What’s a Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix & How Do I Use It?

What's a Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix & How Do I Use It? - School Librarians often struggle to create a cohesive library skills curriculum when subject area library visits are so unpredictable. Here's a visual organizer that lets you take control of your lesson planning and promotes collaboration with all content area teachers! #NoSweatLibraryWhen we become a School Librarian we don’t cease being a teacher. What changes, however, is how we plan and present our lessons.

  • We no longer have a standard curriculum that is presented chronologically on a daily basis.
  • We rarely have contiguous days with students, but rather random, irregular library visits.

How can a School Librarian teach Library Information Literacy Skills under such circumstances? We have to scaffold stand-alone topical lessons in order to gradually build up knowledge, so students receive a comprehensive program of Information Literacy instruction during the time we have them with us.

In short, School Librarians must integrate info-lit skills into every subject and each grade level during single class periods throughout the school year. How, then, might we effectively do this?


School Librarians need to support what students are studying in the classroom, otherwise, teachers won’t allow time for a library visit. And the only way to do that is to become familiar with everyone’s subject area curriculum. We don’t need to know course content to the depth teachers do, but we must familiarize ourselves with content area units and their assessments so we can discern when students need an information literacy skill (even if it’s not written down and the teacher doesn’t realize it). With such an overwhelming prospect, we must have a way to:

  • identify when a library lesson is needed for students, and
  • keep track of intermittent library lessons in order to progressively build information literacy skills.

When I faced this challenge, I determined the best approach would be to create a grid with different subject areas along one side and Library Lessons along the other side. I began on paper, but as I worked my way through subjects and grade levels, the grid became quite unwieldy, so I digitized it into a set of spreadsheets. After a few modifications and adjustments, I arrived at the finished product that I use even today: the No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix.

No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - School Librarians often struggle to create a cohesive library skills curriculum when subject area library visits are so unpredictable. Here's a visual organizer that lets you take control of your lesson planning and promotes collaboration with all content area teachers! #NoSweatLibrary

The No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template is now available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template contains 5 tabbed spreadsheet pages:

No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix snip of tabs

  • a year-long Library Schedule page.
  • 3 pages for Grade Levels. (In my case, 6g, 7g, 8g, but you can add pages by copying a spreadsheet and rename tabs to align with your own grade levels.)
  • an Example sheet with some of my No Sweat Library Lessons entered to guide you through filling in your own information.

For each grade level spreadsheet, the Subject Area rows are listed down the left side, along with a row for Information Literacy and one for National School Library Standards. The Grading Period Week columns are listed across the top with a numbered row also between each subject. There is a separate block for each of the two semesters. By using the “Freeze” feature, you can slide the relevant time period up next to the Subjects column to make it easier to read. (See image below.)
Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Grade Level sheets - Grade level pages of the visual organizer Template that lets School Librarians organize subject curricula and Library Lesson. #NoSweatLibrary


Colleagues have asked for specifics about the No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix, so here’s how any school librarian can easily use the No Sweat template to fill in their own subject curricula and library lessons.


  1. Begin with a single subject area for your lowest grade level. I suggest beginning with your former classroom subject area, since that’s what you’re most familiar with, which will make filling in the Matrix much more intuitive.
  2. Using the subject’s curriculum guide or scope & sequence, enter content unit titles into the field for the week they begin. I italicize these to keep them distinct from my library lesson information.
  3. Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix snip of color blocks - Lesson color blocks of the visual organizer Template that lets School Librarians organize subject curricula and Library Lesson. #NoSweatLibraryLook through the guide/s&s for classroom assignments that would benefit from a library lesson or library resources. For the week you determine it’s needed, colorize the block (I make it the same color as the subject area) and type the Library Lesson or library resources needed.
  4. In the Information Literacy row, under the corresponding week, add the skills that are reviewed, expanded, or introduced. Or, add details about resources needed.
  5. When finished with one subject, grab another subject area guide/s&s for the same grade level, and fill in those units, then identify probable library lessons or resources. Continue doing this for each different subject at that grade level.
  6. Move to each grade level and fill in subject area units and possible library lessons & resources, until all subject areas at all grade levels are filled in.
  7. Once you have this preliminary Curriculum Matrix, pull out all Library Lesson Plans that you currently teach and, in the appropriate fields, fill in other lesson info and the National School Library Standards, which is now included on another tabbed spreadsheet to copy & paste into the other sheets as needed. I like to enter my lesson Title into the subject row and the lesson Theme or Learning Target into the Info-Lit row.

