I have loved books since before I could read. I love reading them, becoming friends with the characters, learning about things outside of my world, and just collecting them for my bookshelf. Becoming a teacher librarian in 2001 was not just my dream job but a part of who I was.
The school was brand new and it was truly a baptism under fire as I figured out what a high school library should look like. The first five years, I was the only person that worked in the library.
I was trying to remember this morning how many computers we had in the library that first year. I think I was quite proud to boast about my four desktops. I was often asked where were the books as the space was quite large and it took time to build up the collection. I carefully purchased books I felt were needed by our students and eventually built the collection to more than ten thousand resources.
Fast forward to 2016. The book collection has decreased to under ten thousand but the computer resources have increased dramatically. We now have 21 desktops, 45 iPads and 48 Chromebooks.
The space has been opened up and I am working on making the library a true learning commons. Even with a variety of seating areas to choose from, students often pick the floor as the best place to work. We have a makerspace, a green screen room and a smartboard room. We are open for club meetings and staff PD. We have four different robots and participated in the Hour of Code this past December. We are in the first year of a three year plan for our library transformation and have just placed an order for new furniture that matches our vision for this space.
I am struggling a little with this vision. I am getting a lot of pushback from other teacher librarians and teachers about the changes I am making.
I believe that students need equitable access to digital resources. The learning commons is the a great place to access these resources for students. Last September, after years of vandalism and damage to desktops and laptops, I agreed to barcode all of the mobile digital resources and entered the information in the circulation catalogue. Most of these resources are signed out every period. If there is a problem, it can be tracked right back to a student and a conversation then occurs about appropriate use and respecting school property. Once students realized that any problem would be addressed, most of these issues stopped.
It’s a big job organizing this everyday. I now spend time charging the devices are each night, I clean the screens and disinfect the cases, I load apps, and I make sure there are no problems with the device. These are all new responsibilities for me. I have not taken them on lightly. In fact, I feel this is part of the evolution of libraries if we want to keep them relevant to our clients.
The hardest part of all this comes from people who think I no longer like books. I believe that books will always be an important part of and library/learning commons but times are changing and we have to see to the needs of our clients first.
I believe that fiction will always be a part of any library. Not every student/person is ready to read on a device. Ebooks are still expensive and getting them from your public library is not always easy. I spend a good portion of the library budget on novels that give our students a choice in what they read.
The internet is the number one source of information for high school students and most adults. They do not understand why there is a problem with this. With thoughtful instruction on website evaluation, it shouldn’t be a problem. So the purchasing of non-fiction has decreased drastically. I still buy non-fiction when needed, but I am much more selective than I use to be. For example, Canadian History is an area not well represented online. This section I am still purchasing books regularly, but the best and most recent medical information is found on the internet. We just need to make sure students know what sites have good information.
Is anyone else is doing something similar in their library and can give me some feedback from their experience? I would really like to know what is going on around the world in school libraries.