Tag Archives: Libraries

Where does learning come from today?

Well, according to my son, it’s from the Internet.

Here’s what he told me tonight about his day.

“She gave us a tub of books, random choices off the shelves of books they thought we would like.

My library teacher has no idea of where learning is coming from today.”

I work in a library and I see our non fiction collection losing relevance by the day. Not because the content within the books isn’t worthy, some of it is incredible. But to students with a vast array of online resources available at their fingertips in a 1:1 school, it’s hard to convince them to visit the shelves. In recent times, with some assigned tasks, I’ve recommended the students head to the Internet to find more detail than that available in our books on the shelves. Two paragraphs in  book is sometimes all there is on a topic, and yet they can source web pages with enormous detail. Any wonder they are attracted what is available online.

As Teacher-Librarians, we don’t want to go the way of some books and lose relevance to our students. My son’s comment is something I fear is echoed in the living rooms of countries everywhere. Subscribing to authoritative databases or looking at an ebook platform are important considerations for Teacher-Librarians today. Resources need to be accessible for multitudes of students simultaneously rather than the ‘borrow the book, make it unattainable for others’ model of libraries of the past. To that end, providing school libraries with adequate funding to ensure they can do just that is necessary too. Database providers need to lift their game as well, and make their sites more appealing and user friendly so that our students want to use them.

While I don’t think my son is totally right in his estimation, I do think there are plenty of teenagers out there who’d share his sentiments. In schools’ today, we need to stay relevant and know how to make the most of all the online resources at our disposal.

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Creating a Library for the future

Well, that’s what we hope we’ve done. Created a Library for the future, that is.

When we started planning Toorak College’s new Norman Carson Library, we knew this would be a space that had to meet the needs of a school population into a future that will see a physical collection change as society becomes increasingly comfortable with digital storage and usage. The space needed to be flexible and able to accomodate our book collection, but we didn’t want the books to be the predominant feature. We realise that fiction will be with us for some time, but our non fiction collection we see as a shrinking collection. We needed to find a way to make it inviting, but able to be transformed with changing times.  You get one shot to get things right. Our students return next week, and we can’t wait to see their reaction to the space. It will be their usage of the spaces that will let us know if we’ve hit the mark. I thought I’d share some pictures here to demonstrate the thinking behind the design.

The non fiction shelving in our large learning commons space. We wanted to utilise the wall as much as possible so that we could hopefully accomodate two classes in this space. We will have to see if it is possible once our furniture arrives.There are three break out rooms at the back of the learning commons space. We see these as small group work spaces, meeting spaces and private study areas. Each room has it’s own LCD TV to be used for presentations by students and staff. A divider separates two rooms so that we can create a larger space for a small class if necessary.

Room divider

This is the large conference/work/relax space at the front of the learning commons area. This room has a large divider (see below) that can provide us with a large room for Year level presentations. It has a projector and very large screen for this purpose. (see below) We aim to provide flexible furnishings in this space that can allow for it to be transformed for different purposes. This vista of this space is simply beautiful. It looks out to our Edna Walling designed gardens and historic Hamilton Building.

High pitched ceilings give the library a feeling of additional space, and louvre windows will help with the release of heat when the air conditioning is not being used.

Here is the circulation desk, opposite the entrance, with the library workroom behind. It divides the two spaces of the library and allows for visibility to the learning commons space and the reading and multimedia spaces.

The library workroom is centrally located, with windows all around giving visibility to all areas.

This is our Multimedia room, that will be fitted out with Mac desktops. It adjoins our fiction/reading spaces.

This is our Fiction collection, looking out to our reading space. We are going to replace a standing double bay with wall shelving to help us maximise space.

Our reading space. We intend to make this an L Shaped space, once we have the wall shelving in place.

Opening doors at the rear of the reading space open to this deck, making this an indoor/outdoor reading space. The tree behind has had its canopy trimmed since this photo was taken, and it looks even more picturesque.

