School libraries transforming to stay relevant in digital age
- As books gave way to digital sources of information instantly accessible from anywhere, school libraries and librarians were put under pressure to reinvent themselves, according to eSchool News.
- School librarians are still supporting reading, writing and research skills, but with a co-focus on digital literacy as well.
- The digital workshop is one 21st century learning opportunity that school librarians are implementing. Students learn coding and valuable social skills, including teamwork.
School libraries have been having a tough time in recent budget battles. Many schools no longer have a full-time certified librarian on staff. Some administrators still think of a school library as the place where all the books are kept, and with that mindset, make it the first budget line to go. But today's school librarians are, generally speaking, a far cry from the shushing lady shelving tomes of an administrator's own childhood. Tech-centric, creative, collaborative and eager to help students thrive in today's digital world, the majority of school librarians are well-equipped to take their libraries to the next level — as long as they have support from school leaders.
Administrators can think about how the role of their school librarian can morph to best serve students. The library space itself, in many schools, has evolved from tables and book cases with a desk for the teacher librarian to an airy, lively learning commons
. Books are still there, but the spotlight is on digital learning tools and makerspaces
. Its purpose is less a quiet spot to study individually and more a collaboration hub, where knowledge is built (often literally) and shared.
While older students probably don't need a librarian to help them find basic information for a project online, what they do need is guidance navigating the digital landscape. The sheer quantity of content, and the dubious quality and veracity of much of it, makes the presence of a certified school librarian imperative. Yes, students can search for anything using Google, but that's a double-edged sword. School librarians are often the only school staff members with the time and expertise to educate students on how to stay safe online and identify quality, unbiased sources of accurate information. Several studies
have shown that today's students are not adept, to put it mildly, at distinguishing online ads from content, or fake news from real. School librarians are also perfectly suited to lead the effort to teach students about photo copyright infringement and plagiarism, on the rise in the digital age
One way administrators can show support for librarians and help them grow in their careers as key members of the school community is to encourage partnerships with classroom teachers. Especially in schools with larger class sizes, subject matter teachers will likely welcome a "wing man" who can provide research and project support to dovetail with their specific lesson plans.