The Future of Learning is in the Library: Parents, Educators Advocate for Library Spaces in Schools
11.2.10 | Back in September, parents of students at Whittier Elementary School in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago began a 43-day sit-in to force Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to convert an old field house into a school library. They succeeded in getting CPS to agree to a new library at the school, although a permanent location is still to be determined.
The activism is remarkable on many levels, though passion for a physical school library space might strike some as old-fashioned in the digital age. And with pressing budget cuts, as a follow-up story by the Chicago Tribune reveals, a school library has gone from something you couldn’t envision a school without to increasingly a luxury option.
The need for libraries and librarians, however, has never been more essential. As Gail Bush, director of the school library program at National-Louis University, explains to the Tribune:
“In the 20th century, we had to answer questions when we did our research. In the 21st century, students now have to question the answer. Librarians are more important than ever before because students need to learn to account for the validity of the resource.”
Some schools, like Jones College Prep in Chicago, once traded library space for computers. But one does not neatly replace the other. Giving students an idea-filled room of their own seems necessary to Joseph Powers, principal of Jones College Prep. The school now hopes to include a library in its expansion plans:
“A full-service library or media center can serve as an academic hub for the school. It becomes a place for strong student scholarship where kids go to get resources and learn from the expertise of the librarian or media specialist.”
Seeing libraries as media centers reveals how much information literacy continues to evolve. In that spirit, the theme of the just concluded School Library Journal Leadership Summit was The Future of Reading.
The keynote speaker, Stephen Abram, president for strategic partnerships and markets for Gale Cengage, discussed how, while future libraries will incorporate digital tools and social networking at their core, “It’s about the reading and the knowledge and not about whether it’s got a binding or not.”
The North Carolina Library Association conference on academic library instruction also took place this past weekend. Keynote speaker Lauren Pressley, author of “Wikis for Libraries,” among others books, and a librarian at Wake Forest University, covers similar ground in her slide show on the changing role of librarians. (via The Unquiet Librarian)
“Students don’t need help finding things,” notes Pressley. “They need help sifting through all they come across.”
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