Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Kelly Chandler-Olcott


Early Childhood, Library, Literacy

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Early literacy programs in public libraries are well positioned to support a variety of children in developing literacy skills, as libraries are geographically dispersed, free to use, and oriented to families. Indeed, such programs are frequently offered in North American public libraries, and are not always conducted by librarians. Instead, other library employees are tasked with planning and conducting early literacy programs, who have varying conceptions of how literacy learning proceeds. As such, the training they receive at their libraries likely informs their understandings and subsequent programming practices.

This qualitative, exploratory case study describes the content and instructional strategies of the training that public library employees (called library assistants, or LAs) received to plan and conduct early literacy programs at a public library in Western Canada. Library assistants’ responses to their training are also described. Using observations of training, interviews with trainers and library assistants, analysis of training documents, and a survey of LAs, this study found that early literacy program training has the potential to communicate not only information about early literacy learning, but also organizational expectations about programs and considerations of the identities and contexts of program participants. At the research site, this training also contributed to establishing and then sustaining different, sometimes conflicting communities of practice: one of librarians and another of library assistants. The separation of these two communities of practice meant that LAs were not able to contribute their varied knowledge and skills to the training process and consequently, that training at times did not empower LAs with the autonomy needed to create or adapt early literacy programming according to their diverse needs. This structure also meant that large amounts of information could be consistently shared among the many library assistants employed at this library. Understanding training in this way illuminates particular collaborative moves from within these differing communities of practice that supported or inhibited learning.

The findings from this study have implications for public libraries and other sites where community-based literacy learning occurs. In particular, awareness of how training may contribute to a separation between different kinds of staffing groups can lead to training structures that are supportive to the professional contributions of all educators. Additionally, both trainers and programmers should consider how program participants’ contexts impact their experiences of inclusion.


Open Access