This tiered room, for chillin’ out and relaxing, or for presentations to groups, adjoins our fiction/reading space. It’s my favourite room, and has a very high ceiling giving it an interesting acoustic quality.

It is so exciting having the opportunity to help plan and realise a new learning space for students. Like I said, the proof of its effectiveness will lie with student usage. Seeing their reaction to this space when they return next Monday will be something to savour I’m sure. There are floorboxes with data and power dotted throughout the space for our power needs (we are a laptop school), and we will have netbooks and iPads available for student use when their own devices are not with them.

Our next step is furniture, and this is exciting too. February will see the first installment with more to come in a second stage. Flip tables are being used, as are ottamans, colourful chairs and what we are calling a snake lounge, and that will be the signature piece of the Library space.

Hopefully this will be a space that will meet our students needs well into the future. We wanted it to be welcoming, and it certainly has a homely feel when you enter it. It has been enthusiastically embraced by staff, and I expect to see the same reaction from our students, maybe an even more effusive one. I’ll let you know how it’s received.

 

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Reinventing our Library space – what did we do?

Tomorrow, I return to work. It’s an early start for me, and that’s because the new library that has been under construction is completed. It’s very exciting and something I have alluded to over the last year. Our library, and the staff who work in it, have been located in temporary accommodation for the past twelve months so we are very much looking forward to moving into a spacious environment where we can realise some initiatives we have planned for the 2011 school year. I haven’t written a post outlining the process we underwent planning this construction, and I thought it might be useful for anyone facing either remodeling or building from the ground up.

Our original brief was to remodel an existing building, but the eventual outcome was the demolition of our old library, and the construction of a new building on the same site. We had very little time in the planning stages to come up with a design, but after working in a library that had functional issues, I was already convinced of the changes we needed to implement to make for a more functional space that would meet the needs of our learners, and the people who work in the building.

Our old library had already seen a change in usage as a result of changing seating options. Over a two year period we invested funds into couches and cushions, and we strategically placed them in and around traditional table and chair configurations. What we saw was an almost gravitational pull towards the new seating options. Classes that were booked in would float to those spaces rather than the traditional areas. At recess and lunch breaks those spaces were fully occupied with students working on their laptops, reading and talking. We also had become more flexible about eating arrangements. I know this will not suit many, but we allowed our students to eat in the library, provided they were respectful and cleaned up after themselves. I have always struggled with break periods like lunchtime, and restricting student use of the library until they have finished lunch. For many students, the library is a refuge, the one space in the school that is always supervised and can provide them with a place to belong. Those kids need the library, and eating lunch by yourself can be a very solitary pursuit. At least in the library they are in a group atmosphere. I think it helps them. I’m not sure how we will approach eating in this new space. My feeling is that we will be very precious about it to start with, and probably will ask students to eat before they come in, but I feel we will need to gauge this and see how our ‘refuge’ students react.

We had always struggled with poor design that meant our workroom was located well away from the main traffic areas. It led to a dislocation of staff and an inability for some staff to see when times were busy and more hands were needed on deck. We made sure in our new design that our workroom was centrally located with visibility to all parts of the library. The reality of any library is that we are service providers in our school; students and staff needs come before all else, and we need to be responsive.

I’ve included a floorplan of the new library below. I used an online program called Floorplanner to help me insert furniture, and I used Jing for the annotations. The furniture is not necessarily as it will appear in the new space and there may well not be all of it either. It will very much depend on what the space looks like when we walk into it! The picture below was my thinking based on what we envisaged might be possible. We have tried to put most of our non-fiction shelving along a wall, so that it doesn’t compromise what could be a learning space, but we have found that we will have to have some shelving spreading  into a learning space. The ‘snake lounge’ as I’ve called it, is actually a very large piece of furniture that will be the defining piece of the large library space. I can’t wait until it’s installed- it’s going to be a stand out piece. It won’t be in until mid Feb at this stage. I’m excited about the portable IWBs that we will have in the space (there will be three of them) because we intend to allow student use of these. I’m interested to see what use they make of them.