When you’ve finished your Curriculum Matrix, you’ll have a thorough picture of all subject area curricula and your Library Lessons. Now, do some analysis:

  1. Look over each grade level and compare the information literacy skills you taught for the prior grade level and what you will teach at the next grade level.
  2. Make notes in your current lesson plans if you can activate prior knowledge from previous grade level lessons before you introduce new skills.
  3. Make a list of specific Information Literacy Skills which you need to introduce or build with new Library Lessons.
  4. Make notes of where you need to expand the library’s print or digital collection to meet a curricular need you weren’t aware of.

Your Curriculum Matrix may occasionally need to be updated as standards and course curricula change, but if you keep up with it, you’ll always have a broad view of library visits and the Info-Lit Skills you cover for all your grade levels.

The Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix is a great tool to show your principal during evaluations, so s/he understands how valuable you are to classroom learning!


Collaborate with Teachers using the Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix - Use the No Sweat School Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template to plan Library Lessons with subject area teachers, and take a printout along when approaching them to schedule a library visit. They'll be convinced that collaborating with the School Librarian will benefit their students! | No Sweat Library
Creating the Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix is the easy part. Developing specific Library Lessons is a bit more challenging. The really hard part is convincing teachers that students will benefit from a Library Lesson! Here’s how I do it:

  • At the start of each grading period I use my Curriculum Matrix to view upcoming possible library lessons & resources for that time span. I select & print out enough of the Matrix so I can visit with those teachers and show them how important their place is in building Info-Lit skills.
  • I print out the related Library Lesson Plans—recurring or new—so I can show each teacher how I incorporate their unit Standards and activities as a focus for the library skills lesson. When only library resources are needed, I use my Library Lesson Short Form for Teacher Requests (available on my FREE Librarian Resources page) so the teacher can make any changes or additional requests.
  • I also select and print-out the relevant portion of the Library Scheduler spreadsheet.
  • I go to each subject area teacher during their conference period and show them the LLC Matrix and their Library Lesson Plan. I make it pretty easy for them to say “Yes, indeed, let’s do this!” Then I pull out the schedule to enter the teacher’s library visit, and they’re pretty impressed to see how busy a School Librarian really is! (For Short Form & resources I suggest a “quick lesson” so students know how to best use the materials.) 

You may be thinking, “Wait, shouldn’t we collaborate with the teacher before we create the Library Lesson Plan?” Uh, NO. In my experience, teachers who are unfamiliar with librarian collaboration can’t envision how we can help them. But, they’ll consider a library visit when we show them a concrete example of how we use their content to teach library skills that enhance classroom learning and increase student achievement. (Read my blog post, “How to Propose Library Lessons to Teachers ,” to learn more about this!)


Once you’ve completed your Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix, I know you’ll rely on it to develop your lessons and purchase resources. When colleagues, teachers, and administrators see this tool, your professional standing with them will skyrocket!

