Doug Johnson gave a talk on the dangers and opportunities facing libraries in the 21st Century. He highlights three dangers and seven opportunites – he’s an optomistic sort. It is an entertaining and humourous read. Very quickly, the dangers are
1 – growing digitization and portability of information. As ipods and handhelds become more pervasive, the need for paper books from libraries and book stores will decrease. It is cheaper and easier to publish and transmit. It fits the lifestyle and tendencies of the current society.
2 – fundamental changes in the nature and sources of information. Information production is becoming more distributed (Wikipedia, blogs). Free sources are more likely to be used than sources which cost money. More persons can change and interpret the information. We need to rethink authority.
3- changing needs of society in a global economy. The job market is changing. The job market, particularly in industrialized, ‘first’ world countries, demands higher level thinking skills associated with the ability to design, persuade and synthesize information.
Opportunites – how can libraries change to be relevant in the face of these ‘dangers’?
1- improve facilities (if you aren’t a welcoming place, why should I leave home to be there?)
2 – give learning opportunites (to meet the changing societal need, opprotunites to design, synthesize and intepret, persuade…)
3- be information ‘experts’ (teach the use of the new tools)
4 – be a team player (support the work of your organization, school, city…)
5- get out there (let your community know where you are @)
6 – diversify (libraries are a knowledge and learning business, find your niche)
7 – bridge the divide (teach adults, reach out to teens)
Doug‘s talk was for an Australian librarian group, but it has clear implications for school libraries in Canada. What would I do, if I had my own school library?
I would be interested in finding ways to have the school library open after school. I think that the lunch hour and the hour after school particularly are times when students adn community members should be able to make use of the library and have access to the teacher librarian.
I would like to make sure that the school computer lab and the library were located side by side. We are teaching critical and creative thinking and information skills in the library. The computers need to be accessible to the teacher librarian and to the students as they research.
Liaison – I would want to make connections with students and parents and staff to find out what they need to know more about and then offer workshops to serve those needs.
Connect to the public library in virtual and real ways. I think I would like to have an ongoing relationship with the local public library staff and facilitate the connection for students between the services offered at school and the services offered at the public library. We have a tremendous resource of open access databases through a multitype library agreement in Saskatchewan. We have the opportunity then to teach students and community members about these sources so that they can use them both while they are at school and in the school off hours but also as they grow up and need to find these sources as adults.
I think much of what teaching comes down to is relationship and story. Libraries are places to create both of these crucial pieces.