How to define the modern Library (aka the Library Learning Commons)

August 31, 2018

 

As the resident Teacher-Librarian I am continually asked "What do you call this place now?" The confusion by patrons is understandable considering all that has happened to libraries in the past five years. The infusion of social media, personalized digital technology, production and creation technology (3D Printer, T-shirt press, Green Screen), and the need for versatile physical and virtual spaces for learning spaces for learning means that a library must change to meet these needs. I call the library "An Innovation Hub" because of its central spot for enhancing student learning through teacher and learner support.

 

What does this look like?

 

The British Columbia Teacher-Librarian Association (BCTLA) published a white-paper in 2014 (now updated in 2018) that outlines the main areas of change for libraries (and their librarians) to best serve their schools. Part of that report included a helpful guide to sport transformation in your local library, and where additional changes are needed.

 

What are obvious differences?

 

Physical space - The first change that a patron notices in a modern library is the amount

 

of open space. Compared to the past, there are few permanent shelves or displays within the space. This allows for flexible learning environments as classes use the library for study, group projects, or presentations. Further, the library will have additional quiet areas for collaboration or personal study/reflection. Mindfulness and de-stressing are components of wellness found in a contemporary library. Additionally, there will be places for production. Green rooms or spaces, maker spaces, and other forms of hands-on or technology infused spaces provide patrons access not only to information, but a chance to apply their imagination in product creation.

 

Technology - As mentioned, technology in various forms enhances the experience of patrons in accessing and using information.  databases have reduced non-fiction collection use, but have provided patrons access to powerful resources of information gathering and vetting. Not only text, but video, audio, and still image collections are more robust than ever - and most fall under the creative commons guidelines of fair-use. Tools such as 3D printers, vinyl cutters, video cameras, and mug presses are part of the patron's expectations for interaction. The desire is not only to find things out, but produce a meaningful representation of that information. Future-leading tools include the adaptation of augmented and virtual reality settings for learners to experience environments beyond text and screen. Ultimately, technology is allowing patrons to transcend their learning experience by providing multiple forms of data gathering, production, and presentation preparing learners for future work and home environments not-yet realized - but relevant to youth needing relevant skills. 

 

 

 

Literacy - It goes without saying that the primary purpose of a library is a major advocate for literacy - but what does this mean in today's world? Literacy comes in many forms - media, digital, critical thought, data, tool, along with traditional forms have broadened every learners requirements for success in school and beyond. the library is the source for student advocacy and sponsorship in promoting education and application in all forms of literacy. A large element of this is collaboration with the Teacher-Librarian. As a the resident researcher and guide, their role is promoting and assisting staff initiatives using re-designed curriculum. Moreover, students access their T-L for individualized care as well - special requests for books and videos, along with demonstrations of technology are extensions of traditional T-L work that recognize sophisticated and specialized requests that now occur due to the rapid changes in society.

 

Safe space- The library will always stand as a safe and open space of inclusion and diversity championing.  As society recognizes the various sensitivities of self-identification through gender, culture, and spiritual, the library increasingly becomes a proponent for acceptance and empowerment. Knowledge acquisition is the first step to empowerment, and the T-L's position as each patron's guide and champion for their rights. Cultural literacy is a major component of a safe library space including resources, but also patronizing special groups and clubs, along with hosting events promoting culture. The library recognizes its role in facilitating the positive changes in society and protecting the rights every individual.

 

But what about the books? Inevitably it always back to the question of the books. Why

 

have you removed books? I guess there is no need for books anymore? Does anyone take out books from here? These are relevant questions I hear on a daily basis. The answer is of course books are necessary and relevant in our society! The question is - how are books serving the needs of patrons so that they are in demand? Short answer is that books must be as specialized in their flavour as the people who are seeking them (whether they know it or not). A diversified collection of fiction is a good place to start. graphic novels, culturally-relevant titles (Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives), and special-interest sections are more necessary than ever. Physical layout is important to update. Visually stimulating sections based on genres (and sub-genres) helps patrons navigate the modern library. The book-store feel is something that draws people into these locations - much the same can be said about school library spaces too. Finally, patron input and conversations about relevant topics online and in-person build dynamic relationships and loyalty. Allowing learners a feedback channel that show their voice is important in their library translates into deeper ownership and usage.

 

Libraries are still libraries. They still promote literacy, they still advocate for culturally relevant issues , they still provide a place for individuals to seek knowledge and a place to find refuge from the world. We now call them library learning commons to reflect the modernization of these spaces, but these words also hearken back to an age-old belief - the library is a shared space of experience, community, and collective wisdom common to all.

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