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:
- “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with that same status.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
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.
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.