The Future of Libraries.

John Connell has written an excellent post about Cloud computing and the future of education and the web. He muses;

Since 2002, I have been boring anyone willing to listen to me that this would be the case one day – and the core idea behind Glow in Scotland is based on this fundamental premise – that the world of knowledge is shifting inexorably onto the Web.

John has written a very interesting and thought provoking post. I urge you to visit his blog and read it.

I posted a comment because the post spoke to thoughts I have been mulling over regarding the future of libraries. Here’s what I said;

I have been grappling with this idea for some time now and you have articulated what I have been trying to put together in my mind. I’ve been trying to picture the future of libraries. If knowledge is everywhere and accessible to everyone then what is the point of some central location. There isn’t one. What the point of libraries will be, I think, is as a meeting place for humanity to share ideas. A bit like Ancient Greece where the Sophists would meet up together to share ideas. What keeps coming to me with all of this change is that we still need human interaction and the formation of meaningful relationships to sustain us. I feel that I have found a friend in you John through this PLN, but meeting you probably cemented the friendship. I look at the school library I run and what is happening with the students at my school. Their reliance on print material has lessened greatly with their shift to the web. We may as well ditch non-fiction altogether. And yet our Library is thriving. Why? A welcoming environment. We have couches, cushions, kids can eat in there and use their phones and listen to ipods. We listen to them and we like them. We don’t force feed them books but they like the connectedness they feel there. The knowledge will be everywhere and easily accessible, but the need for human connection will be constant.

John’s post was speaking to eduation as a whole rather than the specific nature of Libraries, but I think we can draw parallels. There will still be a need for schools and teachers. I don’t think we will become obsolete. I do think the nature of learning will change; we will need to encourage and foster self directed learners and this is what I see the function of teachers will be in the future. We will need to guide and mentor our students; explicit teaching of some skills will still be necessary, but empowering our students with the ability to discover and learn off their own steam will be the essential life skills. What will be a vital role of schools and teachers will be what has been vital all along. The space where students can form relationships, the space where they can articulate ideas and glean advice and encouragement, the space where the human network forms and where they can find ways to make it grow.  

I’d love to know what others think. Is this the future, has it always been this way, or is the future something else altogether?   


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5 Replies to “The Future of Libraries.”

  1. Wow, Jenny, great thinking and thanks for sharing. . .I’m an elementary teacher, and I think you’re absolutely right about the human interaction piece being crucial, being always a need and being a part of libraries and schools of the future.

    However, now you have ME thinking about the future of elementary school, of how kids learn to do the basics (read, write, numerate, share, collaborate) so they CAN be independent learners and seek knowledge for their own life needs.

    How do I, as a teacher, set up situations where the interactivity of the web is helpful and supportive of young children in ways that not only paint pictures of the potential for them and their future learning, but also help them gain the basic skills they need in a way that is connected, organized an dallows htem to construct meaning and grow?

    Hmmm. . watch out for my own blog, coming soon, as a kickoff from yours which is a kickoff from John’s, which has allowed us to think together and construct our own meaning.

    While “the world of knowledge is shifting inexorably onto the Web” constructing meaning and learning will always be social and personal. .. .what you and I are doing from the knowledge he posted.

  2. Jenny, I think that the advent of computing and ‘CD-Roms’ in the 90s was often cited as ‘the end’ of libraries as everything that could be digital, would be – and that meant books.

    I reality, libraries, and teacher librarians are probably the most likely to be the places that people will turn to in order to make sense of all this ‘cloud’ based knowledge. Information literacy is dead, media literacy is born. It is dumb to think that one library has one TL – and in fact that we continue to classify them as ‘book dwellers’.

    I would argue that a TL can teach anything better than the media illiterate ‘text book’ teacher. A connected TL is something even more powerful.

    I’d go so far as to say that TLs are the best people to renew curriculum, as often curriculum leaders have no clue how to integrate digital taxonomies. Those in that position that orbit around e-learning discourses need to change their tune, and just realise that it’s just learning, you can drop the ‘e’.

    In fact, just elevate the TL to curriculum if you want change, they can show you how to do it. To me there is a continued ‘denial of service’ for students, and the path leads to curriculum leaders.

    To make progress, I think that schools just need to accept that media literacy is best lead from libraries – who have the depth of knowledge and experience to do what is needed. I wonder how many TLs are now in that position? I wonder just when people will realise that Libraries are the future – and in fact the internet represents our best distribution point, for distributed learning into the classroom.

    TLs need re-classification in my view – they are educational and academic developers. In the same way we talk about ‘web’ developers. The way in which they can blend media literacy with technology is unmatched in all but a few classrooms.

    The futures bright, and powered by people like you.

  3. @Paula

    How do I, as a teacher, set up situations where the interactivity of the web is helpful and supportive of young children in ways that not only paint pictures of the potential for them and their future learning, but also help them gain the basic skills they need in a way that is connected, organized an dallows htem to construct meaning and grow?

    Step 1. Accept that they are creative, and select a few technologies to allow that to shine through. VoiceThread, Photostory and 21Classes.

    Step 2. Make sure everything you send home to parents has a URL. Encourage parents to visit your blog – and put information there that will help them help their kids at home. You won’t get ‘all’ parents, but even if you get 10% that is positive in your goals.

    Step 3. Encourage them to collaborate at home with parents and siblings, and share that back to your classroom.

    Step 4. Make learning fun, make it mysterious. For example, rather than draw a monster on paper and describe it with text, get them to draw it, then use Spore’s free creature creator to visualise it with technology. Then publish the whole thing on so parents can buy the book.

    Hope that helps … make sure you blog about what this change in your class looks like!

  4. As usual, Jenny, you’ve opened our eyes to the bigger picture. I love your library with its welcoming space and encouragement of discussion. As you say, human interaction and meaningful relationships are central to learning. Technologies allow for connection in a way previously unimagined.

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