Today’s Library Or The Learning Commons

Recently, I was at a meeting where the topic of the modern Library came up.  While we spent only a few minutes talking about it, I couldn’t seem to get the idea out of my head.  Consequently, I did some reading at some of my favourite blogs and websites.  What follows is a distillation of both what I read and what I think.  Like all thoughts floating around in my mind, it is fluid and evolving.  I hope to continue to develop my understanding and would invite any readers to leave comments.

Nearly all social institutions look different than they did, even 25 years ago.  They have been, and continue to be, re-shaped due to technology and economics.  Take for example the social institutions of the Pharmacy and the Gas Station.  Pharmacies have gone from pharmaceutical experts and providers to buy-anything mini-superstores, and often, incorporated into larger grocery and retail superstores.  Gas stations have gone from service station to convenience store with a pump-it-yourself gas bar.

The Library is not immune to this same evolution; the challenge is to re-shape the Library without losing sight of the core values of The Library. In order to do so, let’s examine some of the trends that are re-shaping The Library:

  • More information available to anyone with an internet connection
  • Broadband connections
  • Access to search engines for the library from home – no longer a need for a card catalogue
  • Storage (Large Servers are relatively cheap)
  • Lower cost of technology (think about the cost of a middle-of-the-line laptop just 10 years ago, and the cost of a netbook or tablet now)
  • Diminishing roles of Library Staff (no longer needed to help physically find a book or encyclopedia or to check out a book if the info is available online and can be retrieved from anywhere; Google is faster and has a better “memory” anyway)
  • Increasing reliance on digital versions of reference texts (info can be updated daily as opposed to a yearly edition, and at a fraction of the cost; multiple users can access the same “volume”)

Some ponder if many of these trends are divorcing library services from needing the same type of physical location?  While I feel that a physical location for the library is of paramount importance, I do believe that libraries are becoming less important for the materials they house and more for their ability to obtain information.  They need to move away from the “just in case” model toward the “just in time” model.  I’ll explain what I mean.  One of the precedents to rating a library has traditionally been number of volumes housed within.  The libraries were literally stocking books, microfilms, audio, and video “just in case” someone wanted to access it from their location.  Instead, we need to have Library Media Specialists (librarians) that are available to provide “just in time” resources, when a patron requests the information.  That being said, libraries will continue to need to stock core books depending on their patronage.  For example, an elementary school library needs a wide variety of picture books and graphic novels, among other types of books.

That brings us to the role of the modern day Librarian.  While I concede that I am by no means an expert in this area, it has become an interest of mine and I would invite any and all feedback from any librarians that come across this blog.  With that said, a lot of the discourse and research shows that, while this is not an exhaustive list, the following skills would be beneficial for librarians to possess.

  • Be technoliterate –  be on par with, or be a, techno-native, not a techno-immigrant
  • Understand the concept technoliteracies, and be able to teach them
  • Know what info is housed in what off-site location
  • Be a multitasker
  • Be a troubleshooter
  • needs to Teach Information Literacy (more on that later)
  • Help students and staff become informationally savvy
  • Be able to write in HTML and be versed in web-design and hyper-linking
  • Spend much of their time creating electronic pointers and links to resources on the Internet
  • Be a good judge of e-content: be a good evaluator of websites and e-media
  • Be able to lead/guide/teach this skill

Information Literacy is:

1. Access and Evaluate Information

  • Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
  • Evaluate information critically and competently

2. Use and Manage Information

  • Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
  • Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

A Major obstacle for 21st Century Libraries will be to not become too dependent on www resources as they often change locations – updating links will create a lot of problems.  Libraries will need to make it a priority to align with dependable info providers who make long-term commitments.

Accessing off-site services will be an issue for some as not all have broadband connections and up-to-date technology at home.  The 21st Century Library will need to provide lots of up-to-date technology to allow equal access.

Some of the many potential obstacles to digital information requests and transmission:

  • Economy-of-scale will make best-sellers very affordable while little-used and little-accessed information will be expensive
  • Privacy – tracking of reading habits, etc…
  • Consolidation and standardization of information – as larger Corporations buy-out smaller ones, creating fewer independent information providers
    • could lead to interests controlling content more than ever before
    • could lead to less diverse information

And now some bullet points, because I am growing tired of writing feel this information is more conducive to a list:

The New Library Needs:

