School Libraries Need a Revolution

Fascinating article in SLJ from David Loertscher:

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6610496.html

Last year, when I thought of revising my book Taxonomies of the School Library Media Program (Hi Willow, 2000), I realized that I had pushed the traditional model of school libraries about as far as it could go. We don’t need a revision. We need a reinvention. Experts say that the rank and file of any profession can’t re-create itself because it’s too enmeshed in the status quo. We’re more hopeful.

What has to happen for school libraries to become relevant? If we want to connect with the latest generation of learners and teachers, we have to totally redesign the library from the vantage point of our users—our thinking has to do a 180-degree flip. In short, it’s time for school libraries to become a lot less like Microsoft and a lot more like Google. With this notion in mind, I collaborated with two of my colleagues, Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan, Canadian educational consultants, to develop an idea we’re calling the school library learning commons.

This is great! The learning commons taken to the school media center. Loertscher continues and offers some advice for “flipping:” (emphasis mine)

Thinking differently—and creatively—is never easy. Here are some exercises to help you make a 180-degree switch.

Resolve to think like a patron rather than a provider, a customer rather than a store owner. For example, right now your library is probably open throughout the school day. Imagine what it would mean to students and teachers if it were open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Let’s say each student is currently allowed to check out two books. What if each child could check out an unlimited number of books or download digital or audiobooks to their Kindle or iTough device anytime they wished?

In some schools, students only get credit for reading books in the Accelerated Reader program. How about giving them credit for reading everything and anything?

Many of today’s students read textbooks and take notes in class. Imagine a learning environment in which the multimedia world of information fed individual students’ needs, and where on-demand digital textbooks/multimedia/databases are available 24/7 and under the control of the user.

Here’s another 180-degree flip: a typical classroom assignment and library Web site are examples of one-way communication. Adults tell learners what to do, how to do it, and where to find information. But in the new learning commons, homework assignments and library Web sites offer two-way communication.

How? It’s easy. The teacher posts assignments on a blog that’s linked through an RSS feed to individual students in the class, each of whom can access the blog through an iGoogle page or another personal home page. When an assignment is given, everyone—teachers, librarians, students, and other specialists—can comment, coach, suggest, recommend, and discover together, and push everyone toward excellence. Content flows in and out of students’ iGoogle pages via RSS feeds to help them complete their assignments and work together constructively. Involve the tech director in developing this system, and watch the barriers fall.

Let me pick myself up off the floor.  This is what I imagine our schools could be like in a world where the barriers are down and teachers are using the tools. I would suggest anyone involved with school libraries take a look at this article.

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3 thoughts on “School Libraries Need a Revolution”

  1. In the third from the last paragraph, as I was reading I was expecting it to say that the students get an opportunity to “give homework” to the teacher. Or in other words a day when students must ask the teachers what the students want to learn and the teachers must prepare to teach what the students want to learn. Kind of a zany thought.

  2. This article is like a huge breath of fresh air! I am a library technician in a small (300students) primary school in outer suburban Melbourne (Aus.). In the four years I have been at the school, I have seen the loss of the Teacher/Librarian in favour of the appointment of a Technology teacher. My library (already small) has been halved in size to accomodate a technology teaching area, complete with computer cubicles which are such a huge barrier. Teachers are timetabled to bring their classes to library, but generally chose the tech area option for research – the library is basically the book wharehouse described in the article, despite my very best efforts to keep it relevant and interesting. If only we had gone the laptop option – with kids working at tables, on the floor, wherever. It seems so obvious that there is a different way – it is a shame my school has invested so much in creating barriers and not pulling them down!

  3. I read the entire article and, like Michael, thought this is what I imagine and hope schools could be and should be like! How remarkable it would be for schools to emulate the real world and teach students how to use and act appropriately with the technology tools that now rule our world. Instead it seems we spend so much energy keeping kids from accessing the tools they naturally migrate to and have access to outside the school building and hours!

    Giving students an opportunity to help design not only space for learning, but curriculum and methods for learning would make so much sense. I believe that two-way communication is absolutely essential to make school relevant to kids. And the libraries can help that happen for many students who do not otherwise have access to the technology required for this kind of learning environment. While many of my students DO have access to computers at home or cell phones or other tech tools, many do not. We have to be sure we are including those students in our planning so we meet their needs, too.

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