Literacy AND Creativity: The Key to the Library as Classroom

Literacy has long been a core value for public libraries. The same is true in public education. Yet suddenly, in the 21st century, both institutions are addressing how intellection in the absence of creativity severely limits our capability for innovation. To speak of the Library as Classroom, I must invoke the voice and wisdom of British educationalist Sir Ken Robinson. The global educational system that Robinson is addressing was built up around the industrial age and its needs. If his assertion is correct, then the educational models and the library models that supported that era are obsolete. We need a library that supports the information age and the rapidly changing environment that it creates.

Let’s get Robinson’s voice in the room:


So, 10 years ago, Robinson discussed his view that educators should embrace and explore creativity in the classroom with as much vigor as they do the three Rs. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  1. “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with that same status.”
  2. “There isn’t an educational system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? …. Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.”
  3. “It’s education that’s meant to take us into the future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue … what the world will look like in 5 years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.”

Do me a favor for the sake of conversation, will you? Go listen to this song. It is French electronic relaxation music by a group called Telepopmusik. You don’t have to love it; just give it a try.

Every time I hear this song, I remember that I have a body, and that my body was made to move. It’s a funny thing to be surprised and entertained by realizing that there is an entire body attached to my head, but I spend so much of my time upstairs that this really does happen to me. I am a 35-year-old woman. I knit, I write, I compute, I drive a car–I look like the number five (5), seated and bent over my work, most hours of every day. There’s nothing wrong with 5, but what about X—I want to look like an X, too.

Source: Huffington Post and Racked. Click the photo to view online.

I’m getting about this the long way, but my point is:

If across the globe we are being trained out of creativity, and we are arriving to adulthood looking like a head with feet, then re-infusing our communities with creative outlet is precisely what libraries need to do to be successful in our missions of encouraging lifelong learning. We need to take our patrons back to age 4, when they were fearless and unhindered by whether their ideas were right or wrong. We need to cultivate this in a public space so that we can be free with one another, not just in the privacy of our own homes.

In the words of Thomas and Brown (2011) in their book A New Culture of Learning, “If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress against change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next” (p. 43). I think the freedom to play, to dream, to make mistakes is exactly the environment where one’s natural curiosity can unfold. I want to say to my patrons what Michael Stephens said to his students: “I want you to be curious about everything” [personal communication, 2017, April 12].

In the comments below, please share the songs that makes you want to celebrate, move your body, and dream.

15 thoughts on “Literacy AND Creativity: The Key to the Library as Classroom

  1. Hi Amanda!
    Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful presentation. Sir Ken Robinson is such a great speaker! I loved how he said that our creative capabilities are a gift of the human imagination. Creativity is as important as literacy and must be thrived! And yet, as he pointed out, we are literally educating creativity out of us. He made such a strong point stating how as children we’re not afraid to take chances and be wrong but then by the time we become adults our creative freedom has been taught right out of us, producing adults who have lost their natural creative instinct and who become frightened to make mistakes. It’s clear that libraries must keep encouraging lifelong learning and creativity in anything and everything we do, for all ages.

    And thanks for pointing out how important music and dancing is! I recently watched a PBS program titled “How to Stay Young” which investigates research redefining the way we think about the aging process, and one of the studies focused on the health benefits of dancing and how it’s actually the best form of exercise when compared repetitive motion exercises. Here’s a link to that program if you’re interested, and also a good article regarding the health benefits of dancing that I thought was interesting as well.
    Thanks so much for your post!

    • @cristiburroughs14 I am TOTALLY interested. I already see an after-hours Dance program coming together for library patrons; what about you? In the winter, our town gets lean. The tourists and visitors go home, and the locals stay behind. It would be so cool — maybe popular — to offer dance nights at the library once a month or so.

      Thank you for sharing!

      • Love that idea Amanda!
        We’ve actually offered dance programs/lessons at my library in the past with professional dancers & it was well attended. It’s been awhile though…we should definitely offer that program again! Thanks!

  2. Hi Amanda,
    I explored Sir Ken Robinson ideas 8 years ago when my son began school. I was looking for an alternative to the traditional education system and he definitely provided some thought provoking ideas to the educational system from what I remember.
    I listen to music when I run, it keeps my body moving when all I want to do is lie down on some strangers lawn and quit. Somehow the beat keeps my feet moving, one foot in front of the other, until I either make it home or cross a finish line! My favourite all time ‘get your body moving’ song is Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band. The song always takes me back to good times and my mind off exhaustion!

    • @calsop *Heart!* I think we need a 287 MIX TAPE.

      The Sir is a powerful speaker. I enjoy his sense of humor. I hope that you found a school that inspired learning for your son. My daughter-in-law home schools.

      Keep crossing the finish line, sister. Proud of you!

      • @astjohn and @calsop, My niece was homeschooled by my brother and his wife. She is incredibly intelligent. She received a full scholarship to Carroll University in Wisconsin. She was just awarded a special invitation to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington to work on special project to digitize and anthologize early English dramatic literature–dramatists like Christopher Marlowe and other contemporaries of Shakespeare. We are so proud of her! @michael Fleetwood’s Sara song reminds me of my older siblings who would sing it to me. Amanda, great post, by the way! You are Amanda from Alaska, right? You attended North Park? I had my internship in their library last semester. Great experience!

        • @selatham I have an uncle who moved to Alaska as a young man escaping to the wilds, but myself have never been to Alaska–Shucks! And, I have a family member in Winchester, VA; but I haven’t been there myself either. I SHOULD look at internship opportunities in places I’ve never been, though. Thank you for enjoying the post.

          *Heart* Homeschooling. It’s important for parents to be involved in the education of their own children, and to explore how we learn to learn. Thank you for your comment!

          • Hi Amanda, I think you were in my INF0 254 with Shelly Buchanan last spring. I am sorry, I thought you were my classmate from that class who was from Alaska. Are you from Northern Minnesota? Sorry for the confusion. I think homeschooling is a great alternative for certain learners. My niece certainly benefited from it. <3

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