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Beyond the Classroom

School Libraries of the Future: 5 Trends to Watch

Gone are the classic memories of a school library from our youth. Welcome to a new era.

School libraries were once somber places where books were warehoused and librarians kept things in order – and quiet. With the digital revolution ongoing, school libraries are transforming into very different places. Often they are noisy, with classes of children searching for new books for sustained silent reading or collecting information for book reports and projects. And librarians find that their function is changing from being solely gatekeepers to being connectors and instructors on how to use advanced technology to accumulate knowledge.

Five trends are emerging as libraries and librarians adapt to continual changes in technology – changes that will redefine the idea of what a library will look like in the future and what it can do for students.

1. Greater resources

It used to be that microfiche was the cutting edge of technology, but no more. According to Matthew Lynch, writing for Edweek.org, school libraries of the future will provide more resources in a variety of formats.Modern library resources include a whole range of elements, from ebooks, to academic databases, to innovative programs that allow students to explore their creative inclinations, learn new skills, and apply their learning in innovative ways,” he says.

2. Learning commons

Printed books are still important in the spectrum of learning, but digital technology allows for more mobile, instantaneous fact-finding. As a result, libraries are not needed as much for access as they are for space to encourage learning. “Instead, they [students] require a place that encourages participatory learning and allows for co-construction of understanding from a variety of sources. In other words, instead of being an archive, libraries are becoming a learning commons,” writes Beth Holland for Edutopia.org.

Some have taken the learning commons idea further with the suggestion of a “makerspace” area of the library. “The term ‘Makerspace’ refers to an area of a library focused on production — offering, for example, digital cameras, a 3D printer, and photo manipulation and layout software,” according Elisabeth Abarbanel, et al., writing for the National Association of Independent Schools. “The Makerspace idea reinforces the library’s role in the entire learning spectrum from recreational reading to research to production and sharing.”

3. More collaboration with other libraries

Increasingly, school libraries will be collaborating and sharing resources with other school libraries and public libraries. In New York City, such a program is called My Library NYC, a partnership of the NYC Department of Education and three public library systems in New York: Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library. Both students and educators have access to million of free digital resources through this collaboration as well as enhanced library privileges and professional development resources.

4. The expanding roles of librarians

With evolving digital and mobile technologies, the role of the librarian will change. Librarians will be instructing and enabling students to access a whole range of information from many sources. “They help facilitate the increasingly important global connection between students and the rest of the world, helping students connect to an authentic audience in a broader community, arranging Skype sessions with authors or experts in other locations, and culling resources as needed from varied sources and experts outside the school walls,” writes Elizabeth Abarbanel et al. in the online article, “The New School Library.”

5. Library automation

Gone are the old card catalogs stored in wood cases, replaced by computer terminals. New software will allow libraries to further automate the collections of resources. “No longer just automating processes once done by hand, library systems have morphed into full-search resource portals,” writes Kathy Schrock for TechandLearning.com. “The latest offerings typically let school librarians index Web sites, add related Web links to book records, provide patrons with home access to the library catalog, and many other features that secure the position of the library media center as the research hub of any school.”

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