While Matthew Lynch rightfully argues in “Saving School Libraries: How Technology and Innovation Help Them Stay Relevant” that the school library must be “the common thread that ties all disciplines together for [the] most effective K-12 student experiences” (2016), David Loertscher and Carol Koechlin advocate for a more holistic approach to the school library environment. In their article “Climbing Excellence: Defining Characteristics of Successful Learning Commons,” they make the case that a vibrant school library—what they call a learning commons—is not just a place for academic pursuits. Instead, they point out that “[i]t will sometimes take on a role as “third space,” neither home nor school. It is the place young people love—their space” (Loertscher & Koechlin, 2014, p. E4). What makes this so important is that the school library can be the place where students can cultivate their creativity—something that Sir Ken Robinson identifies in his TedTalk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?,”
as being “as important in education as literacy” (2006). He later expounded on this idea that schools must work to better nurture our children’s genuine interests. For so long, our focus in education has been to prepare students for what the world wants from them. He argues in a subsequent TedTalk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution,”
that we should instead help students find what they want from the world so that they can be part of the group of people whose work is who they are and not what they do while they wait for the weekend (Robinson, 2010).
Until the larger educational model transitions to instruction that fosters this kind of development, a hyperlinked school library has the opportunity to fill this need. In our society our focus is always directed outward on what others think we should do, and then we are surprised that students don’t know who they are or what they want from their lives. By providing a space where they can develop a relationship with themselves, to learn about what brings them joy and feeds their souls, we give them the freedom to live an authentic life. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with my students who say that they love doing one thing, but their parents/counselors/society tells them to become a doctor/lawyer/banker/engineer because it’s the “smart choice” for a successful life. What I try to impart upon them is that success is more than financial security, and even if they follow that path financial success isn’t guaranteed, using my own experience as an accountant as an example. I was good at my job; I made enough money to pay my rent. But I hated my work—for YEARS I spent my time doing something I hated. I encourage them to pursue their dreams: become an artist, fix cars, make music, get a job on a fishing vessel. True success is spending the one commodity we can’t buy—time—doing the things we enjoy and spending it with the people we love.
Loertscher, D. & Koechlin, C. (2014). Climbing excellence: Defining characteristics of successful learning commons. Knowledge Quest. Retrieved from: https://www.dropbox.com/s/g3cxlopfg05fexo/KQ_MarApr14_ClimbingtoExcellence.pdf?dl=0.
Lynch, M. (2016). Saving school libraries: How technology and innovation help them stay relevant. The Edvocate. Retrieved from: https://www.theedadvocate.org/saving-school-libraries-technology-innovation-help-stay-relevant/.
Robinson, K. (2006). Do school kill creativity?. TedTalks. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity#t-1148933
Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution!. TedTalks. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_learning_revolution