As many schools are slowly but surely moving to 1:1 or close to it, librarians are discovering that their role is changing. Here is a recent question posed in one of my networking circles, and I find that it is a legitimate concern. The person states the needs here:
In the next couple of years, my district will transition to 1:1. I would love to hear from middle and high school librarians who have been through this transition in your school/district. Specifically, those who can speak to how or if this changed the dynamic of your library and your day to day. Feel free to elaborate on the good, bad, and the ugly.
I love that one requesting information asks us to include the good, the bad, and the ugly. We all know the transition to any new way of thinking is not always rosy for every party involved. I’m going to respond based on my own experience. I’m also going to add another area to explore, that of “what has NOT changed.”
I suppose I should go ahead and share that we are not fully one-to-one yet. But we’ve enough devices (in the format of laptops for the most part) to impact the library and staff. I find that we librarians spend about half of our instructional time in classes rather than in the library nowadays, meeting them where they are at. This would truly be a struggle if I was not in a teaching context where there are two certified LMS’s and a full time assistant. Our staffing means when one or both of the librarians are out in classrooms, we don’t have to close/lock the library doors. Our teachers respect that we are willing to come to them, which is less disruptive than them packing up and coming to the library. With online resources being the preferred resource for research, we’ve transitioned to investing in online resources (ebooks, databases, Discovery Education, etc.) to make up for print resources that so rarely get used. To ensure that these materials are used, we spend time promoting and teaching the resources we have invested in. Selfishly it also allows us an opportunity to remind the school community (students, teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) that using these resources IS in essence using their library and library’s staff. It makes us even more relevant. My colibrarian and I have taken on responsibilities that serve the entire school population. We are tech trainers for our school (and even district.) We maintain the webpage, the learning management system, the school’s scrolling tv announcements, the student google accounts and more, giving us even broader visibility in the school program.
My photo looking down from the upstairs hallway
For me the bad is that the physical space tends to get ignored, or worse, misused. I work in a beautiful library with high cathedral ceilings with plenty of windows that allow for large amounts of illuminating daylight. But since the space which is located in the center of the main campus is not used as much by classes for research or project based learning anymore, it almost has an empty feel to it during class time. Don’t get me wrong, we still have plenty of visitors that come independently. We are still a preferred spot before school begins each morning, during lunchtime, and for those students who have open blocks. It is one of the only spaces in our school environment available to students for printing hard copies of any work. In our more conservative setting, we haven’t branched out to offer makerspaces yet (shame on me-what a confession!), only dabbling in small scale activities that we refer to as crafts (up-cycled books anyone?) Our layout is locked in by the design architecture, and the bookshelves and tables are not as easily moved. I want castors on my tables, and newer, more versatile furniture, but it’s not in the budget, though we are long overdue for an update and remodeling. Our library, despite the first impression of beauty and great design, quickly reveals itself as a library intended to serve a different time period. But it does look really nice, and can serve three or more classes at a time. And I won’t complain about that.
Ugly is such a harsh word. Ugly in the library is the many areas of frayed carpeting. Ugly in the library include the nonfiction shelves that are losing ground book-wise, as we weed but do not replace those rarely used printed books, opting instead for online materials referenced earlier in this post. Ugly are the boxes and boxes of weeded books as we struggle to find them new homes. Ugly is the calendar with many days the library is booked and even closed for a variety of testing–WIDA, ACT WorkKeys, End of Course Testing, and I’m sure other testing that has yet to be named for the Spring. Time will tell. But saying that, even before the trend for our school to go one to one, we still suffered from testing dominating our mid to late spring schedule. It is just part of the public school landscape these days, and one to one didn’t cause it or effect its impact on the schedule. I’m sure many school libraries have some of these same “ugly” features.
So what has not changed?
We still offer great services to our school community. We still offer a variety of in library programming including book promotions, service learning activities, and book clubs. The most popular areas of our circulating books (fiction and graphic novel/manga) are healthy and growing and according to our students and even the visiting teen librarians from the local public library system rival what is offered from the area’s public libraries. We strive to get books almost on demand as students ask for or inquire about the newest or next in the series. We still do booktalks, in the library and in the classrooms. We still work with teachers, plan lessons, and assist or lead instructional activities. We still have the same number of classes schedule to visit the library as a group for book checkout. We still sponsor book clubs, promote YA Lit activities and programs, and cater to the needs of those who come to the physical space. Our school still finds value in our overall program, and we are rewarded with visits, expressions of pleasure, requests for outside visits, and acknowledgement from all that we are providing a dynamic program at school.
All this to say…
The library program will be a living, breathing, vital program if you work at it, making yourself and your program indispensable. Times will always change and throw curveballs at you, and going one to one is just one of many we’ll see in the foreseeable future. Just be flexible and find a way to fit in. Do not worry that your school moving to a one to one environment will adversely affect you and your program. Instead acknowledge it, embrace it, and find a way to be essential despite any change. Most important, don’t resist. As my former University of South Carolina professor Dr. Dan Barron was fond of saying, “Grow or Die.” Be whatever your school and community needs in your library program, and know that your role will evolve just as the school environment changes. I’m often prone to say to those who ask why I became a school librarian. I truthfully tell them no two days are the same, and everyday presents new and interesting challenge, so I never get bored. If you are not experiencing the same, then get worried.