Six Ways that School Libraries Have Changed (and One that Will Always Be the Same)

Six Ways that School Libraries Have Changed (and One that Will Always Be the Same)

If you haven’t been in a school for a while, you might want to start your visit with a stop in the school library. It has been a place of amazing transformations and innovations. What most people picture — the library of their childhood — has little resemblance to the dynamic school libraries of the twenty-first century. Here are six ways that school libraries have transformed, and one way they have stayed the same:

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  1. Flexible, Collaborative Learning Environments.
    While individual, quiet learning has long been a part of the school library experience, now school libraries strive to support collaboration, too. Furniture and tables can be moved and regrouped to support small or large group collaboration. There is also movable technology, so students can utilize Chromebooks, iPads, and more as they work together in groups. Some libraries have whiteboards or whiteboard table tops for group brainstorming. These movable parts allow the library to be customized to meet student learning needs in the twenty-first century.
  2. Maker Spaces, Creation Stations and Engagement.
    School libraries have embraced the Maker movement by incorporating Maker Spaces, Creation Stations, and other engaging learning opportunities. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities including the likes of snap and squishy circuits, robot construction and programming, 3-D construction with Legos or K’nex, and more are featured. Additionally, these spaces can include an artistic or creative activity, such as a collaborative coloring activity, open-ended all-school whiteboard brainstorm, duct tape creations, and more. Similarly, some libraries have coding stations for students to explore computer coding activities at all different levels. Classes can come and use the Maker Space or Creation Station as part of a lesson. Or, students can come and explore and learn during a study hall, recess, or other free time if the project sparks their interest.
  3. More Technology. Yes, fixed-location computers have long had a home in the library. But school library collections include much more technology than that. In addition to carts of tablets and Chromebooks, many school libraries also have cutting-edge technologies, such as interactive projectors and 3D printers. Another common library fixture: green screens and digital cameras. Students can create movies and projects for any class using these tools. Students then use computers or tablets to edit their films into amazing multimedia projects. A final surprising way technology shows up? Some creation stations feature technology take aparts, where students can dismantle old pieces of technology (using tools and safety equipment) to explore how things work.
  4. The Comfort Factor. School librarians want the library to be a welcoming place. Very often, libraries have comfortable seating in a cozy corner for students to read in after they select their materials. The comfort factor goes beyond an armchair, however. School librarians want to meet the needs of all different types of student learners. Some libraries offer seating that offers some movement to help active students stay focused as they read or work, such as exercise balls or wobble stools. Others have standing desks or work kiosks for students who may need to stretch while they work.
  5. Team Teaching, Multi-tasking, Twenty-first Century Librarians. School library media specialists of today are dynamic facilitators of learning and literacy. They are involved in team teaching, supporting learning in all subjects and grades. For example, librarians teach classes on digital citizenship, information literacy, and more, covering essential topics such as citing sources and staying safe online. They offer training to staff, covering new resources and technologies through after-school professional development. They assist in the classroom, bringing in book and digital resources and technologies to help teachers with their lessons. And just like the librarians of yore, they are working constantly to improve their collections, keeping them current and filled with best materials possible. Today, that collection is both physical and digital.
  6. Noise. Finally, we imagine the school library as a silent space with a librarian shushing any noise that arises. With the all the creating, researching, collaborating, and learning, school libraries are no longer silent. Rather, they are buzzing with activity and excitement. The library of today has become a lively hub of student learning.

And yet…there is one way that the library hasn’t changed: promoting literacy and a love of reading. The exploration, technology, collaboration detailed above are all an important part of learning. But literacy was and will remain a keystone.

School librarians have a multi-faceted approach to literacy support. Librarians create interesting displays to highlight and increase circulation in areas of the collection. They support literacy in the classroom, providing materials to support student projects, research, and leveled-reading needs. They also work tirelessly to support the individual student’s literacy needs. A student who is an emerging English language learner? A librarian will find resources at his or her English level. A reluctant reader? The school librarian will work to find books that interests and re-spark that love of reading. The voracious reader who has explored all of a particular genre? The school library media specialist will indicate new titles in the genre and crossover titles in other genres that will be of interest. Amazon.com recommendations will never match the value of a trusted passionate adult reader talking to a student who is developing lifelong reading habits. No matter what the reading need, a school librarian will work tirelessly to meet it.