ALA’s Libraries Transform campaign is underway and school librarians need to be a part of it. AASL has been promoting the concept of School Libraries Transform Learning since Midwinter 2015, but I suspect few of you have thought about the implications or what you might do differently. Many of you wonder if any campaign will change how administrators, teachers, parents, and the community in general view you and the importance of school libraries.
Merriam-Webster gives the simple definition of transform as “to change (something) completely and usually in a good way.” In the more complete form it gives these three explanations:
- To change in composition or structure
- To change the outward form or appearance of
- To change in character or condition
All three apply to what needs to be done. Transforming is substantially different from changing or innovating. A change might move you backwards, and you all have seen changes made for the purpose of changing with no real plan in mind. Innovation brings something new to the mix, but it doesn’t encompass the range of a transformation.
Transforming requires a complete overhaul of everything, and to achieve that end the first transformation may have to be you. You can’t be a transforming agent unless you are a leader, confident in where you are going and how to get there. A scary thought. But you are a librarian and you don’t have to do this alone. There are many resources out there to help you. Almost every week, this blog offers you ways to move out of your comfort zone and take on the role of a leader and, for those already there, how to lead on an even larger scale.
Too much is at stake for you to be focused solely on your daily tasks. As you ready your program for transformation, you must be prepared to propose the changes you plan and how these will fit into a larger whole. Your enthusiasm provides the opening. Your carefully designed plan shows you have thought through how to accomplish it, and by hitting the hot button issues, you get the support needed to bring it all to fruition.
The next step is transform your facility as the definition said “to change the outward form or appearance of” and by doing so you will also change the “character or condition.” A few – a very few—of you might have access to funds that allow a huge make-over, but for the vast majority of you money is in tight supply. Fortunately many substantive changes can be made cheaply, particularly if you use resources on hand and once you know what you want to do remember to present it to your administrators and get approval.
Walk into your library as though you are viewing it for the first time. What message is it sending? Does it look much like one from the 1990’s or does it proclaim that it’s a 21st century library? Fixed tables, computers, perhaps Chromebooks, but somehow it doesn’t feel as though it’s a a place for doing and making things.
When you have worked in a place every day, you take it for granted. You stop seeing it, making it difficult to see what can be done differently. Start searching for library makeovers. Look at Learning Commons sites. You can’t get the fancy furniture and all the tech they have, but what is the message? How is the facility arranged?
Download pictures and create a vision board. Start dreaming and let others see that dream. How do they react? Do they find the possibility exciting? Look for those places that have accomplished the transformation with minimum cost. Check out the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group, there have been a number of posts recently about transforming library spaces, some cheap others more costly.
Some quick things you can do. Look into putting your tables on casters so they can be easily moved into different configurations as students and teachers need. I did a library renovation in the late 1990’s and my tables were on wheels. The custodians loved it as well. I wish I had thought to put the counter height bookcases on casters. If you have cooperative custodians and are willing to unload and reload shelves (maybe get help) it still can be done.
Buy rolls of dry erase paper and cover tabletops. Students working on group projects can get their ideas down, take pictures, and learn to think more deeply and creatively. Think color. Can you repaint sections of the walls to bring a more modern look? Perhaps students in a high school design, marketing, or advanced art class can re-design the facility as an authentic learning opportunity. Present them with challenge, giving them your vision and your dream board. See if your local education foundation and/or parent organization can support your transformation with some funding.
Take pictures of the transformation as it is occurring and post it on your website or tweet it out. Have a “grand opening” when it’s finished.
Now transform student learning. With this new environment how will you work differently with students? How can teachers best use it? And keep sharing all that is happening with the larger community.
Are you ready to Transform?