School Libraries Need a Revolution

Fascinating article in SLJ from David Loertscher:

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.