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Tributes from SLANSW Members

Dr Ross J Todd (2019) 

Curated tributes from members regarding the influence that Dr Ross J Todd

has had upon their professional practice.

The SLANSW Management Committee published a Media Release at the time of Ross' passing. It can be read in full here:  SLANSW_media release_Dr Ross Todd_2022.pdf

A guiding light has gone out

Ross Todd was one of my teachers at UTS Lindfield in the 1980s–in fact, he taught me cataloguing, which could have been dry and dusty and mystifying!  Under Ross' expert teaching and enthusiasm, however, we learnt so much more than cataloguing, including that teacher librarians were to be at the forefront to guide students through the coming information revolution!  I think that's where we've been ever since, and it is through Ross' endeavours that we know that TLs can make a difference to student learning. 

After he moved to Rutgers University in 2000, it was always delightful to meet Ross on his many visits to Sydney, when Alinda Sheerman and I would make him meet us for talk, coffee, and cake! He was also very kind to me on a couple of visits I made to Rutgers. I remember trying to keep up with him as he walked very fast in the snow and ice to the Centre for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL) in the picturesque grounds of Rutgers.  He hardly spoke as we walked, just pointed out to the left and right where black ice waited to trip up an unwary Australian visitor, as I scuttled, slipped, and slid along behind him! 

It is to Ross that I attribute my long interest in inquiry learning, particularly Guided Inquiry, as a central, if difficult, endeavour of the TL.  He was scholarly and demanding, generous and funny, and the body of work created by him through research and practice in school librarianship is central to our profession, world-wide.  

Ross wrote Research Columns when I was Editor of Scan in the 1990s. I remember how his articles would always arrive well past the deadline and well over the word limit! They were full of exciting research and exhortations to TLs to “Just Do It,” and to get on with carving a central place for the library in our schools. Conferences led by Ross always had challenges for us, and he had little patience for any moaners and groaners amongst us.  In 2008, he was the mentor for a Quality Teacher Project on Guided Inquiry that 12 Sydney schools took part in, and I remember meeting at Abbotsleigh at the end of the project, with Ross presiding, as one of the best PD days I've ever attended. The excitement and collegiality of the day were very memorable.  More recently in 2019, he wrote the foreword for my book, Guided Inquiry Goes Global: Evidence-based practice in action, for which I am very grateful. (It's not turning out to be a blockbuster, though!)            

It feels as if a guiding light has gone out, suddenly, and the world is a lot darker without Ross Todd.

Lee FitzgeraldEditor - ACCESS, Australian School Library Association & Adjunct Lecturer in Teacher Librarianship, Charles Sturt University

Inspirational Teacher Librarian guru

Dr Ross Todd had a profound influence on my teacher librarian career and professional practice, from the moment I first heard him speak about Guided Inquiry at a Teacher Librarian PD Day in Sydney, back in 2007. In fact, Ross had “won me over” by the morning tea break! His valuable expertise and deep passion for Guided Inquiry, inspired and equipped me to return to the library at Caddies Creek Public School, and commence trailing this “new” and exciting approach to students’ research. I was also very fortunate to attend subsequent conferences with Ross as the guest presenter and gleaned further insights into Guided Inquiry. His regular research SCAN articles were also most helpful in building my professional learning and practice. 

Over the past 15 years, I have worked collaboratively with other Library team members, executives, and classroom teachers to continually develop, refine, teach, and evaluate a wide range of dynamic Library Guided Inquiry units for Years 2- 6 and Support classes from across a variety of KLAs. Guided Inquiry has become the cornerstone of our Library’s teaching and learning programs! In addition, the implementation of Guided Inquiry has had a clear “ripple effect” throughout my school, not only enhancing my own teaching practice, but also that of my colleagues. Evidence-based data also clearly demonstrate the powerful benefits Guided Inquiry has for our students’ learning.  

I will be forever grateful to Ross for providing me with the motivation, vision, and skills to embark on my Guided Inquiry adventure and for the lifelong benefits Guided Inquiry has provided for my many students!

Ross will certainly be deeply missed, especially by his family, and also in his global teacher librarian networks. However, his cherished legacy to our profession will certainly live on!

Jenny ScheffersTeacher Librarian, Caddies Creek Public School

Leader of a quiet revolution

Dr Ross Todd was the leader of a quiet revolution that took place in many Australian school libraries as their teacher librarians met and listened to Ross when he shared his research findings and expertise in all areas of managing school libraries. Many Australian teacher librarians put his research findings into practice. I was one of those teacher librarians and it changed my professional life.

In 2008, I met Dr Ross Todd when I attended a Syba Signs conference in Sydney where he totally inspired me to encourage student participation and voice in their learning through research-based units of work, then called “Guided Inquiry.” At that conference another teacher librarian, Lee Fitzgerald, demonstrated a unit of work she had completed using Guided Inquiry the previous year with her senior students at Loreto College. I went home convinced this was what I had to initiate at my school. Not only that, I was also convinced that I needed to embark on action research to measure the impact of the change on students. Ross offered mentorship and many of us took this up.

One teacher and a Year 7 class at Broughton College worked with me that year to collaborate on a Guided Inquiry unit. Students were obviously engaged in learning and met curriculum outcomes in content and information literacy. After this, with mentoring from Ross in the following year, Guided Inquiry at Broughton grew and was adopted across the school in many collaboratively taught units of work. Teachers realised the potential of allowing students to ask questions and be offered choice in their work. They also saw that this freed them to come “off the stage” and participate “on the ground” in student learning.

Dr Ross Todd constantly spoke of “evidence-based practice” (before this became a commonly used term) and promoted the use of action research upon which to base all teaching and learning. He shared his knowledge and research in ways that could be understood and applied in practice, and I find myself revisiting his written work constantly.

Dr Ross Todd always had time to mentor – either through emails, or over a meal or afternoon tea when he came to Sydney. To hear that this inspirational and personable mentor to teacher librarians globally had passed away, has left us all devastated. His work lives on through everyone he inspired.

Alinda Sheerman | Head of Information Services, Broughton Anglican College

If you would like to contribute a memory of Ross (maximum 500 words), please send it to Kaylene Taylor (EO) at If possible, please give your tribute a short title.

Ross J Todd Research Grant

The 2023 SLANSW Ross J Todd Research Grant of $1000 will sponsor the successful recipient, be they an individual teacher librarian or school library team, to undertake a research project within their school. The grant is intended to assist the recipient with expenses incurred in the conduct of the research. To access the full criteria, application form and submission process details please visit: Research Grant

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