Aug 31 2017

Technology Trends Reshape Today’s Libraries

Modernizing learning in the 21st-century school can start in the library.

School libraries across the country are changing drastically to accommodate the new tech-infused needs of students.

Driving these changes are trends like makerspaces, flexible learning commons and the flexible furniture needed to accommodate it all, reports Technavio.

In these new future-focused libraries, students sip lattes while they do research in café-styled spaces, collaborate on group projects in glass-walled study rooms and move flexible furniture to suit their group and project needs.

Students also use green screens, conferencing technology, virtual reality tools and a host of other technology tools designed to support collaboration, creativity, innovation and more.

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Why Are Libraries the Perfect Flexible Learning Spaces?

Kecia Ray, past president of the ISTE board of directors and executive director for the Center for Digital Education, explains that when support for modern education trends begins in school libraries — as opposed to individual classrooms — it ensures access to the latest technology and learning methods for all students and educators.

“If you’re going to begin to rethink what a space should look like and what a learning environment should look like, if you start with a library, then you’ve started with a space that can be shared by everyone in the building,” she says. “As the movement takes shape and moves on, classrooms can have those same environments, but the model is from what we see in the school’s library.”

That sentiment is shared in the 2017 K–12 edition of the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report which states, “School libraries are also at the nexus for rethinking learning spaces because they are the largest yet often least-utilized spaces.”

What Technologies Do Modern Libraries Need?

When considering updates to library spaces, Kecia Ray recommends that school leaders add flexible seating, makerspaces, 3D printers and basically as much technology as possible.

“That way when students move on to middle school, high school, college they can at least say, ‘I know what that is. I’ve seen a 3D printer before, I know what that does,’” she says. “Instead of getting to the next level and saying, ‘I’m 18 years old and I’m in college and I’ve never been exposed to that.’”

In some cases, changing library spaces are making room for flexible furniture and technology, according to the NMC/CoSN Horizon report.

“Experiential learning through robotics, 3D printing, and virtual reality often occurs in the library media centers, requiring the purging of some reference items to create more room for these activities,” it reads.

A Look at a 21st-Century Librarian

Along with making physical updates to the library, thought leaders like Kecia Ray and Future-Ready Librarians advisor Mark Ray caution school leaders to also consider modernizing the school librarian.

“They need to make sure that person is trained and familiar with open education resources, selecting digital content and curriculum, and with instructional design strategies, so they can be a resource to the teachers in the building,” explains Kecia Ray.

Finding Funds for a Modern Library

Kecia Ray says funds for modernizing libraries and developing librarians’ skills can come from operational budgets, capital budgets, special grants or even donations.

“I think schools prioritize what they value,” explains Kecia Ray. “And if they believe they will get a great value out of rethinking the space and developing a librarian into someone who can support both student and teacher learning, then they’re going to put the money toward that.”

It’s not hard to find examples of districts and schools using library spaces to meet students’ technology needs. Check out districts like Baltimore County in Maryland and Vancouver Public Schools in Washington to see how schools are meeting modern learning needs through library transformations.

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