Library 2020: Incubating Ideas into Reality

A new year always creates new possibility and with the first week of January here, I am imagining the changing landscape of our school libraries.  What services will our libraries continue providing?  What new services will become part of our expanding practice?  How will our patron needs change?  With these questions in mind, I tend to look outside of schools and listen for tips and clues from entrepreneurs, innovators, public libraries across the world, and even unique services offered at specialty libraries.  I consider myself a librarypreneur who is always looking for the next angle to shift and upgrade services.  I am curious about anything designed to positively and purposefully disrupt the status quo and anything that allows us to reach beyond our current boundaries.
When I think about school libraries across the nation and the needs of high school freshman in 2020, I imagine a library with the following services:
  • Student help desks that provide warrantied repair work alongside certified school-based technicians.
  • School Library of Things where students can check out resources and materials that go beyond physical books and digital resources.  Libraries across the world are creating their own community Library of Things that fill public needs.  How can we leverage this idea to create kits filled with both reading materials and objects that teenagers are interested in using?  I imagine kits with Go Pro cameras and a pocket book on using a Go Pro to improve athletic performance.  I imagine kits with smartphone lenses that allow students to enhance their personal devices to a more professional quality.  Again, this kit might include a practical guide on using your smartphone to take professional images.  Why not leverage additional resources like guitars and hot glue guns to help students develop their passions and interests?  Why not leverage this concept to market reading resources of personal interest?
  • Information prescriptions that help us coordinate our efforts with teachers.  Hospitals are currently assigning information prescriptions that encourage the patient to gather more customized and practical information on a personal condition or illness.  Imagine if teachers could write a prescription for a particular service and we could fill the prescription, record its fulfillment, and track whether an improvement was made that contributed to the child’s academic success? What would that look like? I’m not sure. I’m still pondering.  Maybe it’s as simple as slip that says:  Charlie needs two more resources to balance his persuasive research paper or Tina needs some feedback on her MLA citations.  We could track the fulfillment of such prescriptions on a Google form that a teachers could view.  Then the teacher could let us know whether the visit impacted the student’s work.  Our student peer tutoring center often tracks visits this way and teachers follow up to see which students sought additional feedback before turning in an assignment.  This might be one way to provide interventions and work towards closing our achievement gap.  I realize these ideas might not suit every library and in many ways, we already provide these services.  Therefore, my colleagues and I are visiting a local hospital to understand how doctors and health administrators are systematizing this practice and tracking its efficacy.
  • What does a library to lab connection look like?  Many of our libraries include dedicated spaces for interactive technologies, but how do we take them to the next level?  This might be a teleconferencing room where classes visit for a large group Skyping session.  Yes, we can already do this.  However, there are better technologies available with cameras that sense movement and allow students to demonstrate ideas and interact much more seamlessly with guest speakers.  Another idea might include a dedicated space for virtual reality equipment.  The critical concept that I’m still tinkering with is a library to lab connection.  What does that look like?  How does research come to life within the walls of our library? How does it translate from paper to 3D dimensions and dynamic interactions? If it doesn’t exist, how can we provide that in a variety of ways for our students?  Public libraries in Florida have teleconferencing rooms that patrons can regularly book.  What spaces can teachers regularly book for an interactive learning experience that goes beyond their classroom and the school-issued laptop? If the library is the heart of a school community, what interactive technologies does the library offer beyond the status quo that invites the community to come together?
  • An embedded librarian that lives in your digital course.  How am I included in a teacher’s digital teaching platform?  Is there an email link to the librarian?  A link to the school library page with the databases?  Are there unit specific resources curated by the librarian that live within your course?  What digital presence do I carry to assist the teacher on a virtual platform?  The 2020 librarian must embed themselves in space beyond the four walls of the library and a space beyond the school library URL to access patrons 24/7 where they eat, sleep, and breathe.  For many students, this means their virtual classroom on whatever platform their teachers use (i.e.Google Classroom, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)  The 2020 librarian forges new collaborative relationships where teachers invite us to co-teach in their digital learning space as well as face-to-face.  We leverage this space in different ways to communicate with our patrons.  What if we could advertise new books as a tab within a content management system like Blackboard?  What if we could share announcements through Google classroom or provide tutorials and other information about new services? In the end, we must live where our students live.   We already incorporate practices like a mobile library cart or class visits to go beyond the four walls.  We’ve built public websites and web guides, but we also need to live in the virtual classroom where daily assignments and work appears.
These are just a few of the ideas I’m incubating as the new year begins.  How do we innovate our practice, adapt to a changing educational landscape, and meet the needs of a constantly evolving group of patrons?  What is your vision of Library 2020?  Who or what do you look to for inspiration?  Hashtag #Library2020  #Librarypreneur and share your ideas.
Photo Credit:   Creative Commons The Future Next Exit By Buck Licensed under CC BY 2.0
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