Librarians at the Forefront of “Future Ready”

Future Ready preview webinar

Librarians are at the forefront of helping schools become “future ready.” The Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) launched its Future Ready Schools (FRS) initiative in October 2014 with the aim of leveraging technology and connectivity to personalize and transform learning. In June 2016, the Alliance, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, expanded FRS to position school librarians as leaders in this effort.

Future Ready LibrariansMichelle Luhtala, Department Chair of the New Canaan, CT, High School Library and a 2015 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, is a leader in helping teacher-librarians all around the country to become Future Ready.  She kicked off Season 6 of the Emerging Tech series of webinars on October 19th with a live broadcast from New Canaan High School on the topic of “Future Ready Librarians.” Her guests for this online discussion were Mark Ray, Chief Digital Officer for Vancouver Public Schools and Sara Trettin, Open Education and Digital Engagement Lead, Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education. The broadcast was attended by 450 librarians and educators for an informative and engaging discussion with the whole audience.

The Future Ready movement grew out of the Connect Ed initiative launched by President Obama in 2013 with several goals: to connect 99% of students in schools to broadband, and to address the need for more professional learning and leadership to ensure the effective use of technology. In 2014 a Future Ready Pledge was launched as a commitment on the part of superintendents to provide the necessary infrastructure and devices, Future ready personalizationto support professional learning for teachers, and to provide high quality digital content.

Future Ready is focused on collaborative leadership, not just the superintendent.  The Future Ready Framework published on the website is designed to help a lot of people who are looking to make change concurrently. Future Ready has developed a common set of information, tools, and assessment, that are all available for free. Personalized learning and how technology can make the learning more personalized, is the focus for Future Ready initiatives that include collaborative leadership and also extend outside the classroom to community partnerships.

Michelle Luhtala commented that New Canaan High School went BYOD just this year as part of their personalized learning intiative.  It’s helping teacher empower their students to develop their own interests and learning plans with more flexible learning environments, extending learning outside the classroom, and also collecting data to inform instruction so that it is truly reflective of each learners ability.

Future ready benefitsSara Trettin mentioned the 2016 National Education Technology plan that is updated every five years and relates very closely to these initiatives.  Some schools are reading this as a kind of book club for their professional learning communities, reading one chapter at a time.

Mark Ray added that Vancouver is four years into their 1:1 implementation. They have a mature implementation but are still working on personalization.  They have created the enabling conditions but, “you can’t take a pill and become future ready.”  Districts realize the devices alone don’t personalize learning.  Digital content and open education resources still require mediation and planning. The challenge is to figure out how you leverage technology to really get individualized learning outcomes, and no one has figured that out yet.

Michelle Luhtala commented that her concern as a school librarian was that there was a big giant plan that looked great, but didn’t really address the role of the librarian who is best poised to facilitate this movement and asked Mark and Sara to talk about how the role of the librarian was addressed in the evolution of the framework.

Mark and Sara discussed how conversations evolved, some separately, some together, about how to connect librarians to this work and a growing recognition that librarians were essential to the process, especially when they are trained and provided with devices before the teachers, and are engaged in conversations about digital citizenship. The Future Ready Librarians Framework acknowledges that librarians play a powerful role in:

  • Curating digital resources and tools
  • Empowering students as creators
  • Building instructions partnerships
  • Designing collaborative spaces

In the broadcast, Michelle, Mark, and Sara shared stories and examples, and Future Ready is collecting stories from the field, so librarians can support each other in this work. The librarians and other interested educators who attended the broadcast were highly engaged and sharing comments with each other and the presenters throughout the presentation, showing how important professional learning communities are for the success for this work:

  • “Your schools need a good tech. dept. and overall support financially and other to make sure these devices will work. Without the base-line infrastructure from the bottom up, devices don’t mean much.”
  • “Although we have a library services department, we receive very little support from them in making libraries real libraries.”
  • “We are getting ready to set up 2-3 new library spaces & would love to know what resources are out there to share as a reference for the principals as we start to plan.”
  • “Thank you for everyone’s comments. I’m going away from all this with a full head of info. I just need time to process it all. Thank you everyone.”
  • “Personalized learning for BOTH students and teachers!”
  • “I feel much better after attending this session. I thought it was strictly about technology but I have learned there are many more components. Thanks so much!”

The broadcast and conversation affirmed that when librarians are supported, they are critical for the successful implementation of technology and leveraging that technology for personalized learning – and Future Ready.


The broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Mackin Educational Resources.

This article was modified and published by eSchool News at

About Michelle Luhtala

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.

About Mark Ray

Mark Ray was named one of “20 to Watch” honorees for 2014-15 by the National School Boards Association’s Technology Leadership Network. The honor recognizes education leaders from across the country for their work exploring and embracing innovative technology solutions that contribute to high-quality instruction and support more personalized learning experiences for students. A former teacher librarian at Skyview High School, Ray oversees library services and has been instrumental in transforming the librarian role into a proactive force for technological innovation in VPS schools. He also helps direct the district’s one-to-one technology initiative which, through a community-supported levy, expands learning opportunities by giving a digital device to every student in grades 3 through 12 by 2019.

About Sara Trettin

Sara Trettin leads the open education work for the Department, directs digital engagement for the Office of Educational Technology and leads the office’s efforts surrounding libraries and librarians. While on rotation to the State Department, Sara supported the ECA Collaboratory’s work on open education, open government, and education diplomacy. Prior to joining the Department, she worked as a Learning Services Librarian and served as Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress. A former teacher, Sara holds a B.A. from Clemson University, a graduate certificate from Duke University, and a Master’s in Library Science from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.