Changes in the Library ……. people and spaces

As the new kid on the block in the world of libraries and working my way through professional studies as a teacher-librarian, I have discovered that I sit in a very exciting phase of transition. Not only are library spaces and their purpose changing, but so too are the roles of the teacher-librarian. When you enter a room filled with said library nerds such as myself, you will soon find that our job descriptions have as many similarities as they do differences. Not only has technology became a huge part of our job in the maintaining of a library space, but the way that the library community sees its role. Within a report conducted by Zickhur et al (2012) a common theme appeared from the library patrons, as they considered it like a community centre and meeting space, as much as a place to do research and borrow books. There was also increased interest when it come to craft classes and children’s storytime activities made available in the library spaces. So, in saying that, it is obvious that the space should accommodate and reflect the needs of its community while providing flexible areas for technology based learning, as well as reading, researching, storytime, Makerspace, and book clubs activities to name a few.

Before venturing any further and to help set the scene for you, I would like to share a short video created by myself, which reflects the library space that I work in 3 days a week. An area that hasn’t been featured is the computer lab, which I will be discussing more later on.

Three years ago I took over from a very traditional teacher-librarian, who for 22 years had concentrated on literature and author studies, as well as how to find books in the library. During her career, there was no technology learning or support incorporated into the library services, even though the library space housed a computer lab from 2004. A classroom teacher, who had an interest in technology was assigned the role of ICT co-ordinator, to run lessons for every class in the primary school. I would like to point out at this stage that back then this school employed two teachers to do specialist lessons as they were viewed as separate job roles, as technology wasn’t so heavily integrated into our lives as it is today. It was looked upon as an independent subject just as Geography and French lessons might have been viewed. Nowadays technology is integrated into our lives and actions as part of our morning routine during a cup of tea or a bowl of cereal, as we check our emails, messages, social media feeds and study the daily weather forecast.

Talking about changes, currently my role not only has me discussing literature, authors, technology tools, skills and problems, but everything else in between. This is what I love about the job. The role has so many hats to wear and the one that is getting worn the most is ‘technology support‘. On a weekly basis I receive emails and drop-in visits from parents and students about their hardware needs and managing software issues. Zickhur at al. (2012) also discovered a similar result in their research report as their community struggled to keep up with technological advancements. Furthermore, it was uncovered that librarians felt a new set of demands on them to learn about the operations of new devices, mastering new web tools and applications, and sorting out glitches on digital devices.  It was nice to learn in this report that many librarians were self-taught techies, who were taking on new skills as their community members requested assistance. So, I am not alone in being asked impossible questions and then going to the computer to ‘google’ the answer.

In 2014, as part of my technology learning curve and the introduction of technology during library lessons, I started students using iMovie on a set of 12 mini iPads. Years 2 – 6 had different projects to create in pairs, but for Year 5’s I asked them to promote the new book titles included in our up and coming Book Fair. I was amazed at how quickly some of the groups worked through the project, but then discovered that not all students had used iMovie. As a result, the quicker groups coached the other groups to complete the project in time for the Fair. Although the inexperienced students took longer, it was a quick lesson for me that digital natives are fast learners to things involving technology. Below is an example of one of the Year 5 book trailers.

My hope in the future is that the technology mindset in the library continues to shift, so that it is seen as part of the many things available in this communal space. The current computer lab, which is set up in rows with an aisle down the middle, could be changed into a flexible media room. By running the desktop computers around the perimeter of the room, the centre of the room could be made free for casual seating and bean bags, for mobile device users and small group work. Alongside this change, a plethora of digitally based activities could stem from this new space. The adoption of a ‘child-driven’ mindset, would see students and teacher interchange their roles as each group learn new digital literacy skills side by side, and introduce new opportunities for online tasks that foster participatory cultures. This space could also provide drop-in sessions for parents to learn and share their technology issues and knowledge. With this school progressively changing into an Apple BYOD format over the next 2 years, I can see the library space and people playing a significant role in the transitioning of the school community during the journey, as we collectively take the ride.