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Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library? 231

Posted by timothy
from the over-here-we'd-have-the-spelling-machines dept.
dptalia writes "I'm part of a team tasked with re-imagining my local elementary school's library. Libraries, especially school libraries, are struggling to remain relevant in today's world, when so much reading and research can be done from home. But this school has mostly low-income students who don't have the sort of high-tech resources at home that we all take for granted. What ideas do you have to turn an elementary school library into an environment that fosters innovation and technology?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library?

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  • more than books (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:41PM (#46049065)

    Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

      "Hi, I'd like to check out a car, so I can learn how to drive."

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Hi, I'd like to check out buckingham palace so that I can learn how to live like a king. Oh yes, and I'll borrow that private jet, and can I have some change for fuel please?
    • Re:more than books (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sneakyimp (1161443) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:55PM (#46049313)
      Cheap desktop computers running free operating systems. You can install Ubuntu or some other *nix distro free on pretty much any old used computer.

      WiFi access. I would imagine that your internet bill will likely be your biggest long-term expense. You can get some pretty awesome consumer routers, install DD-WRT on them or tomato USB or whatever) and get some pretty fancy functionality. I've been eyeing this one [newegg.com].

      And maybe the most affordable ebook readers or tablets for checkout. You might get a sponsorship from Google or Amazon -- they are all too anxious to rope people into their ebook ecosystems. I would try to avoid these book ecosystems for cost reasons. You can also get all kinds of amazing old books through project gutenberg [gutenberg.org]. Maybe OLPC would have a suitable device?

      You might also keep some physical books of historical interest or perhaps large maps or other visually oriented works that resist digitization.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Agreed about the computers.

        But WIFI access for "low-income students who don't have the sort of high-tech resources" isn't likely to be all that
        helpful since they don't have the tech gadgets. (Although wifi is probably cheaper than wiring the building).

        There was a story just a few days ago about a library lending ereaders instead of books:
        http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
        but that will probably require grant money for ebooks and readers.

        • I like the idea of lending e-readers in *addition* to books. XO Tablet [amazon.com] is $125. Comparable to the cost of 10-20 midrange books, but it does provide free access to the 40,000 books on Project Gutenberg. My thinking was mostly that WiFi deployment is cheaper than a) routing ethernet cables everywhere and b) making desktop space for everyone with a device. Books would also require grant money.

          The trick in my opinion is to get access to a cheap device that is not locked to any particular content ecosystem.
      • Re:more than books (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thsths (31372) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:13PM (#46051081)

        Indeed. Look at a good university library: team working spaces, PC terminals, on demand printing, quiet reading areas, cafes, PC clinics... the books are still there, but they are usually in the basement.

        In a school this may not all be possible. But books are no longer the key of a library, and it needs to offer more variety.

        • Re:more than books (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sneakyimp (1161443) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:20PM (#46051163)
          I think an underrated component of libraries is the librarians. I think I'm imagining a modern library as more than just a place for the public to connect to information. It's a place where the public can go to learn about something and get help in finding the information. Sometimes having access to the internet just isn't enough. You need to find a *person* who has specific expertise.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

      Watch this: http://blog.ted.com/2008/03/18... [ted.com]

    • by Spazmania (174582)

      It isn't the library's job to foster innovation and technology. That's a good thing to do but it's not what the library is for. The library's job is to make knowledge and culture accessible to its patrons. Play at being an innovation center and you'll surrender the library's task to the Internet.

      So, here's an easy one: stock some of the popular Japanese graphic novels. If the shelf space in Barnes & Noble is to be believed, the kids *want* these. But stock the ones in Japanese, maybe including the Engli

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things.

      And musical instruments, seeds, cake pans, 3D printers, and slide/negative scanners [wikipedia.org]. And make heavy use of the inter-library loan system to increase the number of titles available and/or reduce the physical size of your library.

    • Re:more than books (Score:5, Interesting)

      by turkeydance (1266624) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @06:59PM (#46051589)
      here's what worked in our low income elementary school libraries: 1. allow children to stay there until after 6PM when a parent could pick them up. this ONE thing was the most popular, and might be extended to 7PM. 2. allow 7AM entry, too. this was hit-and-miss, but where it hit, it was a BIG hit. both the above need a minimum of 3 PAID adult (over 25) supervisors. this is in addition to the actual librarian. 3. then, just stay out of their way. they'll let you know the next direction. in other words: don't guess and hope for change.
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:41PM (#46049073)

    Then worry about technology.

    • by cnkurzke (920042) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:15PM (#46049583)

      I honestly think you need to explain to the students the value of "reading pre-curated knowledge" from established experts (aka books) versus random one-off drivel on the screen (which includes comments on slashdot)

      Too many times people think in a post-wikipedia world "real books" are outdated.

