The library media centre is the place where students will use technology as a tool to explore a world of knowledge and to gather, evaluate, organize and produce information; therefore, the library itself must be ready for a wide range of technologies. (Erikson, Rolf and Carolyn Bussian Markuson. Designing a School Library Media Centre for the Future, pg. 13. Web. Accessed June 3, 2012 from Amazon.jp.)
On any given day, a school library can be used as an instructional space, space for group projects, individual study/research, and a reading space. Curiously, library spaces are often whittled down while the demands on school libraries is growing to serve the needs of an increasingly diversified population. In my opinion, the ideal school library is an ideal space to showcase a school’s standards of 21st century learning. Our families may be “mobile and ubiquitous”, but they still need a central place to make these standards a central part of their learning experiences. Of course, the definition of an “ideal” library space depends on the school, its’ mission and philosophy, and student size. For the purpose of this project, I will base my concepts on a small to mid-sized K-12 international school with a focus on 21st century learning. My aim is to provide a library facility that provides services that are flexible: differentiated to serve a mobile school population while maintaining an inviting, user-friendly environment that is easily adapted to a school’s ever-changing technological and basic learning requirements.
In my opinion, a school library needs to be aesthetically pleasing, inviting, and encourages intellectual stimulation. This can be accomplished by incorporating technology devices in library spaces; iPads, laptops, e-readers, large screens and interactive whiteboards can help with school library advocacy and reading promotion, as well as provide differentiated learning devices that support the entire school population.
One of the library’s fundamental functions is to provide easy access to information. To help patrons find digital information quickly and easily, a row of 6 laptops should be available for online searching in addition to online catalogues. I think they should be available on separate devices because viruses can be picked up by online information sources. Although many people predict the demise of print materials, in my opinion, school libraries will always provide a balanced collection of print, visual and audio materials to promote reading and reach the entire school community. A similar valuable addition would be “listening stations” where students can listen to audio books, ideally while reading the print or e-book version to develop reading skills. Alternatively, make sure you’ve got headphones for patrons, or encourage them to bring their own!
One of the most impressive features of a school library is a place to showcase student projects, library events and reading promotions such as book trailers. Why not install a large-screen TV instead of traditional cork display boards? Below is an example of a promotional book trailer for Wendy Mass’ 11 Birthdays on YouTube. It was created by Audra Harms to promote the title as part of the Bluebonnet reading promotion at an elementary school in Texas (notice the Creative Commons credits):
Accessed June 3, 2012.
But how can students create them in a traditional library space? I like the idea of “research labs” presented by Doug Johnson and Rolf Erikson in the DesignShare article “Imagining the future of the school library”. My interpretation would be to have small rooms built as “add-ons” to the main library space. Small meeting rooms with a table and chairs would provide semi-private places, perhaps with large windows which are easily monitored. Teachers can also use these spaces to utilize groups for projects, or for filming video clips.
The main area would have a large open space which would be used for large-group sessions: read-alouds, puppet shows, and dramatic reenactments of stories. There should be an open space large enough to seat a full class, with comfortable seating surrounding it.
Tables and chairs should be in front of the non-fiction collection to encourage independent and group information-gathering. Ideally, wi-fi connections will be available in the print areas to provide a balance of print and online information sources as students often consult databases to complement their print sources.
Below is a floor plan of what an integrated school library might look like. I used Homestyler, a free floor plan design maker:
What are the challenges faced by international school librarians? Here are some that I envision:
- building a functional library space rather than a showcase (a space used for promotional purposes)
- fully integrating technology into the library space
- collaborating with teachers to deliver the curriculum
- obtaining full support from the entire school community
- getting enough funding to build this type of library
- maintaining and upgrading technology to be a leader in the school
- provide library services to students, parents and staff
- develop ecologically sustainable school library design
One of the major hurdles I anticipate will be people’s perceptions that online sources will replace print sources. I feel that this is dangerously short-sighted, and many parents have asked my opinion on this subject. Although I have never had a formal discussion on this topic, the overwhelming majority of parents I’ve spoken to believe that their children are FAR better reading print materials. E-readers are convenient for long plane rides and are certainly more portable to carry in their backpacks, but picture books and books with illustrations will not disappear – at least for now!
Families who put their children in international schools seem to place a lot of importance on the library when they shop around for a school to place their children. What do they appear to want? An inviting, stimulating place that is used for recreational and academic purposes. Libraries are cultural spaces that need to be used by patrons. I believe this is the way we’ll stay relevant in the future.