Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Vision for a School Library

What does a library of the future look like?  Where can I find one??
At a recent staff meeting at Beijing (BISS) International School we were asked to encourage students to borrow more books. We seem to have a good stock of books, but statistically student borrowing has dropped off. In particular the Middle and High school levels, the students who this year are fully 1:1 laptop, are not bothering to borrow books. Often they browse, read and research from books while at school, but the actual borrowing has dropped off. Our librarian is concerned, our Director is baffled. The 'borrow a book today' mantra has started. However, the reality is we are looking at what our library should look like and be used for.....well I think that is what we are doing.  In response to an invitation to staff to share ideas for the BISS library, here is the email I sent to the admin team this week.

My Vision for a Library (in the future? or NOW?)
I believe we need to have a vision for what the library should look 5 years and also 10 years from now. A library in the 21st century is not all about books. A library should be the heart of a school community. It should provide spaces and places for meeting, communicating, collaborating and creating.
  • A library is not all about ‘reading’ it is about vibrancy, discussion, research, multimedia.
  • A library is about IDEAS.
  • A library is about community
Our concerns with ‘books’ not being used, in my humble opinion, is miss-guided. What we really need to be investigating is the habit and evolution of ‘reading’. If books are not being borrowed does this mean students are NOT reading OR does it mean they are reading different things and different formats?
We need to analyse and come to a better understanding of the impact of technology, and in particular our 1:1 implementation in the Secondary School, on students and their media habits. Asking students to be using books more may not be the answer, and in fact may be a reactionary approach.
  • Maybe we need to reduce the number of books on shelves to provide room for better designed spaces e.g. ‘sound-proofed’ smaller areas where 4-5 people can plug a laptop into a large flat screen and collaborate over research or other online/multimedia task
  • Maybe we need to set up podcasting stations and higher-end computers for enhanced video work in areas that all can access, not just in specialist rooms
  • Maybe we need to initiate more discussions based on the reading material available, eg latest magazines and encourage higher order thinking through interaction with other communities and libraries via video conferencing and virtual classrooms
I believe the evolution of the library in a K-12 learning environment should be dictated by the vision for learning held by school owners and administrators. In the 21st century this vision must include development based on the impact of emerging technologies and on the need for a vibrant hub with a community focus and with a ‘flattened’ perspective and practice on using, re-using, and synthesizing information in order to create something new and innovative.

My 2 cents worth....thanks for reading 

In response to the above email, the Director of BISS has asked that I find a visionary library (preferably in Beijing) so that we can visit and model.  I am looking for best practice libraries; libraries and librarians with vision and the means to deign and plan around that vision, with support from their school community.

What does a library of the future look like?  Where can I find one??
Please share your ideas an resources via comments to this post.  Pictures?  Share those as well.


Flutey said...

Yes, food for thought Julie. I agree in principal that we should be encouraging reading rather than 'paper' books. I do think that paper books are friendly for very young children - but even this is only my perception as a 'digital immigrant'. 'Today's kids are no longer digital natives - they are just digital' (John Couch, Prague Leadership Summit, 2010). It is a difficult time for books, which are rapidly transforming into electronic formats. More and more students are loading PDF books and text onto their laptops - for one thing, this offers a terrific saving of weight in school bags.

As for 'copying' best practice, perhaps we should 'model' best practice. Many larger schools are actually trailing behind BISS in their implementations of new mobile technologies, from what I have seen. Hmmm food for thought.

Damianne R. President said...

I share your vision. I think that flexible learning spaces are important for encouraging and facilitating twenty-first century skills and lifelong learning. I look forward to hearing more about this.

Shamblesguru said...

Julie .... nicely put.

I've added a link at

Julie Lindsay said...

Flutey, yes totally agree that today's kids are 'digital' and we do not need to use any additional adjectives. Yes, BISS should be leading the way with best practice copyright and fair use approach with our digital portfolio and other online work.

Thanks Damianne for your comment and support.

Chris, thanks for adding me to your Library 2.0 resource!

I also encourage you to read Maggie's blog post on IT and Libarary:

Fiona said...

Well said, Julie! I agree that a library (Learning Resource Centre) is a hub not just for reading and books but for community, learning and connecting. Just yesterday I think my little LRC became what I think it should be, I was teaching, other teachers flowed in quietly (ish) with their classes from time to time, small groups wondered in to do some inquiry research, some came in to do reading quizzes etc. I am also on a quest to find some examples of libraries that have 'got it. As you will see in my blog - I've got a lot to learn

Unknown said...

Hi again, just thought I'd add one more thing. Have a look at this document

Jumping Castles Sydney said...

Online Library is effective in its motive and way of connecting each students through the web even they are at the comfort of their homes. Whether they are at the school or not, they can still be working with school activities to enhance their knowledge and skills.

click here said...

Education is very important nowadays so as the library, that's why I am glad to read this post and see the vision for the future.

Performance Coach said...

I definitely support this vision - Lets try and get everyone to take full advantage of libraries!