The Evolving Role of the Library and Librarian

It’s Library Week! We at MDR wanted to sing the praises of Librarians as the intelligent, savvy school professionals they are, as well as the libraries they facilitate.

The evolution of the mediums we use to read is happening rapidly with the move toward e-readers and tablets, and away from the paperback and hardcover. People aren’t reading less, nor do they need less materials and books to consume, they are simply reading them differently. Students still need books to use for research, for enrichment, and for enjoyment, even if they can access them differently.

Librarians are Masters of Information Literacy

A student practices information literacy when they know how to access the right learning resources, and librarians are vital in this learning process. Microfilm was one of the first mediums other than books and periodicals, that people had access to in their local library. When computers were first introduced in schools in the early 1980’s, the school library was one of the first places they were installed. The librarian helped students and teachers learn how to use them. Today, libraries in schools and communities continue to serve as hubs for the public’s first exposure to new technologies.

The Highs and Lows of Library Funding

Policymakers and budget creators sometimes find it challenging to envisioning the future library with the changes in reading technology, and with limited funding. As the demand drops for physical books, so does the funding for traditional libraries in some states. Libraries are evolving, and while this funding dilemma isn’t present in every state, there are a few instances where the library services available to public students is pretty dismal.

In other areas, the library is becoming future ready, becoming a hub for collaboration, creation, and discovery – wowing stakeholders in student success. Therefore, as the library where students and teachers read, research, and check out books in a traditional sense evolves, so do the ways that the education market can respond.

Add a Librarian to your Mix of Subject Matter Experts:

According to Future Ready Libraries, librarians now and in the future, could:

  • Lead in the selection, integration, organization, and sharing of digital resources and tools to support transformational teaching and learning and develop the digital curation skills of others.
  • Leverage an understanding of school and community needs to identify and invest in digital resources to support student learning.

Librarians are often the first to try a new product for a school, vetting its utility and appropriateness. If you don’t already, try adding librarians and media specialists to your list of subject matter experts to call on for help with focus groups, trials, samples, and pilot programs. Libraries are great for testing a schools’ use of a product, and depending on the size and the cost, schools may be able to easily pilot test some technology in a library instead of a classroom.

What Are Some of These New Technologies Libraries Feature?

MDR-Library-WeekA librarian is trained to be a manager, a collection development expert, a curriculum leader, a technology resource, and a teacher, working sometimes one on one with individual students in developing literacy and 21st Century information skills. One of the ways libraries are evolving past rows of books, is that students may venture to the library less for researching, but more for making, trying, and collaborating in a common space.  Less about checking out books, more about potentially checking out experiences, robotics kits, crafting tools, and being in a maker space.

There are some innovative products used in school libraries today that promote collaboration, help develop problem-based learning, and build systems thinking skills—all 21st century skills.  Scratch Jr, created by MIT Media Lab is designed for children aged 5-7, and is a popular program at computer stations in the library. It helps build the foundations for learning programming.

littleBits, aims to combine design and art into science, technology, engineering, and math, and is popular in libraries. It is relatively easy to use, letting the student jump right into building and tinkering. An Invention Guide show students how to create a self-driving vehicle, a throwing arm, an “art machine,” and even a security device.

Libraries Lead

The theme for 2018 National Library Week is “Libraries Lead,” and this is a great message to keep the emphasis on the constantly evolving nature of the Librarian’s skill set.  Since library programs are facing budget cuts, if they aren’t already suffering from cuts in library spending, finding products that provide digital libraries and other resources that are affordable, and accessible via the internet, could be a good step forward. If not marketing directly to libraries and the services they provide, don’t forget to add librarians to your mix of subject matter experts to help assess your product or service for school use.

Library week is observed April 8-14 this year with the theme of “libraries lead.” First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate. Learn more about library week >>

Have something to add to this article?