Right throughout the flooring are floorboxes containing data and power for students to power up devices. This was a crucial part of the design process- there are not many desktop computers- they exist only in the multimedia lab. Our students bring their own laptops to school and we provide netbooks (and iPads as of this year) for student use within the library if their device is not working.We are a wireless networked environment, but we have factored data points for cabled connection into the floorboxes for moments when the wireless may be down.

Another exciting addition is the presentation space. It’s a room off the fiction/reading /relaxation space that has  three rows of tiered seating – a reverse amphitheatre type arrangement. All of the tiers have power outlets within them, so that our students can lounge there and plug their devices in when necessary. We envisage teachers will book this space for presentations and will be using one of the portable IWBs that can be rolled in to allow students to hook up their computers.

The conference room at the front of the very large learning commons type space is exciting too. It has doors that can be remotely closed making it a self contained space. It will have a data projector and very large screen installed for presentations. If your school is anything like mine, you will know how hard it can be to facilitate large groups like a year level for a presentation. We think this room is going to see a lot of traffic, and we are planning flexible seating arrangements so that it can be reconfigured to meet changing needs quickly.

We will be sharing the space with our IT Department and this will be located in the back of the building. Both the library and IT department welcome this. We work very closely together facilitating technology needs of our students, and a closer physical working arrangement is going to be an added bonus.

We won’t have all of our furniture installed from the start of the school year. It will be a partial fit out to start with but we envisage the place to be totally functional from May. It’s going to be a bit messy and very busy for the start of the year, but it’s going to be exciting too. I’ll post some pictures of the completed building in the coming days.

Our Library- close to end of construction

Busy days ahead!

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Aha! Publishers respond to changing trends. But when will we see files borrowed from libraries?

The UK branch of Dorling Kindersley presented this at a sales conference, but decided to release it publicly after the response they received internally. They commissioned Khaki films to produce it and you can read about the process on the Penguin Blog (USA).

I see young people at my school continuing to read voraciously. Not all of them obviously, but we do have readers who go through five or more novels a week. One of our challenges is to keep the new fiction up to their requirements! We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file.

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

The same issue relates to audiobooks. One of our students had a wonderful conversation with me last week about the great things she can access on iTunes. She’s not an able reader, and her mother had suggested she download the audio version of the text they are studying at Year 10 to her iPhone. She has been listening to it on the bus on the way to school and was telling me how she was now able to understand and contribute to class discussion. This was just wonderful; I was so thrilled for her because I know she struggles with English classes. She suggested that we download the book and share it with students. I had to explain to her that we would have to ensure that we loaned it out as a file, but only one student at a time could access it because of copyright considerations. Now, how do we go about doing just that? How do we ensure that the file we loan isn’t copied and transferred to someone else? How do we enable producers of content to receive their rightful royalties for the work they have produced?

Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

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School today VS Pew Internet advice

Sometimes I feel disconnected from other teachers. I think this happens when you envision a different future, away from pen and paper teaching and exams.

A recent conversation brought this home to me. I was advocating for an eportfolio contributed to by the students themselves, and the argument against me was for paper copies evidencing student achievement. The point being made was that the final exams students will face are pen and paper driven, so these were the examples teachers wanted to use for reference purposes. A comment was made to the effect of, “You come from a different world Jenny”.

Maybe I do. Maybe what I advocate is off the mark. It’s just that I don’t think that it is. I think I’m forward thinking and I think I’m advocating for the kind of world and workforce our graduating students will encounter. Regardless of whether or not they complete a pen and paper end of year exam.

I came across slides from Lee Rainie today, who was supposed to keynote at the VALA conference here in Melbourne, but was detained by inclement weather conditions in the United States. Lee is Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and his presentation was for a public library audience. There is much in the presentation that can be applied to school libraries; it goes someway to addressing the skills we need to be imparting to our students. Lee’s slides and accompanying speech (linked to in this post) discussed the democratization of media and the rise of user-generated content. Take a look at the slides and see if you make the connection.

