Learning Standards & Program Guidelines Implementation Toolkit

Getting Started

standards coverThe learning standards are a complex, richly detailed vision for student learning. They intentionally were not designed to provide a slick, facile advertisement for school libraries; rather, the learning standards give a thoughtful framework to which K–12 schools can aspire in creating meaningful student learning opportunities for students. As a result, practitioners need to take some time to get to know the content of the learning standards and consider what they mean.


Your first and best resources are AASL (renew your membership here  external link icon) and your state school library association. Their electronic discussion lists, blogs, networking opportunities, conferences, and resources can keep you in touch with the latest happenings in school librarianship. Each state and/or region has L4L coordinators who can help you see how the L4L plan integrates into local or state learning initiatives. The L4L coordinators also provide ongoing professional development about the learning standards. To identify your region, go to the AASL regions map and click through to find your nearest state organization or affiliate.

Taking the Long View: Getting Oriented

We recommend that you begin your exploration by reading “Sowing the Seeds of the New AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner  pdf icon (which was originally published in the September/October 2008 issue of Knowledge Quest, the AASL journal), and by downloading pdf icon and reading the learning standards. The learning standards document begins with two pages describing the common beliefs, followed by one page for each of the four learning standards. You will notice that indicators for each learning standard are divided into four sections: skills, dispositions, self-assessments, and student responsibilities. These categories are defined on page 8 of the document.

We recommend that you spend time digesting and discussing the learning standards' common beliefs, found on pages 2 and 3 of the document. The common beliefs are an important foundation upon which the learning standards themselves are built. Be sure that your team and those who will participate in and support the implementation of L4L with you reach consensus about the common beliefs before moving on to the four learning standards. Learning to quickly communicate these values via a thirty-second "elevator speech" can help you be ready to share your ideas with others. Try the exercise described in the following presentation:

Now is also a good time to order the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action, a guide to lesson design using the learning standards; Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs; and A Planning Guide for Empowering Learners.

Try this low-stress, six-word introduction to the process of understanding and implementing the learning standards:

  • L4L in Six Words  powerpoint icon by Kristin Fontichiaro, Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force Member and Michigan L4L Coordinator, and Kathleen McBroom, Michigan L4L State Coordinator.

Feeling comfortable with the content of L4L can take time, but it is important to invest that time before presenting the learning standards to stakeholders. Here are some additional strategies that can help you get to know the content:

  • Print out a copy of the learning standards. Cut apart each standard’s indicators and sort them into piles: high priority to implement, medium priority to implement, and low priority to implement. If possible, work in teams and discuss why you are assigning various levels of importance. (Indicators in an easy to cut format. pdf icon)

  • Cut apart each standard’s indicators. Where do you see overlaps? Connections?

  • Alternatively, print out a copy of the learning standards. Use different colored markers or highlighters to note which skills, dispositions, student responsibilities, and self-assessments have already been successfully implemented and which you would like to implement. If you were already implementing Information Power, you will notice that those values have been incorporated into Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

  • Similarly, to get an overview of highly functioning 21st-century school libraries, read Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. This slim volume will give you an overview of the mission of the library, and a view of the 21st-century learner and librarian, the important and varied instructional roles of the school librarian, the nuts-and-bolts (such as budget, policies, and staffing) that contribute to flourishing programs, and leadership qualities for school librarians. Use sticky notes or highlighters and color code the sections according to priority. Identify one area for growth that you might discuss with your building principal.

Online Resources

Additional Resources

  • Fontichiaro, Kristin, ed. 2009. 21st-Century Learning in School Libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

  • Harvey, Carl A. 2009. The 21st Century Elementary Library Media Program. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth.

left arrow Return to Introduction and Contents

Advance to Who is the 21st-Century School Librarian?  right arrow