Monday, October 6, 2014

The School Library Space Debate

For many of us, our memories of our school libraries include shelves and shelves of print books, a few computers, a printer perhaps, and a circulation desk with a librarian. Selecting books for pleasure, performing research processes and developing perfunctory tech skills constituted a solid library program and space. Within the last decade, the services school libraries provide has changed dramatically. What does the space look like now?

  • Split of print materials and digital materials with guided instruction on how to use them effectively and safely;
  • Devices and digital material for check-out;
  • Self-checkout stations starting in the Lower School;
  • 3-D Printers, some in staffed spaces, some available for sign-up;
  • Laptops or tablets utilized for creating and/or sharing student work within the school community;
  • Cafe offerings, such as tea or coffee service
  • Experimental or beta-phase tech equipment
  • Online reading or tech communities with virtual meetings or live meetings
  • Maker kits for check-out
  • "Library" changed to “Learning Commons” or “Information Station”
  • Additional makerspace materials including, but not limited to: origami, book making supplies, robotics, magnetic poetry, Legos, other craft or tech centered activities;
  • Gaming materials including, but not limited to: board games, card games, console systems;
  • And more!

What implications and applications do these have for our profession as independent school librarians? Our spaces? This is a relevant issue, and one that marries disciplines and departments as seen in the recent profusion of workshops, seminars and webinars related to the changing face of the library and role in the school. This topic has also been increasingly written about in scholarly research and professional journals.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) states in the introduction of Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (2009):
In recognition of these demands, the American Association if School Librarians
(AASL) has developed learning standards that expand the definition of information literacy to include multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual and technological. (p. 5)

Our role as librarians is no longer offering finite experiences with reader’s advisory, navigating print materials or a handful of online databases and websites for research. Our responsibility is to offer fluid learning experiences and exposures that evolve on a schedule that moves at the speed of our technological lives and those of our students. But more so, it is providing mindful, just-in-time learning opportunities students will apply in both their educational and personal lives. This may require shifting departmental roles and labels. It may require a serious, informed review of curricula. It may require a shift in teacher and administrator perception of library class or library time. And offering a space that resonates and accommodates these shifts in use and role will dramatically figure in our daily work today and for days and years to come.


American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Standards for the 21st century learner in
action. Chcago, IL: American Library Association.

Please add to the conversation in the comments section! Share your makerspace components, current research you’ve read, or recent changes you’ve made to your space to accommodate the variety of literacies libraries serve to meet.

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