ON LIBRARIES: The School Libraries of the Future

With so much change, it is natural to wonder what the future will hold.  Some look on the possibilities with excitement, others with trepidation.  Many of you have become members of the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group.  Not wanting to be left out, I decided it was time for me to trot out my crystal ball.

I have done no research for this beyond what I see and read each day.  I am sure much of what I predict will be wrong which is true of every future caster.  But I think the basics of my predictions will happen.

It doesn’t take much clairvoyance to state there will be many more changes and technology will lead the way.  Social media will evolve or disappear while new ones will come on the scene. Adults will bemoan that kids are so wrapped up in the latest digital format (or whatever) that they are losing out on what is important.  And this includes the new adults who are attached to their smartphones today.

Makerspaces will change and may be replaced by something we haven’t foreseen as yet. Augmented Reality (AR) is already having an impact which will continue to grow. If you haven’t dealt with it, here’s how it works. I know there are librarians out there already using Aurasma.

Virtual Reality (VR) is another technology that will grow as more is available.  There will definitely be complaints about kids so connected to an artificial reality they don’t know what’s going on around them. Think about the Pokémon Go craze.  That is considered either AR or VR or maybe Mixed Reality (there is an ongoing dispute about it).

Despite our growing reliance on communicating electronically, we will recognize the value of working face-to-face.  While we will be doing more distance collaboration, we can’t ignore the fact that humans are social animals.  Anyone who has served on a committee which has met by phone, even using Zoom or Skype, knows when you get together in-person there is a synergy that accelerates the process.

The need for social interaction is why I believe the Library Commons approach will be adopted in more schools, no matter what it’s called in the future.  Library furniture is already becoming more flexible to meet whatever users’ needs are in the moment. Students and teachers need a welcoming space to meet and collaborate as they create new knowledge. The resources of the library and the expertise of the librarian make it possible.

I’m convinced Google will continue to find an endless variety of ways to integrate their products into education and our personal lives.  I also believe many vendors we deal with today will be absorbed by other larger ones (I’ve seen that happen too often over the years not to think it will continue).  But at the same time there will be new services and companies who find more flexible approaches to meet our needs, and we should be on the lookout for them.

Check out the link to this AMAZING library in France – https://ebookfriendly.com/a-futuristic-public-library-thionville-france/

The look of libraries will alter as the new tech becomes integrated into teaching and learning.  Some librarians will struggle to cope with giving up tools they now depend on and love. More will adapt and adopt at varying speeds. Others will lead the way, embracing the new, holding on to what is still valuable and helping their colleagues move into the future.

What does this really mean for you as school librarians and for your program? First and foremost, you and our profession will survive.  And if we are wise and prepared we will thrive.

A quote often attributed to Darwin but which seems to have come from a management text states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one most adaptable to change.”  This is how successful businesses thrive, and we either are in business or we are out of business.

To be adaptable to change, you need to be on guard against decisions coming from your paradigm. The Oxford English Dictionary defines paradigm as “A world view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.” What this means is we interpret the world based on what we have learned as we grew up.  It’s hard breaking through the model we hold.

One of the most well-known examples of this is the tale is of Xerox who became concerned in 1970 about the potential impact the new computers would have on their copying business.  They set up the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), hired many of the leading computer scientists, gave them virtually unlimited funds, and told them to create the future.  They did.  They came up with a graphic user interface (which all computers now use but Steve Jobs saw early), local area networks, laser printers, and more.  But Xerox, was locked into its paradigm, and couldn’t recognize the potential and did nothing with what was created for them.

Despite the need to be ready to make changes, it’s imperative you don’t act too fast or too drastically.  Some things are important and core to libraries. I believe libraries that have gone bookless made a mistake.  Someday print may disappear but studies show even the young prefer print for their recreational reading.

Whatever happens, students and teachers will need librarians to guide them through what will only be an increasing flood of information.  And students will need the safe, welcoming environment of the library to find their path academically as well as personally.

What does your crystal ball tell you? Do you agree with my predictions?