  • Access to e-readers (kindle, ipad, ipod touch, etc…) and e-books!!!
  • A mobile laptop lab, and spaces for students to sit and surf/work
  • It needs to be UnQuiet – talking and discussing and debating and explaining and questioning are all learning
  • Cozy chairs and nooks to sit and read
  • Smartboard/audio/visual room/section to teach and explore content on a larger scale – led by teacher or librarian or a student – librarian needs to Teach Information Literacy
  • Need to create a hybrid analogue/digital space
  • 21st century skills
  • More hands on things – maps, etc…
  • Many Pods set-up: 1 or 2 computers at a station with 4-5 chairs to encourage discussion/collaboration/real-time research/just-in-time learning/teaching and learning

Tools for the Media Specialist (Librarian):

  • Blogs –  a forum for dialogue on any topic and invite conversation as well as the exchange of ideas
  • Wikis – open software that encourages collaboration
  • Widgets
  • Youtube channels
  • Podcasts – an audio recording that can be downloaded to a computer or portable media player
  • itunesU
  • Vodcasts – a video recording that can be downloaded to a computer or portable media player
  • Twitter
  • Google library and google books
  • Rss feeds (RSS=real simple syndication)
  • Information portals (pageflakes, netvibes, igoogle)
  • Aggregators to catch feeds (google reader, bloglines)
  • Social bookmarking
    • diligo
  • NoodleTools – storage system, format, create
  • Google docs – storage, edit, format, create
  • Databases
    • Facts on file
    • Gale
    • Abc-clio
    • Greenwood
    • Grolier
    • Worldbook
    • More and more being developed every day…

I feel it needs to be said that with all this change and evolution comes new obstacles and challenges.  Perhaps it will soon be time for a Responsible Use of Technology policy?

We’re all always learning.  Or at least we should be.  Please help me on my path by leaving comments.


About mitchchampagne

I am a husband of one, and a father of three. I am am elementary teacher for the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland & Clarington Catholic District School Board and a part-time Faculty member at the School of Education and Professional Learning, Trent University.
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7 Responses to Today’s Library Or The Learning Commons

  1. Evelyn says:

    Insightful perspectives on the possibilities for the future library. Perhaps changes to the librarian’s training programs and professional development are needed to ensure these much needed changes take place.

  2. Tina says:

    That is a very interesting and well said commentary… The school librarian has an essential role in supporting students’ learning and their development into effective, independent learners and avid readers. The everchanging technology in this new electronic age has some people wondering why we need school librarians when everything can be found online. I see the librarian playing an even more important, yet different role. Perhaps they can be seen as less of a “warehouse manager” and more of a “reference consultant”. Bringing technology into the school requires the support of information resources and training in their use in order to meet the information needs of the students. Librarians should assist students in searching out the information they need and critically evaluating the information they locate, making them discriminating users of information, but also teaching them how to use that information in an ethical way. Acquisistions and selection criteria for print materials is changing also, when considering access to online services. For example, should I spend $800-$1000 on a set of encyclopedias for our library when they become obsolete so quickly? It is hard to spend half of my budget on such a resource and my most current set was published in 2000. Of course, online data will not take the place of all books. We seek out and evaluate books so that the information is current, age appropriate and curriculum specific. These new tasks do not preclude our traditional tasks of reading guidance, organization of resources, selection of new materials, and encouraging and nurturing a lifelong love of literature. Unfortunately, school librarians are often invisible professionals, and are not usually participants in the decisions affecting technology and literacy. As technology becomes more prevalent in learning there is a greater need for information technologists, but our hours are limited and often cut, and there is a need for professional development in this vast area.

  3. Pingback: Whose job is it to teach Technoliteracies? | The Technoliterate

  4. Linda Lummiss says:

    I agree with your vision of the library, my concern is digital citizenship and time constraints for Librarians as well as Teachers. Trying to fit curriculum as well as literacy technology can be difficult. Library classes consist of only a half an hour to forty five minutes for each class. I’m a life long learner and enjoy all of the new technology and get wrapped up in it for hours at home. Our students need all of this but there are only so many hours in the day. I guess I will continue to share with Teachers and with students and make a conscious effort when planning my week. Digital citizenship should be a must for all students as well as their digital footprint. This is their history in the making and they must understand the importance of this lesson.

  5. You are off to a great start. There are brilliant examples of innovative LC across the province and I saw some great examples at the OLA Superconference last week out document here in Ontario and the Canadian collaborative document Leading Learning are great places to see what’s happening in schools. Have you seen what’s happening in public libraries? Makerspaces?? LOVE it . It is a great time to be involved with school libraries!

  6. jmachan1 says:

    Reblogged this on jmachanblog and commented:
    Excellent reflection of the school library in 2015.

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