development, advocacy for school libraries and teacher-librarians, and promotion of inquiry-based reading and learning at the local level. The Central Okanagan Teacher-Librarians’ Association (COTLA), for example, annually organizes the COTLA Author Week, the Surrey Chapter of the BCTLA is involved in the Surrey Book of the Year program, and teacher-librarians in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows organize Bookfest. Other BCTLA chapters provide even broader service to their communities, such as the Vancouver Teacher-Librarians’ Association’s support for the Intrepid Pens, a Downtown Eastside Vancouver women’s group focused on reading and writing.

The BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association serves as an example to other associations. Beginning in the 2012–13 school year, BCTLA will be the subject of a two-year school library advocacy study sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians. The chair of the awards committee who scrutinized the grant application for the study noted that the research “has the potential to serve as a model for future school-library advocacy.” BCTLA has also recently been invited to join an international committee working to develop a school library advocacy toolkit.

In 2014, the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association will celebrate its 75th anniversary as a group of “Professionals—Serving School Libraries” in British Columbia.

Heather Daly, president, BCTLA,

Haycock, Ken. 2008. “School Libraries in Vancouver: Factors Affecting Development.” The Bookmark 48, 2: 19–25. Vancouver: British Columbia Teacher-Librarians Association.
Obee, Dave. 2011. The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia. Vancouver: British Columbia Library Association.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Liberal education bills violate charter right to freedom of association

BCTF News Releases: 2011 April 13

In summary, the teachers‟ position is that the provincial government by its legislation unilaterally voided existing terms in their collective agreement, and prohibited future collective bargaining, on the subjects of restrictions on class sizes, class composition (number of special needs children integrated in the class), ratios of non-enrolling teachers to students (teachers not assigned to classrooms, such as librarians, counsellors, and special education teachers), and workload. The teachers say that these matters have a substantial impact on their working conditions. The legislation also affected some other related issues, such as school calendaring and hours and days of work.

Reasons for Judgment

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Court rules teachers have right to grieve changes to working and learning conditions

BCTF News Release: 2011 March 31

Court rules teachers have right to grieve changes to working and learning conditions 

Teachers are applauding a decision by the BC Court of Appeal that requires principals and superintendents to ensure that any oversize classes are appropriate for student learning throughout the school year, not just on a particular day at the beginning of the year.

“This is an extremely important decision because it means that the legal obligation to ensure a class is appropriate for student learning continues beyond September 30,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Principals and superintendents must reconsider their determination of appropriateness if the classroom conditions change, or if promised resources or assistance are not provided or are withdrawn during the school year.”

Since 2002, when the BC Liberals stripped class-size and composition language from the teachers’ collective agreements, thousands of teachers have filed grievances in an effort to ensure the teaching and learning conditions in their classrooms are workable. About 15,000 outstanding grievances for 2006–11 remain unresolved.

This case began in 2009, when a teacher in Alberni filed a grievance regarding her Grade 5 class, which had more than the legally allowed number of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Recognizing that the class was not appropriate for student learning, the teacher was provided with an integration support aide. However, the frequent and prolonged absence of the aide made providing appropriate education much more difficult and breached a promise made at the beginning of the school year.

“We’re gratified that the Court of Appeal has upheld our position that teachers have the right to grieve unacceptable class-size and composition, and that appropriate learning conditions must be upheld throughout the school year,” said Lambert. “We are determined to restore these stripped provisions because we know that contractual guarantees are the best way to ensure that students’ needs can be met in classes that are manageable. Both teachers and the public expect changes.”

BCTF public opinion research released last week shows strong public support for restoring contractual language to limit class sizes. Nine out of ten British Columbians believe it is important that BC teachers have a contract that protects learning conditions, and 84% believe that restoration of the right to negotiate learning and working conditions is important. In addition, 70% believe funding for public schools is too low.

For more information, contact Nancy Knickerbocker, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bargaining for our future

BCTF: 2011 March 1

In a recent speech at the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) AGM, BCTF President Susan Lambert, emphasized our determination to renegotiate the split of issues, and our desire for a constructive round of local and provincial bargaining. The BCTF plan is for salary, benefits, hours of work, and paid leaves to be at the provincial table with all other items negotiated at local tables.

Not since provincial bargaining was imposed in 1994 have locals had the opportunity to update “stale” clauses, and to revise and enhance provisions to more adequately address today’s teaching environment. No progress has been possible in improving working conditions, personnel practices, and professional rights including professional development.

