Since I am presently working as an elementary school librarian, the idea of the “library as a classroom” is really second nature. I have created a curriculum for my Kinder-5th grade students, with goals for each year outlined. In the library space, depending upon their age, my young patrons learn a love of literacy, how to find books, how to share space and resources, how to search our online catalog (beginning digital literacy), how to tell between fiction (stories) and nonfiction (data, or the beginning of information literacy), and self-efficacy. It is really difficult to teach self-efficacy, the appropriate conditions have to be present which allows students to make decisions for themselves. The elementary school library is the perfect place for this. When students come into the library outside of their class time, they choose how to engage; Search for books? Sit and read? Make art? Volunteer? “[S]tudents are creators rather than consumers”: They just need the space and place to create in a safe (or appropriately scaffolded?) environment (Stephens, 2016). There are few spaces in our modern world where children get to choose to go, take themselves, and make all the activity decisions while they are there. This is part of why elementary school libraries are vital.
Additionally, the Elements of the Creative Classroom Research Model is a great resource to me as an elementary school librarian, and probably anyone doing programming. In this model, all the aspects of successful programming are clearly explained; infrastructure, content, assessment, learning and teaching practices, etc. (EDUCAUSE, 2014). It’s a good tool to review when creating and assessing programs.
It was interesting to read (again!) about the many innovative things happening in public libraries; from scavenger hunts, to family tech sessions, a kids’ maker space, all the outdoor learning and story reading, the curating of stories in many forms (i.e. the Story Bar), and the dinner with a librarian club (Bookey, 2015, & Stephens, 2017). When you look at a library as a place for knowledge (instead of books), then the possibilities for which information to share and how to share become endless. We are limited, really, only by focusing on the needs and priorities in our own communities. Yesterday I had the good fortune to interview for an internship at the Los Angeles Public Library.
LA Public Library Main Branch exterior
At the end of the interview she asked if I had any questions. I asked her what is the most important change she had seen in the LAPL system (in her 35+) years working there? She responded to me that the present director of the library system had given library workers broad discretion in creating programs, events, and services for their patrons. Needless to say, I’m really excited for the possibility of interning at LAPL next semester!
LA Public Library Main Branch exterior, vintage
Finally, a word about the decline of reference desk usage (Kenney, 2015). I think this is an opportunity. Let’s redesign the reference desk. I really like the idea of curated, topic-based “info sheets” (or bibliography?) that allows a patron to engage in the topic through the media they prefer. How about having a yearly “recommendation period” where a library asks patrons what they want to know about, do some voting, and then creating new info sheets once a year? Libraries can share these info sheets between them as well. I also like the idea of asking a patron approaching the reference desk, not just what they want to know about, but how they prefer to get that knowledge. Is it a podcast? Book? Website? It may take more time, but it will ultimately mean better service.
If you’d like a good laugh, please watch my newly created library welcome video:
Bookey, J. L. (2015, Apr. 29). 8 Awesome ways libraries are making learning fun. The Blog, Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-awesome-ways-libraries_b_7157462
EDUCAUSE. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. New Media Consortia. Retrieved from: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2014/1/2014-horizon-report
Kenney, B. (2015). Where Reference Fits in the Modern Library. Publishers Weekly, 262(37), 18–.
Stephens. (2016). The heart of librarianship: attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.