Seth Godin's very smart post highlights the importance of paying close attention to your "market," adjusting your service model, and remaining relevant to your customers. In the world of school libraries the rats leaving the ship is analogous to finding your job on the cut list. By the time your program is on that list it is too late.
How do you avoid this fate? Be curious, be bold, find out what the smartest school librarians and educational tech visionaries from around the world are doing and saying, and see how it can be implemented to the benefit of your students and faculty. Embrace the unknown, and be prepared to jettison the familiar if it fails to move learning and student achievement forward. Be a crucial voice in discussions of change and innovation and the first to roll up your sleeves to make it happen.
As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, these are a few of the projects I believe will keep the school library central and indispensable.
- Transform the "library" into a "learning commons." Libraries are crucial in this age of abundant information, but only if they provide relevant support for those actively navigating the digital environment. Hang up your "shhh," stop fussing over the coffee cups, welcome students in with wide open arms along with their mess and Facebook. Give them new tools so that they can find, evaluate, and create. Teach them how be ethical and productive citizens. Teach them how to communicate responsibly and publish to the world. Creativity can be messy and loud. Get over it. Welcome to the learning commons.
- Stop paper training students. Push information out to students digitally and also teach them the critical skills of finding and evaluating it for themselves. Paper is our orientation, but doesn't do any favors for our digital natives. The age of the reading packet is gone because it can't be accessed by students with reading disabilities. It can't be posted to a collaborative platform for analysis and discussion. It can't be linked or embedded, and it isolates the learner. Students need to manage their information and materials using RSS feeds, web portals, and collaborative platforms. They deserve the opportunity to share learning with an authentic audience made up of peers, experts in the field, or a global audience. Use paper only as a last resort.
- Be a leading voice in bringing new ideas to your community as a tool for evaluating current practice. Change is hard. Be enthusiastic of innovation and supportive yet positive with those who may feel overwhelmed. There is no such thing as a "dumb question". Recognize and value the best of "old school" methods with the same vigor you use to promote the new.
- Advocate for the diversification of formats. Planning for the future still involves books, but collections should also include ebooks, MP3 books, graphic novels, and collections that are rich in media. This means leading investigations into new technologies that will allow us to manage, catalog, and curate media productions, media files, student artwork, student performances and more. This means researching vendors, piloting digital textbooks, and supporting hand held digital devices for students.
- Treasure and promote curiosity and creativity in our students. Bringing new tools to teachers as a way to provide alternate ways for students to find information, create meaning, and share their learning is a unique skill librarians can bring to their schools.
It's not the rats you need to worry about