Remembering Kevin Mowat
MSLA Distinguished Service Award
Winnipeg School Division
Celebrating 40 years as an educator, Kevin Mowat has made an invaluable contribution to school libraries in the Winnipeg School Division and across the province of Manitoba. Kevin is always at the forefront of new ideas and innovations, ensuring that school libraries are prepared to meet today’s challenges and provide progressive leadership to those we serve. It is his vision that continues to guide our ongoing transformation towards embracing the library learning commons concept, rethinking professional learning, and developing an “innovator’s mindset.”
Kevin Mowat began his teaching career at Earl Grey School in the late 1970’s as a classroom teacher. In 1990, Kevin transitioned from the classroom to the role of teacher-librarian at Cecil Rhodes School where he was responsible for creating a supportive library program for middle years’ students. In 1999, he joined the staff at Tec Voc High School where he rejuvenated the Margret Crawford Library and conceived its technological evolution to a library that was relevant and user friendly.
In 2006, Kevin was appointed to the role of Divisional Library Consultant in Winnipeg School Division and set about to modernize Library Support Services, refresh the central divisional library, and implement a division wide web-based library management system. He has always strived to build collaborative relationships with senior administration, consultants (both provincial and divisional), and to re-establish the importance of a well-funded, well-staffed Library Learning Commons.
His dedication to the profession is evident in his desire to ensure that school libraries model best practices and respect professional values such as learning, literacy, equity, and democracy. He believes in our shared responsibility to nurture all libraries in our care and move learning forward to meet the emergent needs of a new generation – reimagining the library as a learning commons, infusing technology, providing equitable access for all, and fostering learning partnerships. Kevin encourages school library personnel to ensure that our policies and practices are driven by an “ethic of service” – to the benefit of our students, our schools, and our communities, and that those needs and priorities always guide our work. He reminds all of us working in school libraries that there is a clear relationship between leadership and stewardship.
Kevin Mowat has always supported the belief that the work of the teacher-librarian is at the heart of the school’s purpose. In addition to promoting the instructional role of the teacher-librarian in inquiry-based learning, Kevin has made successful connections between classrooms and school libraries in collaborating on shared literacy initiatives such as the Daily 5. As a divisional leader, Kevin was also actively involved in providing professional development on assessment practices for, of and as learning for the Winnipeg School Division. In aligning the school library more directly with classroom instruction and evaluation, Kevin provided teacher-librarians with renewed opportunities to make valuable contributions to both student learning and assessment practices.
Kevin Mowat has always maintained a commitment to intellectual freedom, ensuring that school libraries provide equitable access to all, and honouring the values of a democratic society by defending the freedom to read. Recently, Kevin introduced new collection development recommendations for Winnipeg School Division libraries in support of the WSD Safe and Caring Policy – Transgender and Non-Conforming Students and Staff. He recognized the potential for school libraries to provide leadership in acquiring LGBTTQ and trans-positive fiction and non-fiction titles for students and staff. Kevin was proactive in reviewing and creating the most current and relevant resource lists on Human Diversity: Gender Inclusion Core Collection for K-6 and Grades 7-12 students and school library staff, not only in Winnipeg School Division, but also sharing his work to the benefit of other school divisions.
Kevin Mowat was instrumental in advocating and harmonizing library resource management systems in the Winnipeg School Division. With a variety of different automated systems already in use within the division, Kevin assumed the formidable task of uniting approximately 77 school libraries under one, single library resource management system. In order to provide equitable access to resources in school libraries across the division, Kevin provided leadership through the request for proposal process which required the facilitation of a comprehensive product review on behalf of the WSD Library Advisory Committee. The transition to the new inclusive, web-based system had an immediate impact on library service across the division and substantially improved access to divisional resources for both students and staff. Doug Edmond, Director of Research Planning and Technology Services for Winnipeg School Division, states the recommendation resulting from Kevin’s evaluation process “was instrumental in revitalizing the role of libraries in the Winnipeg School Division.” Kevin not only took on the responsibility for implementing the library system, he also supervised the training of library staff across the division.
Throughout his career, Kevin Mowat has contributed to numerous professional organizations in service to school libraries in Manitoba, as well as membership on national executives. He was the President of the Manitoba School Library Association (MSLA) from 1995-1997, a member of the Canadian School Library Association (CSLA) executive, a member of the Council of School Leaders (COSL), and sat on the MSLA executive as recently as last year, as the Web Page Chairperson. Kevin has also co-chaired and organized several SAG(E) Conferences on behalf of the MSLA. In addition to all these contributions, Kevin continues to represent Winnipeg School Division at the School Library Administrators of Manitoba (SLAM) meetings and the Metro Library Coordinators meetings. It was Kevin who cleverly coined the phrase Interdivisional Library Learning Commons Day (IDLCD) to describe an annual professional learning event organized for metro teacher-librarians every fall.
What better accolade can one receive than to be called a “colleague, mentor, and learning-leader.”