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My Teacher Collaboration Form is available for download from my FREE Librarian Resources page! My No Sweat Library Lesson Planner Templates are available for download from my FREE Librarian Resources page!
Image of single Library Lesson Teacher Collaboration Form. | No Sweat Library NoSweat Library Lesson Planner Template - page 1
Learn more about using my Library Lesson Planner Template from these blog posts:
Short, Simple, and Relevant School Library Lessons
How to Build a High Quality, Standards-Based School Library Lesson
The No Sweat School Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix Template is available from No Sweat Library, my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The No Sweat Library Lesson Curriculum Matrix product is designed as a set of spreadsheets for School Librarians to enter subject-area units & their assessments for each grade level to determine when a library lesson or resource is needed. | No Sweat Library

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Not Fixed vs Flex, But Responsive Scheduling for the School Library

Responsive Scheduling for the School Library - Fixed scheduling or flexible scheduling of the school library is no longer applicable to our time. While each has advantages and shortcomings, the new recommendations are for "responsive scheduling." Here's some history and analysis of all three, along with the combination that worked for me. #NoSweatLibraryFixed vs. Flexible Scheduling for school libraries has long been controversial, and AASL now recommends we implement “Responsive scheduling”. The purpose for library scheduling is often misunderstood by school administrators, by teachers, and even by School Librarians, so it’s time to take a fresh look.

To better understand the issue of fixed or flex or responsive scheduling, it may help to see how far we’ve come, and where we are now, so that we can effectively work toward where we need to be.


Fixed scheduling was originally a non-negotiable schedule of library visits set by school administration. Lessons came from a specific, fixed, scope-and-sequenced Library curriculum of what students needed to know about the library, just as English, Math, Social Studies, and Science were separate curricula. There was no coordination of Library skills with what was happening in classrooms, but that seemed OK, since none of the subject areas were coordinated either.

For the next 30 years we tried to coordinate and integrate curriculum to improve student learning, like adding literature, art, and music to Social Studies. Along the way we increased the use of technology and added authentic project-oriented assessment.

cover image of Information Power, 1998Educational advancements increased use of the school library, highlighting inadequacies in student information literacy skills and the need for an improved library program to address these skills at point of need. AASL’s Information Power (published in 1988 and republished in 1998) promoted the integration of library skills into the curriculum and a flexible approach to library use for the teaching of these skills. To make that happen, librarians and teachers would collaborate on how and when to teach what.


No more stand alone library lessons taught in isolation from other subjects. No more classes dropped off by teachers at prescribed times each day of each week. School Librarians would now flexibly schedule classes into the library when they needed to be there, for a few days in a row if necessary, and take time to plan with teachers to create lessons that integrate library skills into classroom activities.

Here’s where some misunderstanding arose. If fixed scheduling denied us power over our schedule, flex scheduling can also take away our decision-making power. If we’re told we can’t have any schedule at all, that we need to provide unlimited access, to anyone, anytime, to do anything, well, that isn’t what flex schedule means.

image of a flexible scheduleThe key word is flexible. It means that, rather than being forced to accept specific classes on a regular schedule, WE determine who uses the library and when. It means we decide when a class needs to be in the library, and it means we can even have a fixed schedule for certain classes, because we have decided that is what students need.

True flex scheduling means we can say yes or no to casual drop-ins or last-minute requests, because we have a class scheduled to visit which requires our full attention, especially when we don’t have an aide to assist with book checkout. It also means that students working on projects we’ve had a part in teaching can come to the library at any time even if the class isn’t scheduled.


A fixed schedule provides more opportunities for teaching and reinforcing library skills, so we must know our school’s curricula very well and develop a wide repertoire of activities to keep students engaged. Fixed schedules demand that we become as flexible as possible to plan with teachers and integrate curriculum into our library lessons.

Flex scheduling promotes integration of library skills into classroom activities; however, flexible schedules demand that we regularly plan with teachers and schedule classes for library and research skills. Either way, we must push ourselves to become a better professional. As fixed scheduled teachers work with us, they begin to see the benefits of having a flexible library schedule, so they can become our best allies when we ask administration to move toward flex scheduling.

