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Are Libraries Dead and a Waste of Public Money? –NO!

David A. Paulson, President/CEO of Friluift Educational Technologies recently posted this question on the ISTE Discussion board on Linked In:

Are libraries dead and a waste of public money?

A few months ago this issue came up and I asserted that libraries are an anachronism. I received some very angry comments from librarians. Today, the New York Times, quotes FOX, asking the same question. If information is now ubiquitous, even the idea of a “media center” is an error of thinking. There is no longer a “center” of information or knowledge. Why should schools use such large percentages of space in their buildings for libraries, investing in paper (analog content) when they are merely large storage closets?

This got my ire up – as well as some of the responses that followed. Here is what I posted. Hope some of you will join in the discussion!

School libraries are far from dead! The term “media center” may be – as the physical space that we have labeled the “school library” has been evolving to meet the ever changing needs of our students since that term was coined back in the 70s. Today’s school libraries do offer print and digital resources, but you can’t stop there in assessing the value of the school library.  Collecting and distributing resources (print and electronic) is just one small part of the school librarian’s responsibility. More importantly, the certified teacher-librarian may well be the only teacher in the school whose core curriculum is 21st century skills.  Our graduate work centers on instructional design in collaboration with teachers to integrate these skills with the content standards. As teachers ourselves, we partner with the classroom teacher to plan, co-teach and co-assess  cross-curricular learning experiences that assess not just content, but vital 21st century skills such as how to efficiently access information from the wide array of sources, and how to critically evaluate that information.  We work with teachers to create a learning environment that allows room for students to practice self-direction skills,  collaboration skills, and make global connections with both peers and experts to improve their communication skills, and increase their understanding of the world around them.

Dr. David Loertscher describes this new physical space, known as the school library or media center as the “School Learning Commons.” In this space, teacher-librarians help students understand the importance of a positive digital footprint, while teaching them how to effectively use social media and other Web 2.0 tools to further their learning.  In this space, differentiation occurs on a daily basis, as students seek out resources to help them make sense of what they are learning in the classroom, or to understand a personal issue.  The core mission – whether written or not – for school librarians and staff is to help students make connections – with information, with people – with good literature – whatever the need may be. We help students make sense of their world.

-Nancy White
Co-President, CASL

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