"Teacher-librarians who are most effective, that is, have a positive impact on student achievement, collaborate with colleagues in flexibly scheduled programs..." (Asselin, Branch, & Oberg, 2003, p. 66)

Table of Contents - this page

| | | Schedule types: fixed, flexible, and mixed | Pros and cons | Scheduling Tips and Tools | References and Further Readings

Schedule types: fixed, flexible, and mixed


Flexible scheduling: "Considered best practice for library classes, flexible scheduling is an open plan with no regularly occurring classes. Flexible access promotes collaboration and point-of-need access. For this to work, the teacher-librarian needs to be an active marketer."
http://www.ala.org/aasl/resources/flexible.html (Harris, 2007)

Fixed scheduling: "In a fixed schedule, classes come to the library as part of a regular special class rotation. While this has benefits - the librarian sees every student regularly - the instruction can be less effective as collaboration during a fixed schedule is a challenge." (Harris, 2007)

Mixed scheduling: some combination of fixed and flexible.

Pros and cons

Flexible scheduling


  • "The most significant change in roles occurs when the school moves to flexible scheduling and curriculum-integrated instruction. Greater curriculum involvement by the teacher-librarian occurs when flexible scheduling is combined with team planning. Increased interest in books and more enjoyment in reading are also more apparent with reading integration throughout the curriculum, and flexible scheduling of classes and groups. Even student attitudes toward the resource centre and reading are more positive in flexibly scheduled programs, compared to fixed time-tabling of "library" periods." (Asselin, Branch, & Oberg, 2003, p. 64)
  • Teachers and students would come to the library with a purpose; not just because the teacher needed a break or that's when the schedule says they can come." (LM Net)
  • librarians feel more control over their time.
  • learn a skill as students need it in context - more meaningful, more retention students view library as a place that meets their needs rather more individualzed instructions
  • Anita Phipps (February, 2010) stated in an e-mail (after a query on LM Net):
    "I believe [flexible scheduling] is the only way to effectively help students be effective users of information and to have me be an instructor of information literacy rather than a babysitter. A group of us ... found the priorities to us are:
    1) administrator support and buy-in, which can take a tremendous amount of work,
    2) staff understanding of the system, a plan for time management, which means some things that "have always been done" may not happen or have to be delegated somewhere else,
    3) an information literacy curriculum,
    4) cooperative planning and
    5) integrated curriculum where everything in the library instruction is connected in some way to classroom curriculum."


  • teachers may feel that you have "free" blocks if you are on a flexible schedule. Be sure to block in your media and planning duties in your schedule too (sourced from LM Net, poster not named).
  • flexible scheduling: teachers may not like this because they don't want to give up their planning time (if library periods are used by teachers for this).
  • problem of flexible scheduling is that some teachers (and therefore their teachers) may never take advantage of the library.

Fixed scheduling


  • may provide teachers with planning/prep time.
  • ensure that all students have the opportunity to use library resource.
  • problem of fixed scheduling is that while it gives each class an opportunity to work with the librarian, this time is often rushed and not meaningful - there is little time for research.
  • library lessons may not be presented in context with classroom activities.
  • students/teachers/classes have limited opportunity to use the library for a variety of needs, when they need it.
  • lack of collaboration with teachers.

Mixed scheduling

A perusal of the LM Net archives, plus a recent pointed question on LM Net, resulted in the overall impression that many of the teacher-librarians on LM Net seem to prefer a mixed scheduled. Language Arts/English classes appear to be the most likely to be scheduled in the middle and highschool grades, with other courses being scheduled as needed for research projects. A partial fixed schedule also appears to be especially commonplace with primary students. Also, a fixed check-out time was noted as especially key in school communities where it would be unlikely that parents would take their children to the public library.

Scheduling Tips and Tools

Equipment Scheduling

  • have an online sign-out system (e.g. Google Docs).
  • equipment might be delivered to classrooms, or teachers may have to come pick up depending on library staffing.