Teacher salaries in BC continue to lag further behind most other provinces. In Vancouver, the city with the highest cost of living in Canada, we are $9,981 behind our colleagues in Toronto (5 max.). Closer to home the situation is even worse. At 5 max., we are currently $11,311 behind our colleagues in Calgary and $11,580 behind teachers in Edmonton (where 5 max. will rise to $95,135, and 6 max. to over $100,000 in September 2011). In addition teachers in elementary schools in Toronto get 220 (increasing to 240 in 2012) minutes of prep time per week.

Other occupations traditionally compared with teachers are also outpacing us. Police, firefighters, and nurses have higher starting and maximum salaries than our category 5 in Vancouver.

The October 2010 BCTF Bargaining Conference set as a salary objective parity with teachers in Alberta and Ontario. Teachers need and deserve to be paid fairly and in keeping with our colleagues in the rest of Canada. We have been subjected to government wage freezes and legislated settlements for over a decade. We cannot allow the decline in our salaries to continue.

Bills 27 and 28 enacted in January 2002, which eliminated the class-size and class-composition limits in the provincial collective agreement were challenged in BC Supreme Court. We await the result and hope that the unjust contract stripping of class-size and composition ratios (for learning assistance, ESL, counsellors, teacher-librarians) will be declared illegal. Locals would then be empowered to at least pursue the manner and consequences of the implementation of the class-size/composition limits that currently exist in legislation. Students’ learning conditions are our working conditions.

Teachers will not accept another legislated collective agreement. We want a fair deal at the bargaining table.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BCeSIS Status Update

Friday, September 17, 2010

In memorium: John Church

John Church was a teacher, writer, curriculum developer, school trustee, and strong supporter of public education.

He earned a BA in history and after teacher training took a Master of Arts degree in history. He taught at elementary and secondary schools in Prince Rupert, Langley, and Vancouver where he was social studies department head for 10 years at Gladstone Secondary School.

In 1964, John Church joined the Professional Development Division of the BCTF. He took a leave of absence to be a representative of the UBC Faculty of Education in a CIDA-sponsored teacher training project in Tanzania in 1968. 

There, Church established a teachers’ resource centre and taught social, science, and history methods courses to prospective secondary school teachers. On his return to Canada, he wrote an extensive school library study, “Personalized Learning.” This led to the establishment of demonstration school library projects in Vernon and Vancouver from 1970 to 1975. In addition to his interest in school libraries, Church wrote positively about the curriculum development model that gave teachers a significant role in the process. He was a key player as teachers gained direct and shared sponsorship of curriculum revision.

In the late 1970s, Church was a consultant with the Canada Studies Foundation and chair of the board of Project Canada West. This successful curriculum development project involved 14 teams of teachers and students in four western provinces. The project produced uniquely Canadian curriculum—one of Church’s professional passions. He felt strongly that the traditional British and more recent American influences needed to be balanced with Canadian points of view.
Church’s service to education was recognized in 1982 when he was awarded the GA Fergusson Award, the highest honour granted by the BCTF. The following year, he was granted Honourary Life membership in the Federation. He was also an Honourary Life member of the BC School Teacher-Librarians Association and the New Democratic Party.
Education was a high priority for both John and his wife Shirley Church. She was division head of English and modern languages at Langara campus of Vancouver Community College. They were articulate, perceptive, intelligent members of the education community.

In November 1984, John Church was nominated by COPE to run for Vancouver School Board in a campaign labelled “The school wars.” After years of Social Credit restraint and cutbacks, COPE presented a platform of “No More Cuts!” Vancouver voters responded by upsetting the incumbent and compliant NPA Board and electing a COPE majority. Church chaired the important Education and Student Services Committee.

When the board submitted a “needs” budget $14 million over what the government decreed, the entire school board was fired. But to Church’s delight, in the by-election the government was forced to call, COPE swept all nine seats. The cutbacks were never made.

John Church continued his work in education long after he retired. We will all miss his vision, comprehension, and tenacity. Much of his life was dedicated to support for the importance of public education and we will always honour and respect his efforts in the ongoing struggle. 

Gary Onstad is a retired Vancouver teacher. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Teacher-librarians on the loose at the legislature

A group of teacher-librarians representing the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association (BCTLA) visited the legislature on National School Library Day, October 26, 2009.

On October 26, several MLAs, some joined by members of the BCTLA team, supported Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) by going to Greater Victoria elementary schools and reading with students.

Other members of the group met with Adrian Dix and Shane Simpson in the Opposition Caucus room and discussed with them substantive issues surrounding teacher-librarianship and public education. Vancouver examples proved worthwhile as these engaged the interest of Dix and Simpson. The Vancouver teacher-librarians who were on the team are very familiar with the working and learning conditions of Vancouver school libraries and were able to provide accurate and devastating statistics to demonstrate the inequities between schools (e.g., two school libraries, in schools with similar student FTEs, with vastly different teacher-librarian staffing levels) which are a result of the lack of funding, the removal of ratios from the contract, and the lack of leadership from the ministry (refusal to refresh Developing Independent Learners: The Role of the School Library Resource Centre), all combined with site-based decision making.

