How School Libraries Can Stay Relevant in 2016

Our relationship with technology is increasing by the day. From our desktops and laptops, to GPS systems, to the phones we carry that can conduct an inconceivable amount of errands for us. Current generations of young students are growing up with technology as a regular part of their daily lives. While having the world’s answers at their fingertips seems like the easy way out, students still need skills that allow them to actively engage with their education. For older generations, libraries were the only resource available to research a topic or write a term paper. Today, school libraries are starting to look a little obsolete to some. With classrooms filled with students carrying smartphones in their bags, how do libraries stay relevant and helpful in 2016 and onward? Check out these suggestions for ways to keep your school’s library up to date and filled with busy learners.


Reimagine the role of the library

The Center for Digital Education reminds those that work in libraries, that while it may feel futile to keep up with the amount of information available on the internet (hint: it can’t be done), libraries can instead help people understand how to use and process this enormous amount of information. Maybe card catalogues aren’t the way of the future (or the present), but teaching students how to sift through endless search results to choose the correct information is teaching students a lifelong skill. The internet is a wonderful resource, but it is also filled with “information” that isn’t accurate. Even if students are reading a lot of their resource materials online, it can be the job of the library to help them know what is good information, what isn’t, and how to tell the difference. This can also engage students with physical texts. One great way to verify that the information your find on the internet is correct is by fact checking it with written texts available in the library. It is important that students learn the value of backing up internet info. Even if they are turning to online search engines more frequently, this doesn’t mean that students (especially younger ones) can’t fall victim to satirical journalism or mistake personal blogging for peer-reviewed data.

Combine the old with the new

Tech advancements and libraries don’t have to be mutually exclusive. School Library Journal offers a neat list of shark themed books to go along with the Discovery Channel’s wildly popular “Shark Week” features. In this way, a library can excite readers to learn more about a topic that they are already engaged with via technology. Rather than pretend that the library exists in a vacuum, libraries can engage students by creating events that pair with popular culture and technology. Is Apple introducing a new and advanced product soon? Host an event that gets young readers in to learn more about the development of the first computers.  

Keep the library multifunctional

Even if students are going to get most of their research done on the internet, that doesn’t mean they don’t need the space to do it. For one, not all students have computers at home. The library can be the best place for some students to learn how to use the internet. An article on the National Association of Independent Schools about digital times and school libraries says, “A forward-looking library will include multifunctional spaces that facilitate studying, researching, meeting, creating, collaborating, and sharing of final student projects. The library continues to evolve with the needs of teacher and student researchers, making flexibility of space key. It should offer a physical and virtual access point to all formats of information, whether through the existing collection of print books or the growing collection of ebooks and other digital resources, including online subscription databases and the Internet itself.” There’s so much more to do in a library than just read! Make sure your library has study spaces and other interactive learning tools. As long as students have a reason to keep coming to the library, they will.

Upload library resources to “the cloud.”

The Center for Digital Education offers a great suggestion for how to free up some space in your library for all those multifunctional uses. Track what resources are being used the most and which ones are touched less. Anything that is being used less regularly can be digitized and stored in “the cloud” — a vast and secure internet space that library goers can access from a computer. With older and underused texts taking up invisible space on the internet, physical space will become available for new and exciting activities and events.

Promote your functions

eSchool News says, “Make yourself visible to the school and work with teachers to provide the best resources possible. Be as transparent as possible and work as a team, then you’ll be invaluable.” After you make some changes to update and adapt your school’s library to keep in step with the times, make sure everyone knows! Work with teachers to offer specific interactive resources based on their curricula. Give presentations to classrooms letting students know about all they can accomplish in the library. Encourage teachers to schedule tours of the library with their classes so that students can become familiar with the functions of the library. If students have computers they may think they don’t need traditional library features. And maybe they don’t. But, a contemporary and relevant school library will offer so much more. Students just need to have their options laid out for them.


Photo credit: Barta IV / CC 2.0

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