      • by rk (6314)

        How is a book automatically granted the rank of pre-curated knowledge from established experts? Case in point: this [wikipedia.org] and this [wikipedia.org].

        Just because it gets put onto dead trees doesn't mean it's not drivel.

        • Yes, there's a lot of drivel in published books. The signal-to-noise ratio is *still* immensely better than random posts off the internet.

        • How is a book automatically granted the rank of pre-curated knowledge from established experts?

          I don't know what pre-curated means, but if it's in a library, it's because some librarian or someone decided that book was high enough quality to put into a library. That's worth something right there, the librarian is filtering a lot of the drivel.

      • One or two good EMP's and 99.95% of the e-books are gone forever. Floppy discs and CD-rom's last a few decades, perhaps. Paper lasts ~500 years or so.
        One of these three is much more resilient to disaster than the other two.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't worry much about technology even then. Not even this "innovation" thing, honestly.

      What libraries do, have been doing for a few thousand years already, is preserve knowledge and make it accessible. Note how "innovation" is no part of that, though it can definitely benefit from knowledge, such as knowing what has been tried before.

      So I would tell librarians to find ways, innovative ways if they must, to bring reader and knowledge together. That is what libraries should be about.

      You don't do that wi

    • by fermion (181285)
      Thinking of this problem, it seems that k-6 is a pretty wide development scale. One problem is education is that everything is built for like 4-7, about 9-12 year old. Before that it is specialized early childhood. After that it is the equally mysterious teen age years. Both require a special set of practices, so most of the research that want to say 'one size fits all' is the 9-12 age. So I would have a library that uses technology to engage the younger kids in the process of the library. Last time I
  • Ask the Students? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:44PM (#46049115)

    We'll tell you to stock the shelves with Calvin and Hobbes, How Stuff Works type books, and dinosaur stuff. This may be some of what the boys want, but it can't hurt to actually ask all the students what they are interested in. Skip the card catalog, and encourage exploring.

    • Don't forget The Anarchist's Cookbook.
    • Skip the card catalog, and encourage exploring.

      Now that's an interesting idea. Get the kids to rediscover the library through a game where they create something that would make other kids interested in what the library has to offer. They'll probably start with the obvious - rating how interesting the books are and compiling a list of must-reads. But they should get more creative than that.

    • by Dan East (318230)

      I've found very few people under the age of 20 have any idea who Calvin and Hobbes are. My Black Ops 2 emblem is Calvin, and very few people recognize who he is (and the emblem is nicely done, thank you very much). Sad, considering it's my all-time favorite comic strip.

  • by black6host (469985) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:45PM (#46049151)

    Granted, I'm of the "get off my lawn" group so it's been a long time since I've been in a school library. If you want to foster technical knowledge and give these kids a chance to explore areas that are not otherwise available to them then put something in there besides books and computers for research. Like a maker space kind of set-up where kids have access to tools and supplies to actually create things. Look at the appeal of Legos, now make it a bit more technical. Might even foster the actual reading of books and on-line information in order for students to achieve their goals (which they probably don't even have at this point.)

    • by rwa2 (4391) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:22PM (#46049691) Homepage Journal

      Yes... based on my university library, I'd actually break down a "library" into 4 distict sections, and size them appropriately: individual vs. group, and "unplugged" vs. tech.

      Library as a cathedral of knowledge and meditation: (individual unplugged) : your "traditional" view of a library, where silence and sensory deprivation is enforced, stacks of books organized into sections, and isolated nooks and crannies with bean bags and desks for reading / study / sleeping. My most productive study space was a hard desk at the end of a stack in the basement of the engineering library.

      Library as a tech center: Need to break out into individual "serious work-focused" computer stations, and collaborative conference rooms. The collaboration environments would need to be scheduled out, but have all the accoutrements of modern conference rooms: wifi, whiteboards (both smart and dumb), projectors, servers and client stations for LAN-parties, etc. But of course encase it in glass so they can be monitored.

    • You've not worked with children, have you? If you put lego-like things in a school library, the'll have disappeared within a month.

  • Most visitors... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170)

    Currently most visitors, who spend quite a bit of time actually, are taking advantage of the WiFi.

    Seems the future of libraries is a clear, well lit place of of moderate comfort, where people can wirelessly browse anything electronically available, within or outside the library.

    For those who insist upon seeing physical matter, there can be a climate controlled cellar where such things are stored.

    Libraries as big edifices are becoming an anachronism.

