Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The School Library - the need to build both the physical and virtual space

Vancouver Public LibraryImage via Wikipedia

In this week's Education Week Katie Ash's article on school libraries, School Libraries Seek Relevance Through Virtual Access, touches upon a number of topical issues now facing school librarians. Dwindling monies, delivering more digital instruction and resources to remain relevant to students, and becoming a more collaborative and interactive space for working and learning: an odd affirmation of the importance of one's services by asking them to "please do more with less"...

But librarians have become quite accustomed to shrinking budgets and in the face of constant fiscal constraints have become leaders in embracing technology and innovation in schools. In fact, web 2.0, technology, and the increasingly "digitally" wired student have given school librarians opportunities to work the library into school roles and activities which they may not have had in the past.

This more central role has created a fascinating dilemma for school libraries - how to build the virtual space which students (and many teachers) are clamoring for, and turn the old, stale physical library into a space which can sustain and grow with the changing work, learning, and socializing world of the digital student. Some educators ask whether "schools even need a physical library", but it can be argued that the need for the "right" physical space to compliment the virtual space has become even more pressing and relevant. A "learning commons" would offer students a collaborative, interactive, media rich, project-based space to share their work and learn. But more importantly, a physical space offers the presence of an expert librarian to navigate them through the good and the bad of the web, teach them critical thinking and refined searching skills, and offer the adult guidance and support of a teacher - something students will always need, no matter how "wired" they are.