ON LIBRARIES – Are You Future Ready

Leaders look to the future.  They know what is good today won’t be so tomorrow, and they recognize as Jim Collins has said, “Good is the enemy of great.”  If you are pleased with what you are doing but not looking to make it better you can never be great.  With this in mind what does it mean to be “Future Ready?”

Future Ready is not an empty phrase.  It has a solid foundation and is continuing to develop. Launched by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in November 2014, Future Ready Schools . The homepage urges school superintendents to take the pledge to have their districts make a commitment to implement meaningful change “towards a digital learning transitions that support teachers, and addresses the district’s vision for student learning. Over 3,100 superintendents have made that pledge and you can check to see if yours is one.

The homepage is rich with resources, not the least of which is the Interactive Planning Dashboard which walks participants through a 5-step collaborative planning process. What I particularly like is that this process offers a “comprehensive approach and an action plan for implementing digital learning before purchasing anything, ensuring a smoother implementation and digital transformation.”   The page has the ability for the team to save all their work in a password protected format making it easy to revisit and update goals, strategies, and implementation plans.

What has me excited is on the homepage there is a link to Future Ready Librarians. It says, what we have always known, that “School librarians lead, teach, and support the Future Ready Goals of their school and district in a variety of ways through their professional practice, programs, and spaces. If properly prepared and supported, school librarians are well-positioned to be at the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.”

Follett formed Project Connect which is designed to help librarians work with their district leaders in creating Future Ready Schools and in so doing firmly position themselves as leaders. To this end they have developed online courses to “promote innovative models of school libraries|, and help librarians “cultivate powerful library and school leadership … with a future-ready approach.”

Future Ready Librarians came into existence in the summer of 2016. Follett is one of its strong supporters, and the indefatigable Shannon McClintock Miller has been named a spokesperson for it. On the homepage you will find a link to her presentation “What Does It Take to be a Future Ready Librarian.” In it, she explores the exciting challenge of Future Ready Schools.

So what does it specifically mean to be Future Ready? The core of it is shown in the Framework, consisting of seven “gears” surrounding Student Learning, which is at the center. (Changed to “Personalized Student Learning” in the framework for Future Ready Librarians—which is what we have been doing all along.) The gears and how they translate into the school library (and I borrow extensively from Shannon McClintock Miller’s  presentation) are as follows:

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – You become a partner with educators to design and implement an evidenced-based practice curriculum integrating deeper learning critical thinking, information literacy, creativity, innovation, and technology. (Big job)
  • Use of Space and Time – For school librarians this means designing flexible, collaborative spaces. Learning Commons are perfect for this, but you can achieve this goal in steps by taking a fresh look at your floor plan and seeing how furniture and shelving can be made mobile. Get help from high school design classes.
  • Robust Infrastructure- In the library, you advocate for equal access to digital devices and connectivity in support of the district’s strategic vision
  • Data and Privacy – Teach and promote student privacy.
  • Community Partnerships – In addition to developing partnerships within the school, reach out to the community including parents, public and academic libraries, and businesses to promote engagement and lifelong learning.
  • Personalized Professional Learning – Provides personal professional learning to develop awareness/understanding of the skills needed for success in a digital age.
  • Budget and Resources– Leverages and understanding of school and community needs to advocate for the digital resources needed to support student learning.

Collaborative Leadership is an extra gear in the Future Librarians framework.  It requires you to lead beyond the library.  As I have been saying, if you stay in your library, no one really knows who you are or what you do. Participating on district committees is vital. One of the most important is any that sets a vision and creates a strategic plan for digital learning.

What can you do if your Superintendent did not sign the pledge and you are not in a Future Ready School? Talk to your principal. Show him or her the Future Ready Schools site and all the supportive resources it has.  Suggest joining the Future Ready School Facebook group. Offer to do a brief presentation on it at an administrators’ meeting. (Definitely moving out of your comfort zone – but being a leader.)

Choose one or two gears that call to you and start working on them while you advocate for the district to become Future Ready.  Join the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group and attend the webinar Leading Beyond the Library on April 11.

Are you a Future Ready Librarian?  What are you doing to show it?  If you aren’t, what will you do to become one? How can I and other librarians support you?