Scheduling of the library/librarian


  • again, use of an online sign-up (e.g. Google Docs) is a possibility. BUT do note that a school library consultant on LM Net (unnamed - see link) stated:
    "We do not recommend using a sign up sheet (flex access for instruction) as it
    short circuits the conversation and planning that needs to take place prior to
    scheduling appropriate instructional activities based on classroom objectives.
    You can keep your plan book out for teachers to look at, but they have to talk
    with you before scheduling any instructional time."
  • have teachers fill out an online survey using e.g. Google Docs or Surveymonkey. Staley (2007), provides a list of questions that can be used (this refers to college but is applicable to other levels), such as:
    • The instructor's name, discipline and contact information. (A free-response question)
    • Which topics they want covered. (A multiple selection question) This is a list of the...workshops the library commonly teaches. Included on this list is a selection titled "I'm not sure which workshop to choose." If they choose this, [the librarian] will contact them to discuss the students' information needs in the program [and make suggestions].
    • The approximate number of students in the class. (Free response)
    • Information about desired class times, days, and dates. (Free response and multiple selection questions)
    • The expectation, couched as a question, that they will attend the class with their students. (Free response)
    • A request for a class assignment the instruction can be designed around. (Free response)
    • A comments field where the instructor can add any clarifying information. (Free response)
  • classroom teachers should stay with the class both so they can reinforce the skills learned and be seen as a partner in the activity.
  • have a system to keep track of skills taught.
  • collaboration with teachers and research is key.
  • allow teachers to drop by with their classes to do books exchanges even when you are working with other groups, but have the teachers take care of circulation duties if there is not a volunteer or clerk on hand (LM Net).
  • If you are a one-person show in your school library, Lofrumento (2004) has some additional tips for time management and scheduling, such as:
    • eliminating chit-chat when planning collaboratively by planning via e-mail, or meeting with a teacher shortly before they must get back to students.
    • providing a teacher newsletter to get information out to all teachers at once, which can be referred to as teachers need it.
  • some techniques for encouraging teachers who might not take advantage of the library with flexible scheduling:
    • schedule those classes.
    • send out a brochure promoting your offerings.
    • demonstrate to teachers that you can help them reach their goals by working with willing teachers. Share the resulting successes with the less enthusiastic faculty.

Note that the type of scheduling may depend to some degree one age ranges and school size. Nonetheless, a system needs to be worked out to ensure that all teachers and students have access to the library/librarian.

Use the following questions from Makemson, C., & Early, S. (2003) when deciding on a library schedule:

  • Are you available for collaborative planning with teachers during the day?
  • Can students exchange their books at point of need, even daily?
  • Is your library media center available for multitasking - for example, storytime, research, and leisure reading occurring concurrently?
  • Do groups of students have the opportunity to work independently while you team teach with another teacher?
  • Is information literacy skill instruction integrated with content instruction at the optimal time in the schedule?
  • Do students and teachers have time to finish their projects on consecutive days?
  • Are you able to differentiate the length and number of class sessions to meet the nature of the projects? Can students work for varying lengths of time on consecutive days?
  • Are enrichment activities available throughout the day in your library media center?

A search through the LM Net archives will provide many different examples of how to schedule a library based on different circumstances and school community needs. Here are but a couple of examples of scheduling provided by teacher-librarians as a result of a query on LM Net in February of 2010:

  • Charlotte Nance noted that in a large highschool, each teacher was offered 5 days for research, but could book more than that provided there were available times.
  • Colette D. Eason noted that she uses a biweekly schedule - A/B weeks. She sees PreK-2nd grade classes one week and 3-5 the next week.

References and Further Readings

Asselin, M., Branch, J. L., & Oberg, D. (Eds.). (2003). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada (Monograph). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian School Library Association: Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada.

Harris, C. (2007). An administrators’ guide to school libraries (Monograph). Retrieved from http://caslworkshops.pbworks.com/browse/#view=ViewAllFiles

Huffman, S., Thurman, G., & Thomas, L. K. (2005). An investigation of block scheduling and school library media centers. Reading Improvement, 42(1), 3-15.

LM_Net (various dates). http://www.eduref.org/lm_net/ and including (http://www.eduref.org/plweb-cgi/fastweb?getdoc+listservs+LM_NET+24132+1+wAAA+scheduling)

Lofrumento, C. (2004). One person school library time management: A survey of selected practical considerations. PNLA Quarterly, 68(4), 5-35.

Ludmer, Robin & Kachka, Arlene (February 2008). Making the most of fixed schedules: Two library media specialists speak out. School Library Media Activities Monthly. FindArticles.com. 19 Feb, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7729/is_200802/ai_n32258292/

Makemson, C., & Early, S. (2003). Flexible scheduling. Knowledge Quest, 32(1), 55-55.

Smith Rowe, Glenda (2007). Collaboration: It's a gamble on a fixed schedule. Knowledge Quest, 35(4), 44-46. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1340878311).

Staley, L. A. (2007). Using survey sites for information literacy scheduling and teaching. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 14(3), 103-106. doi:10.1300/J106v14n03&#x201707

Woolls, Blanche (2008). The School Library Media Manager (4th ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.