I began my school library career with completely flexible scheduling, but after a couple years it became problematic. Once I understood what true flex scheduling meant, I created a combination fix/flex schedule that works for our school:

  • ELA classes come to the library on a set day every other week for book checkout and DEAR time (silent reading). We collaborate on a schedule so one week 7g & 8g classes visit on Tuesday & Wednesday, then the following week SpEd/ELL and 6g visit on Thursday and Friday. I can adjust ELA visit day if the library is otherwise needed: we switch to another open day that week, or they get books & return to the classroom for DEAR time, or the teacher sends a few students at a time for a new book.
    Example of a combination fixed ELA schedule with open times for flexible scheduling.linebreak
  • With 5 contiguous open days—Thursday through Wednesday, every other week,  I can schedule other subject classes into the library for lessons and research assignments.
  • I can reserve Monday for library administrative work, for planning, and for collaboration with teachers, unless it’s essential for a teacher to bring students in that day.
  • Recurring yearly lessons, such as my Dewey Decimals Lesson with 6g and 7g Math classes, my Online Subscription WebQuests with 6g and 7g Social Studies, my Cloud Computing Lesson with Spanish & Art classes, and my Digital Citizenship Lessons, are all scheduled with teachers at the start of each grading period to be sure there are no conflicts with newly planned projects that may need to use the library and its resources.

This combination (or semi-fixed/flex) scheduling worked well in my School Library for over a decade from the early 2000s.


AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (2009) offered little about scheduling other than consistent use of the term equitable access. However, AASL issued a Position Statement on Library Scheduling in 2011, revised in 2014, which was printed in the new National School Library Standards (2018, p216), about “flexible scheduling”:

Classes must be flexibly scheduled to visit the school library on an as-needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and use of technology with the guidance of the teacher, who is the subject specialist, and the librarian, who is the information-search process specialist. … Regularly scheduling classes in the school library to provide teacher release time or preparation time prohibits this best practice.

A Responsive School Library Is Essential for Student Success - The June 2019 AASL School Library Scheduling Position Statement calls for flexible, open, unrestricted, and equitable access and collaborative planning between teachers & the school librarian. #NoSweatLibraryThen in 2018, “flexible scheduling” was revisited to better align with the new Standards. The new AASL Position Statement on Library Scheduling was submitted to the board and approved in June, 2019. Their new recommendation is for “responsive scheduling”:

Scheduling of classes should allow flexible, open, unrestricted, and equitable access on an as-needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with instruction from the school librarian and the content-area educator. The practice of scheduling classes in the school library on a set schedule to provide educator release or preparation time inhibits best practice by limiting collaboration and co-teaching opportunities between the school librarian and classroom educator.

Responsibility for responsive scheduling is to be “shared by the entire school community: the local educational agency, district administration, principal, school librarian, educators, the school library support staff, parents, and learners.” We School Librarians can use this section when we approach our principals for a more flexible schedule, and give them something to take higher up.

This new Position Statement on School Library Scheduling is a critical document for School Librarians “desiring to fully achieve a collaborative and integrated school library philosophy.” It emphasizes the importance of collaborative planning and helps us promote our Library Lessons as “an essential and integral part of all classroom curriculum.” I encourage all of us to print out this 3-page .pdf document to show to our principals and our teachers and to develop a new “elevator pitch.”

With this new Position Statement we may need to make changes in our policies & procedures. I’d love to have an aide to help with book checkout and incidental student interaction while I’m teaching classes, but know that’s not fiscally likely. So, I set up a self-checkout station and teach students how to use it, having eliminated overdue fines and increased book limits to remove barriers for making this work.

I use the Open Dyslexic font for print and digital documents to make it easier for all students to read materials. I create videos answering some common questions students ask about the library and its resources, putting them on the School Library Website, so students can find answers when I’m unavailable.

I have computer administrators set the student browser homepage to the School or District Library Website so our virtual library is the first resource students see. This will ease student access to searching for books, using research databases, and locating Resource Lists, library guides, and other assignment helpers.

I’m sure there are other considerations I’ve not even thought about. If you have suggestions, please add them to the comments!


AASL Board of Directors Meeting, ALA 2019 Annual Conference, Washington, DC June 20 – 25, p46-50 

AASL Position Statement on School Library Scheduling

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