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Seth Godin on libraries – take heed

Seth Godin has written a brief, but pretty accurate in my view, summation of the future of libraries. I’ll post it in it’s entirity here, but make sure you start reading Seth. I do nearly every day.

The future of the library

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?

They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

It’s that final sentence that holds the key to survival of the Library profession, and it’s up to Library professionals to understand this and skill themselves up so that they are up to the challenge. If you’re a Librarian right now and you don’t know what Diigo or Delicious are, or how you use Twitter for real time search, or how to go about trying to find the experts out there who may be able to answer the questions your students are posing, then you better start rethinking what it is you are doing. Libraries are not going to be about the book collection forever; they’re not about that now in my opinion. They are about being a connective space; a space where reading, discussion and discovery take place. The professionals in those spaces need to be the information sherpa enabling new understandings of how we go about finding out what it is we need. It means letting go of knowledge and giving it up to empower others. Don’t see that as a threat, view it as an opportunity. If we don’t, the information sherpas in our school are not going to be emanating from the school library. Instead, they’ll be the educational technologists out there who will rise to the fore. Missed opportunities could mean a lost profession.

Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson and Scott McLeod have all posted responses to Seth’s post. Make sure you visit these for their insights.

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Everywhere is here – is that the school library of the future?

This is Guy Adam Ailion’s animation, an introduction to his Architectural Masters Thesis called EVERYWHERE IS HERE. He has posted it to YouTube and has included this explanatory text to accompany it;

What is a library when ‘everywhere is here’? This architectural animation explores the question of the role of the public library when digital information is everywhere and is everything. What happens to the spaces of books? and how should traditional spaces of information change for a digital world? Even better… in the developing world, how could the library nurture an information society, when people don’t have access at home? Could the future of the library be an urban information bar? or a theatre of knowledge? and what does that really mean anyway?

These are question not just for public libraries, but for school libraries too. I like his ideas. Thinking of libraries as ‘Urban information bars’, or ‘Theatres of Knowledge’ conjures images of busy bustling centres for all. Just the kind of environment that is equally important in a school setting. It’s important that students have a space where all are welcome, where everyone can congregate and share ideas, where everyone can ‘fit’ without worrying about cliques and social strata.

These are considerations that will occupy my thinking over the next six or so months. Our school has received funding for redevelopment of our School Library. While we have the exterior building design pretty much sorted, it’s the interior design and functionality of space that has me excited. As a library staff, we are looking to create something special that will meet our needs for the long term. We want comfort, a space that that is welcoming and creates a sense of belonging for our school community. We want to find new ways to utilise space, creating learning nooks and relaxing recreational areas. We want to be creative with signage and we want to rationalise our collection to meet the changing needs of our community of users. 

These are ideas we have been knocking around, but I think we need to go to our users and ask them what they would like to see happen in the space. We have a large display board, circa 1960′s I’ll have you note, and I’m going to create a banner to adorn it asking;

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN YOUR NEW SCHOOL LIBRARY?

I’m going to invite our students to share with us their thoughts and post them on this display board. I’m interested in finding out what they see as important.  They’re a creative lot, it’s more than likely that they will generate some ideas that we haven’t contemplated. What would be great would be if they could be really creative and produce designs for us to contemplate. I’m sure we could come up with a competition idea to support this with a prize or two that will help to get some creative juices flowing. Our kids learn how to create design briefs in their design and technology classes so we might as well give them a real life scenario to work towards. Perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised and find that they meld with our thinking or we may be even more surprised and find that they take our thinking to new places.   

Thanks to Marianne Lenox for pointing me in the direction of Guy’s animation. 

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Mindspot – a library of the future happening now

Watch this. We can learn from this example.

Ask our users what they need. Simple idea really.

You can find more information about the project here.  It’s a German site so you’ll need to find a way to translate the page. Thanks to Leeanne Windsor and Kim Cofino for tweeting about this.

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“Books, newspapers face battle in dawn of digital revolution”. So says the Geelong Advertiser.

