During the school year, I focus my time almost completely on curriculum, collaboration with faculty, and working directly with students. But during the summer I turn my focus on the immediate future of my library space and the library collection. I tend to be more of a big-picture person. Many librarians are detail oriented but details are not my strength. So, I have my lists.
“Summer to-do-list” for the big-picture librarian:
- Analyzing Use — Walk into the front door of your library and pretend you are a student. Or, walk into the front door of your library and pretend you are a campus visitor.
- Summertime Weeding — I use tools like Follett Titlewise, and I also like to invite faculty to participate like they do in Pennsylvania Libraries. There is also the Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding acronym MUSTIE that can help start the process.
- Editing Furniture — Less is more, streamlining the library shelving can make for an open, inviting space.
- Updating Technology — Think about low cost or no cost options like improving the self check-out, or adding instructions and helpful signage in the technology-rich areas.
- Updating the Virtual Library — Work to improve online research guides and the library’s web presence.
- Create Positive Signage — Change any negative language; for instance instead of “No Food or Drink” try “Food and Drink Free Zone.”
- Make a Tickler List/File — A monthly list of what celebrations and events happen in the library space and of course, what bills are due each month
My big-picture side automatically thinks about library use and function over the next 10, 20, or even 30 years. I think of the library space as a place of information access and literacy development. A place where students still want to visit and a place where the librarian is still available to guide students in their information quest.
What Is the Future of the School Library Space?
There are some schools that have gone to a “futuristic” extreme of a library without books or with minimal books. In 2014 the “Locke Jetspace” was featured in Fast Company as a possible school library of the future. And of course, in 2009 Cushing Academy made news with a “bookless library.” And if you Google “bookless library” you will notice this as a trend among public and academic libraries. But I am not certain that this is the school library space of the future. Though, if I am being honest, this library is visually attractive to me. And for those of us allergic to dust, books can be a health hazard. Additionally, the space is quite clean and beautiful in a minimalistic way. However, I do know that we still need books alongside all of the new technologies.
Will It Be a Makerspace?
Though I subscribe to a Learning Commons philosophy in my library, we have devoted 750 square feet to a maker/hackerspace. As we develop this space we concentrate on balancing the needs of the community. Our school is an advanced college preparatory school. Many of the “maker” projects seem somewhat juvenile for this type of community. In this makerspace, our kids are coding in Python and other modern computer languages. They are also dissecting iPhones, and they are building campus kiosks powered by Raspberry Pis. The technology teachers do most of the teaching in our maker/hackerspace. But in every way possible the library staff members are embedded in this program. But just like any other discipline like World History, Biology, etcetera, we are not the content specialists.
Will It Be a Technology Space?
A number of schools are shifting the job focus of librarians toward technology, and the library space towards technology. I do not believe this is necessarily the future of the profession of the space. A 2014 article in slate.com reported that the Oregon Beaverton School District had budget shortfalls that led to the elimination of more than 40 school librarian positions. The district learned the hard way that replacing people with things was not the answer. Wayne Grimm was quoted: “It became clear quite quickly that an investment in stuff, in boxes that plug in, is not really going to pay off with a lot of learning or classroom innovation unless there’s somebody to guide that process.”
When the district began to rehire personnel, the new position had a different title “library instructional technology teacher.” You may not see a problem with this job title, but you might have a problem with the permanent title being reclassified as “library instructional biology teacher” or “library instructional world history teacher.”
Will It Be a Collaborative Space?
If not technology, you might ask, what is a school librarian’s focus in the future? The answer is everything! We are the information access and literacy skills specialists in every single discipline. Simply put, we need to know how to find information to support every discipline. And we need to teach students and faculty to find things. And once they find the information we should collaborate with the classroom teachers to teach students to think about the information critically. We should offer space for teachers and students to create new things. We should provide ways that students and faculty can share with the community. As librarians, we need to be masters of collaboration and we need to anticipate information and literacy needs. And for all of this, we need a flexible space to meet these current and future needs.
Abel, David, and Chris Girard. “Cushing Academy Library Goes Bookless.” Boston.com. The Boston Globe, 2009. Web. 28 June 2017.
Berdik, Chris. “How to Save School Libraries? Turn Them Into Tech Hubs.” Slate Magazine. Slate.com, 21 June 2017. Web. 28 June 2017.
Koveleskie, Judith Anne. “Weeding, Wine, and Cheese: Enticing Faculty to Cull a Collection.” Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice. Pennsylvania Libraries, Fall 2014. Web. 28 June 2017.
Peters, Adele. “Is This The School Library Of The Future?” Fast Company. Fast Company, 08 Aug. 2014. Web. 28 June 2017.
Vangelova, Luba. “What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like?” MindShift. MindShift, 18 June 2014. Web. 28 June 2017.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.