What is a library anyway?

In this short piece on the transformation of Chelmsford High School’s library into a Learing Commons, author D.L. Whelan describes a shift from a visually unappealing place, with frayed carpets, peeling paint, and prison-like bars to an information palace, with flat screen TV, coffee, couches, and new computers.  But the changes described are more than cosmetic.  The transformation into a Learning Commons is also described a a shift in mindset.  Although it seems to me more a lexical shift than anything else.  A Learning Commons is,
“according to David Loertscher, a professor at San Jose State University and coauthor of The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs (Hi Willow, 2008), a collaborative space created by users that turns the library into the ‘center, the network, of social, cultural and learning in the school.”
That sounds like a library to me.  I find it interesting in that the quest to open up libraries, make them relevant to teachers and useful to students, to get them full of bustle and activity, there is often a “need” to rename them.  How has the word “library” become so immutably boring and staid?  And what does our willingness to abandon it mean for the future of libraries, both public and academic?  I say it’s time we made a concerted effort to reclaim and redefine the word “library,” so that it finally encompasses all of the guts and glory, the fun and learning, the resources and people, to be found there.

I don’t want my students to dread the library, or immediately dismiss it.  I don’t want them to imagine a room of old, worn-out books, and shushing matrons.  Perhaps the best way to counter these stereotypes is to stop delivering them?  For many children their school library is their main library and it’s important that we make creating warm, fun, inviting spaces, with up-to-date resources a priority.  Sadly, there are library media specialists and school libraries that are not warm and welcoming, that saw classes as an intrusion, and kids as problems to be dealt with.  As we move into the 21st century, ourselves and our libraries, let’s work to re-image and redefine the “library” and "librarian," for that matter, and insure that they are all centers of learning and development for all.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. As an adult, I dread going into the public library. I'd much rather be in a book store where there's coffee, couches, music, and events. I know there's libraries out there that must have these things (at least the events and couches) but I don't know where they are. I can't wait to see what you're library turns out like!

    P.S. The best thing about knowing the blog writer is hearing their voice in the post.