Later in the morning, Pat Parungao met with Liberal MLA Richard Lee and showed him the school library inquiry video, created by the Vancouver teacher-librarians’ inquiry group. (

Meanwhile, the other members of the group visited the Legislative Library and found common ground there talking with the library staff.

The library is spectacular, and still houses a card catalogue and microfiche for items that have not yet been added to an electronic database.

The group worked with the librarians to have a copy of the book, The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future of Educational Change by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley ordered, and directed toward the MLAs we met with.

Following this, at the appointed time in the day, the group participated in the DEAR Challenge in the beautiful surroundings of the Library Reading Room.

Members of the team met for lunch with Robin Austin, the opposition education critic, and Diane Thorne, deputy education critic. We discussed a wide range of issues around school libraries and education in general, including class size and composition (and the recent ruling), learning resources selection, support for Aboriginal learners, recent cuts affecting K–12, the overall lack of funding for K–12 including the trustees’ call to delay all-day Kindergarten, and the growing federation of all education stakeholders in support of renewed funding for the K–12 system. Before the meeting, the NDP did not know of the recently exposed Liberal cut to BC ERAC (Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium) ($1.2 million ministry grant reduced to $500,000).

Thorne and Austin were engaged by the description of initiatives under way in school libraries to support learning, such as the automation of SD43’s Aboriginal Education Library. They also seemed very interested in the large number of post-secondary degrees possessed by the team members. It just came up as a comment, but the fact that in particular one team member has five post-secondary degrees demonstrated the expertise of teachers working in school libraries and in the K–12 system as a whole.

We believe that the best part of this meeting was forming relationships that will hopefully continue in some form or another.

At 1:00 p.m., the entire group reconvened and picked up our reservation/seating passes, left our belongings at the security check and passed through the metal detector into the gallery. Very few MLAs were in session on each side of the house. It almost seemed as if the MLAs asking questions were positioned in relation to the MLAs behind and beside them in a way such that when the Hansard TV camera was on each of the speakers it appeared as if more MLAs were in the house.

Private members speeches about National School Library Day were given by MLA Ron Cantelon and MLA Diane Thorne (Coquitlam/ Maillardville). We were happy to hear that Ron Cantelon’s daughter-in-law is a teacher-librarian and that Ron supported DEAR. Diane’s speech presented a thorough understanding of the role of school library programs, mentioning inquiry and critical thinking.

As an aside, we were joined in the gallery by individuals introduced as leading members of the technology industry as well as the leader and deputy leader of the BC Green Party. Kevin Krueger, in his non-answering of questions about the effects of the HST on the tourism industry, mentioned that he had just met with the technology group and that they had told him that they “love the HST”! At this, members of the technology group in the public gallery burst out laughing.

The BCTLA team felt quite at home at the legislature and used every resource in our lobby efforts. We think the BCTF was very well-served by letting a group of teacher-librarians loose on the legislature building. The team proved very resourceful, one of many speciality-area-related capacities, including also a propensity for information seeking and provision, which was employed during the day.

We felt that the visit was very valuable and we look forward to the BCTF pursuing more opportunities to work directly with MLAs, including providing the Opposition with information about cuts to the K–12 system and statistics that may assist the Opposition in their efforts in Question Period and in estimates debates. We were pleased to see this as focus in the BCTF Executive key decisions from October 21–22, 2009.

We were very happy to be able to bring our knowledge to the table in support of BCTF, BCTLA, and K–12 public education in general, and thank the BCTF for supporting our lobbying visit. We look forward to more of our members meeting with MLAs in ridings when the current session breaks. We hope next year to have National School Library Day finally proclaimed, and will begin work early on more MLAs’ participation in DEAR. We do hope that next year they will read in the legislature (not just loudly thump their desks and voice agreement when the suggestion was made that the MLAs read after question period).

Representing BCTLA through the BCTF: Heather Daly (BCTLA president), Karen Lindsay (BCTLA vice-president Advocacy),Moira Ekdahl (BCTLA liaison chair), Val Hamilton (BCTLA web steward), Michele Farquharson (BCTLA continuing education co-chair), Sandra Hedley, Kathy Inglis, Geoff Orme, Pat Parungao (former BCTLA president), Mark Roberts (former BCTLA president), and Cheriee Weichel.