Yesterday I posted about the Geelong Advertiser and the interview I conducted with them after they contacted me via Twitter. At that stage I’d searched the site but couldn’t find any article referencing my name.

Today I received this tweet from John Pearce;

mrpbps @jennyluca The Geelongaddy article re U and someone called Pesce who dominates conversation :) is now online Go Jenny http://bit.ly/3fkxj

Mark Pesce’s comments were the main focus of the article. He made reference to the function of Libraries in the future and this is where my comments were slotted in. Here’s what was mentioned;

While it sounds like a new world order, Mr Pesce believes people will turn to libraries to restore order in their own lives.

The public library will be where people go to catalogue the huge data shadows they are creating with digital photographs and recordings, he said, while books will become archives.

“Today librarians keep catalogues to keep books ordered. They are going to pass this on for you to use.

“It’s going look different but it’s going to help order your digital lives,” he said.

Toorak College librarian Jenny Luca said libraries will become a place for discussion and connection.

“It’s absolutely essential that we look at the new technology and find ways to make it meaningful for the kids that we teach. The collaborative nature of those tools is such now that we will actually make connections with the people behind the keyboards and learn from those people.”

But books will still have a role. Fiction is still a vital collection, Ms Luca said, while non-fiction was losing relevance to online content

I have to admit to being pretty chuffed to see my name in an article alongside Mark Pesce’s. Thanks Peter Farago for interviewing me and getting the article to print.  Special thanks go to John Pearce for making the effort to let me know the article had been published. 
 

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The future of libraries, continued….

I’m finding it harder and harder to get to my RSS feeds in my Google Reader. I’ve no doubt this is in large part due to Twitter consumption. The temptation is always there to just check in to see what’s going on and before you know it you’re off exploring 8, 9, 10 links to new stuff that’s just downright interesting. Of course, as you’re exploring those, the hypertext environment that feeds off these links takes you other places and before you know it, two hours have elapsed!   

Well, I’m glad I found some time because I stumbled on a link to a blog post by Adam Corson-Finnerty, a Library Administrator from Pennsylvania. He was referring to Academic libraries, but I think his message has meaning for school librarians too. It’s time we shifted our mindset if we are going to remain at all relevant in years to come. Read what he has to say;

              Get out of Real Estate

Close as many libraries as you can.

Get out of the Study Hall business.

Your remaining facilities should be recast as “learning labs” or “learning environments.”

Downsize or eliminate your high-density-storage facilities.

Get in to or get out of the Book Storage Business.

Convert your storage facility into a regional storage facility that is self-funding, or

Pay another institution to store any books that you absolutely have to own, and

Pay this institution to loan you books as you need them from their combined holdings, or

Have this institution scan any book that you need and produce your own POD copy, and give it to the patron to keep (you really don’t want it back).

Get out of the book-buying business—only buy books when they are requested.

Keep only what is heavily used

Use “scan on demand” ILL services wherever possible

Use print on demand

Use in-house or nearby print-on-demand service for quick production.

Re-deploy your people

Get your people out of supervising the study hall, standing-behind-a-service-desk, giving directions to the nearest bathroom.

Retrain Librarians as “Informationists” or “Informaticians” or whatever new term breaks them out of the old mold. Your new librarians will be full members of academic research teams, or will “team” with individual scholars, including undergraduates. Many on your staff will have to become data curators, if not database creators.

Focus on the delivery of digital resources, services and tools

Continue and strengthen your role as Information Broker for the entire University

Emphasize training patrons in information-finding skills.

Emphasize digital self-help.

Emphasize collaborative tool-development with faculty

Emphasize collaborative resource-building, and resource-sharing with other Research Libraries

Emphasize physical and digital preservation of assets.

Lots of what he says here rings true for me. What about you? I’m sure there is still much to be said about the future of libraries. How we respond to prompts like these is the truly difficult and confronting challenge facing us, but face them we must if we want to remain relevant.

Adam provided a link to No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century. You can download the PDF at that link.

   

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