Enhancing Services and Student Learning Through Flexible Scheduling Mary Kelly Brewer de Bello

ALA Statement

The AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling reads: “The integrated library program philosophy requires an open schedule. Classes need to be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher, and the librarian. Regularly scheduled classes in the school library don’t follow this best practice. Students and teachers must be able to come to the library throughout the day to use information sources, to read for pleasure, and to meet and work with other students and teachers.”

What is flexible scheduling?

Flexible scheduling can have various interpretations. It is important to create a shared vision in order to ensure a common understanding among librarians, teachers, administration, students, and parents.

Flexible scheduling in libraries is“a scheduling arrangement that allows for variation in library use, rather than having each class scheduled into the library for a regular, fixed period.” (McGregor)

Benefits of Flexible Scheduling

  • students and teachers have access to the library and the librarian at the point of need;
  • students and teachers can use the library as a more flexible space than merely a clearing house for circulating books;
  • the librarian has the time and opportunity to teach library and research skills and students have the time in the library to learn about and use the resources in the library
  • librarians and teachers have time to collaborate, plan, and teach together, giving students the best opportunity for learning in the library;
  • librarians can become more flexible in taking library services out of the library and take some lessons to the classroom (including those classrooms with teachers who do not bring their classes to the library); and
  • since the library and the librarian are not tied up with classes all day, it increases library access for everyone.
  • better curriculum integration
C3 Framework for Social Studies -- enhanced by flexible scheduling through inquiry and integration.

Challenges of Flexible Scheduling

  • some teachers may not allow their students to go to the library without a regular appointment, and therefore, will not get lessons on research and library skills, and may not check out books as often as needed.
  • Flexible and equitable access...what about teachers who don’t end up bringing their classes?
  • You can't teach who you don't see. Some teachers may not schedule library visits if it is not a part of a fixed schedule
  • Librarians will not have a routine schedule which would be an adjustment
  • administrators may have to find alternatives to provide planning time for teachers
  • Collaboration is a key to success - collaborative skills and habits need to be cultivated
  • loss of teacher planning time, formerly provided by librarians, can be an obstacle to teacher satisfaction when implementing flexible scheduling
Research shows that learning in context is most meaningful. Inquiry and project-based learning is engaging because students have choice and are investigating questions that are important to them. Flexible scheduling facilitates inquiry learning.

In contrast, fixed scheduling is detailed below. Data shows that fixed scheduling is more common. It is important to understand when considering implementing this change.

Fixed scheduling does not meet the needs of students. It does not provide the needed support of inquiry and project based learning. It is an important initiative that librarians are striving to implement.

Implementing flexible scheduling

Using Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovation model and five characteristics of innovation, McGregor developed questions that are important to consider when exploring the idea of flexible scheduling.

1. To what extent does flexible scheduling work better than fixed scheduling. What does “better” mean in this situation?

2. Do teachers and principals consider flexible scheduling compatible with other programs in the school? Does it promote the values and mission of the school and the educators?

3. Is flexible scheduling perceived as difficult to understand and/or use? If teachers find it difficult to use or for their students to use the library in a flexibly scheduled situation, they will be less likely to accept the innovation.

4. Can the new policy of flexible scheduling be accepted gradually or tried out on a limited basis?

It is important to note that there is no one right way to implement flexible scheduling. It will be different in each setting, where student needs are unique and should drive program design and implementation. As a librarian, these key questions can be used to guide discussions with school leaders when working to implement flexible scheduling.

Keys for Success

LIBRARIANS! accommodating, enthusiastic, energetic, organized, reliable, inquisitive, risk-taking, willing to experiment, not uncomfortable with change, hard-working, willing to compromise and adapt to meet teachers’ needs

STAFF! The library team needs to be able to respond to multiple demands for access to physical space, resources and personnel.

TEACHERS! Successful flexible programs have teachers who are inquiry-based, believe that children are curious and can learn to ask good questions, teachers who are collegial: open to sharing, cooperative, willing to be involved and to share accountability, good team players and communicators. They are flexible themselves: willing to try new things, risk-takers, creative, open-minded, willing to learn, comfortable with lack of structure. They are good planners who appreciate literature and information, are assertive, are concerned with the big picture, and who do not give up easily. (McGregor)

PRINCIPALS! Their support as a vital element in the success of implementing flexible scheduling

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT! This is key to develop skills at integration and discover the ways to best use the flexible scheduling model.

REFLECTION! A program assessment plan is vital to continuous improvement.

CURRICULUM! Documenting teaching and learning is essential. Skills and content curriculum (including assessment) must be tracked.

Leading Change

If you don't have a reason for change, change is difficult.

The 6 Secrets of Change for School Leaders -- this includes librarians!

The following list comes from Michael Fullan, leader in educational change and school leadership. While the "Six Secrets" were initially created with principals in mind, it is applicable to librarians as educational leaders. When thinking about implementing flexible scheduling, these six secrets of change are important to consider.

1. Love your employees: show value in teachers’ contributions to the development of programs, provide professional development opportunities for teachers, value teacher input and participation in the process of developing the vision and implementing flexible scheduling

2. Connecting Peers with Purpose: this is an opportunity for all faculty to learn through collaborative planning, PLCs, and learning.

3. Capacity Building Prevails: Cultivating leadership capacity in team leads, teachers, building lesson design and inquiry-based learning capacity in teachers

4. Learning is the Work: applying new knowledge and skills (effective collaboration, lesson design/lessons chema), professional development focused on lesson design, project-based learning,inquiry-based learning.

5. Transparency Rules: deprivatizing practice through learning walks, lesson study, looking at student work protocols, PLCs, assessment data collection

6. Systems Learn: developing teacher leaders, enhance continuity through shared lessondesign agreements.Decision Making Model

Consider the 6 secrets with the lens of either moving toward flexible scheduling or working to maintain an existing program.

Being a leader is not easy. Implementing change can present challenges. The following is a light hearted video that also sends a powerful message.

Who will be your first follower?

In Conclusion

Fullan’s (1991) description of change stages suggests that continuation or institutionalization happens once the new initiative has become the way things are done.

The task of selling the initiative never ends. New teachers, new principals, and new district administrators often mean training or convincing new people. Even in schools where everyone was delighted by the way in which the library supports learning, the initiative must be maintained (McGregor).


J. (2014, July 17). Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched

Lee, C. (2015, November 13). You Say. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/say-library-say-learning-commons-whats-big-diff/

Fullan, M. 1991. The new meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Pr.

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McGregor, Joy. "ALA | Flexible Scheduling: Implementing an Innovation." ALA | Home - American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

McGregor, J. H. 1999. The Takeshi Murofushi Research Award: Implementing flexible scheduling in elementary libraries. In Unleash the power! Knowledge, technology, diversity, papers presented at the third International Forum on Research in School Librarianship, eds. Lynne Lighthall and Eleanor Howe, 11-21. Seattle, Wash.: International Association of School Librarianship.

Shannon, Donna M. "Tracking the Transition to a Flexible Access Library Program in Two Library Power Elementary Schools." SLMR Online and Copy. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

(n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://libraries.idaho.gov/blogs/jeanniestandal/january-best-practice-month-flexible-scheduling

Created By
Mary Kelly Bello


Created with images by -Marlith- - "Library" • Horia Varlan - "Hardcover book gutter and pages" • Modern Relics - "Keys"

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