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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The School Librarian & TeachersPayTeachers vs Open Education Resources

Teachers Pay Teachers vs Open Education Resources for the School Librarian - Teachers Pay Teachers offers a mixed bag of instructional materials at prices ranging from inexpensive to very costly. OER offers completely free and open licensed instructional materials from an array of educational institutions. Here's my reasoning for choosing TPT. #NoSweatLibraryEducators are sharers, and School Librarians are super-sharers as evidenced by the 12,000+ members of LM_NET listserv. Through my 13+ years as a Middle School Librarian I’ve created documents for Library Lessons through online service providers and freely offered these to other School Librarians who asked for ideas.

After retiring I put my Library Lessons and administrative documents into my Google Drive and shared them. Then one day—when I’d exhausted my monthly stipend paying some unexpected bills—I realized I might earn some extra retirement money by selling my library lessons & management materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.

My first hurdle was an emotional one: overcoming a natural reluctance to charge for teaching materials. Then, as I looked through the Properties settings on my computer files, I realized that nearly all of my work had been created here at home, in the evenings and on weekends—because what school librarian has any time to work on such things during the day? These lessons were my intellectual property, and while I’m perfectly willing to share ideas, if someone wants the work done for them, I deserve to get something and they should be willing to pay for it.


Teachers Pay Teachers logoTeachers Pay Teachers stated goal is “to make the expertise and wisdom of all the teachers in the world available to anyone, anywhere, at any time” and they provide an online “marketplace where teachers share, sell, and buy original educational resources.”

I established a brand—”No Sweat Library“—and since TPT asks sellers to give away their first upload, I offered, for free, my Library Lesson Planner Template which I’d amalgamated from the best of other planners I’d used over the years. I also offer some of the same free materials I share here on my blog. (click on the FREE Librarian Resources link in the menu bar!)

I began to update my Library Lessons to current content standards and National School Library Standards. So began the long (and continuing) process of making my Library Lessons worth a purchase. Considering the countless hours I’ve put into updating and improving my intellectual property, I feel completely comfortable with the reasonable prices I’ve attached to each product. (My hourly rate x time it takes to create=how much time & money I’m saving them & their school district!)Gender Equity & Marketing Our Teaching Materials - Teachers Pay Teachers has become a valuable educational resource for teachers all over the world. Learn why I chose to contribute and why I think it's important. #NoSweatLibrary

Recently I read an explanation about selling from a gender equity standpoint. I’ve never come across this approach before and it’s extraordinarily powerful, especially for teachers and librarians who are predominately women.  I have permission from the author, Monica Froese at Redefining Mom, to quote from her article:

Most women struggle with asking for money. … I don’t struggle with asking for money for my hard work. … I am 100% unapologetic about it and let me tell you why.

  • FAMILY CURRENCY: For every minute I’m sitting at my desk creating amazing content and resources for the world to consume, I’m taking time away from my kids. That is some pretty serious currency. The tradeoff for spending time at work is making money so I can give my kid’s a better life. I can’t do that if I don’t get paid.
  • EXPERT STATUS: It takes a lot of energy and mental capacity to be an expert on a topic. … It’s not only a valuable skill…but it requires a lot from me to live up to my promises of being an expert. If I didn’t charge people…you wouldn’t take it seriously and I’d be wasting my time.
  • VALUE: People don’t value what they don’t pay for. Period.

It is not wrong to be compensated for your hard work. I spent a lot of years being in the room with c-suite male executives. Men have no problem talking about money, asking for money, or stating how much they are worth. The reality is having open conversations about money is important for gender equality. I choose to exist in a world where my daughters see me working hard and being fairly compensated for it.

This wonderful article has made me more determined than ever to provide high-quality resources for teachers and other school librarians…and to appreciate that they are willing to reimburse me for the time I’ve saved them!


Open Educational Resources LogoLately I’ve also been pondering the growing trend toward Open Educational Resources. What is OER? First proposed at a UNESCO conference in 2000, it became reality a year later when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) put their 2,000 courses online. Making this university-level content available began what the MIT president called “the global intellectual commons” and since then more than 300 colleges and universities around the world have contributed OER courseware and materials. The purpose is best expressed on the Open Education Consortium-About Us webpage:

…probably the most basic characteristic of education … is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built. Open Education combines the traditions of knowledge sharing and creation with 21st century technology to create a vast pool of openly shared educational resources.

OER Commons - Open Educational ResourcesPublic K-12 education has stepped into the OER movement through the OER Commons, which offers over 40,000 items for primary and secondary educators. As a partner with FutureReady Schools and FutureReady Librarians, OER Commons promotes research-based and personalized lessons that comply with Common Core ELA and Math Standards, NextGen Science Standards, the C3 Framework for Social Studies, and AASL National School Library Standards.

Most importantly for us, the Open Educational Resources initiative doesn’t just mean access to free—as in no-cost—materials but it also means free as in openly licensed, that is, we can copy, modify, and redistribute OER materials! Here are some examples of the “5Rs of OER”:

  • Retain: House them in a digital cloud space, such as Google Drive.
  • Reuse: Once in a digital cloud space, the teacher has access to frequent use as needed.
  • Revise: Teachers make edits so that the content best fits the readiness needs of their students.
  • Remix: In some cases, content is taken from one source like a lesson or online textbook, and merged into something completely different, such as a video, which is more accessible to the learner.
  • Redistribute: Acquired resources can be shared with as many people as desired, without a cap on numbers.

The beauty of the OER Commons is the huge number of contributors: universities; public institutions, like the Library of Congress, the Getty Museum, TED, and NASA; and several educational providers, like Khan Academy and Read Write Think. In addition, here are more OER online sources from which to find materials:

For the School Librarian, OER sites don’t seem to offer much in the way of middle school library lessons, so I will continue to provide products for sale on TPT to best benefit my colleagues. Eventually I can make some of my products available to the OER Commons to supplement what’s there and give my lessons a wider exposure to public education.

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