"I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them."
Michael Moore, author and filmmaker
My last blog was about the State of the MJGDS Library. While there are challenges that need to be resolved in order to create a fully-functioning library, this also presents many opportunities. These opportunities pave the way to a 21st Century Library. In today’s technology-driven world, information literacy is critical for building a foundation for success. Our children are growing up in a global, knowledge-based world, inundated with technology. To remain relevant, school libraries must adapt by integrating those 21st century technologies into their modes of operation. So what would an ideal 21st century school library comprise?
Remember when libraries, whether school, public, or academic, consisted of row after row of bookshelves interspersed with tables where students would work mostly independently? The process of information gathering has changed. Libraries are no longer mere book depositories. Today, they are lively places where learners retrieve, create, and share knowledge. Our children are growing up in a world where print sources alone do not fill their information needs. In fact, students typically use the Web as their primary source of information. They are using electronic sources and engage in electronic sharing of information. The MJGDS library aspires to be an active and collaborative learning environment.
None of this means that we should do away with books. In fact, our library would have a quality collection of books, relevant to all readers: fun books for our emergent readers to instill in them a lifelong love of reading, different genre books for our readers who are exploring old and new interests, and curriculum-supportive books for our teachers.
At the same time, our library would be technology-driven with students retrieving information from websites, wikis, and blogs. In the MJGDS library, students would not simply use technology, but learn to be discerning consumers of information -- and become information literate: able to locate, evaluate, organize, add value to, and present information in a meaningful way. In the process, they would develop critical thinking skills. In fact, our students would master the 21st century information environment through well-developed literacy skills.
What should you see when you walk into our 21st century library? While the role of libraries has been changing, libraries remain integral to any school community -- they are the heart of the school. As a space for teaching and learning, the MJGDS library and media center is a local information hub, where the school community gathers to learn, research, or engage in projects.
Our library must be a user-focused learning environment. The library must reflect the new media environment of which our children are a part. Upon entering the MJGDS library--the doors are always open--you should feel welcome. It must be an attractive space where areas for different age groups are highlighted by colorful walls. Colorful flooring adds to the sensory experience. There should be flexible furniture that allows for multiple seating configurations to accommodate collaborative as well as individual work. And there should be a variety of comfortable seating. Signage would be large and clear and displays, both librarian- and student-created, would inspire interests.
The library should house various resources to support the school’s learning goals. Books, of course, are essential -- in print and electronic formats. Students could check out e-readers and mp3 players to read or listen to books, depending on their preferred learning style. There are databases accessible for curriculum support. In the wireless environment, students can freely use tablets and laptops.
The library’s virtual presence is equally important. For our students, it would be invaluable to have virtual access to the library catalog and databases as needed. A library blog allows us to interact within our school community and link with the much larger global community.
It is important to recognize the library as integral to all teaching and learning at the school. While traditionally, school libraries have been viewed as a resource much like physical education, art, or music, our 21st century library views its role as more “organic” to the classroom curriculum. The MJGDS library programming should be integrated into the curriculum. Rather than scheduled 30 or 45-minute weekly blocks in the library, where lessons are taught independently from the classroom curriculum, lessons must be planned collaboratively with the classroom teachers. Teaching information literacy skills, for example, applied to an actual research topic, are more valuable to our students.
Getting to Library21 is not an easy task. It takes new resources, yes, but also new practices. One must be open-minded to new ideas and flexible enough to try them out. It’s a journey that requires evaluation and reflection. Somewhere I read that the library should really be called a “libratory” -- where students are engaged in a book- and media-rich environment. I look forward to collaborating with everyone to make sure we achieve the truest, most-expansive Library21 reality possible! Above all, please know that I am here to help!