    • Re:Most visitors... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Whorhay (1319089) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:05PM (#46049469)

      One of the things I kind of miss from going to the library is having a curated collection of books to peruse. When I try and find a good book to read on Amazon there is such an enormous collection of stuff that finding a new book is a serious challenge. When I was a kid I would just go to the relatively small section of the library and look through that. I could take a book off the shelf and read a few pages to see if it appealed at all. With online book stores I'm mostly left to buying books by authors I already know, exploring new authors is an fiscal gamble. So thus far I've bought very few ebooks, instead I've stuck to the public domain works.

      • When I try and find a good book to read on Amazon there is such an enormous collection of stuff that finding a new book is a serious challenge.

        Frozen by choice. I don't see why a decent size Library would be different, other than it would be harder to view ALL the choices as quickly.

        The solution, quit being a douche and pick a book. IF you don't like it, don't pick anything like it in the future. If you use Amazon's ratings, they will get you more material you MIGHT like. Something a standard library completely fails at BTW.

        And there are plenty of "free" books out there to read.

        • It takes 15 seconds to take a book from the shelf, flip through a few pages, and put it back. That cannot be done with a digital book in five times the time.
          • by emj (15659)

            Actually, I recently bought a book on Google Play (but I guess it's the same on all platform) and I could start reading in 5 seconds. In the end I returned the book because it was DRM riddled, which was also pretty fast (20 seconds), but it's still cumbersome to manually return those 15 books you want to leaf through.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        One of the things I kind of miss from going to the library is having a curated collection of books to peruse. When I try and find a good book to read on Amazon there is such an enormous collection of stuff that finding a new book is a serious challenge. When I was a kid I would just go to the relatively small section of the library and look through that. I could take a book off the shelf and read a few pages to see if it appealed at all. With online book stores I'm mostly left to buying books by authors I already know, exploring new authors is an fiscal gamble. So thus far I've bought very few ebooks, instead I've stuck to the public domain works.

        I'm a notorious buyer of hardcover books. I see something I might like and buy it, take it home and put it in the "stack." It may take months or years, but I finally pick up the book and start reading. If it seems I have to force myself to read then I'll put it down and read something else. Most books tell me something of interest and I read them all the way through, sometimes I'll read a book more than once. One particular novel I've read at least a dozen times, as I quite enjoyed the epic journey and

    • Not quite (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iceperson (582205)

      While your educated upper middle class white guy probably doesn't see much use for a large library there are a lot of people that do.

      I recommend you go to a small town library and see how it's being used. My wife is a librarian at our local library, and I'm always surprised how many people are there when I go in to see her. There are kids using meeting rooms for school projects, people using the computers to fill out applications for jobs, and there's always at least a few people interspersed between the ra

    • by jitterman (987991)
      My city (I live in a state capital) just demolished one of our older main branches to build one easily 3 times larger. The library is used a lot (you could not usually find an empty space in the lot on Saturdays, had to park a block from the building) by high school students from the north side of town (tend to be poorer, probably don't have as much access to technology, etc.), so I would say from anecdotal evidence that libraries still do have a large role to play in education, if nothing else.

      My own kid
  • by jmilne (121521) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:47PM (#46049169)
    My own kids have this problem. They assume that if they type something into Google, they'll find what they need. The problem is, they don't know how to properly structure their queries so they find the relevant stuff quickly, so they end up wasting time just in the searching. Take the time to instruct the kids on how to structure a query in Google, and you'll save them a lot of time so they can actually complete their assignments quicker. Also, introduce them to other information sites like Wolfram Alpha or searching through a local newspaper database, so that they're aware that sites other than Wikipedia even exist.
    • Yes, learning how to properly structure queries is vital, but it doesn't help that Google keeps changing the rules and doesn't always respect your query elements.

      For example, you can read about how Google replaced the plus-sign operator with quotation marks: http://www.seochat.com/c/a/goo... [seochat.com]

      But what's worse than that: sometimes Google just plain ignores the quotation marks you put in your query. They're supposed to mean that each search result must contain the search term that you've surrounded with quot

  • by CyberSnyder (8122) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:47PM (#46049173)

    Without that, it's really tough to get kids involved.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Without that, it's really tough to get kids involved.

      And where are parents doing these days? Not at the library, I'll tell you that.

  • You make the robots look more futuristic and swap the male lead role with a female.

  • by jomama717 (779243) <jomama717@gmail.com> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:49PM (#46049223) Journal
    Get the kids involved in an ongoing operation whereby books are acquired, digitally scanned, and then re-donated to other schools/libraries/etc. Store the digital copies in some offsite database that can be shared amongst other schools/libraries/etc. Provide terminals where the students can peruse the scanned books and allow access to the digital library for students at home.

    Can't think of a better way to keep a library as a place to learn new and relevant skills and be exposed to gobs of information and knowledge at the same time.

    I'm sure this all falls apart when the copyright lawyers get involved, but I would love to see the publicity the publishers get when they sue a school library :)
  • You want a hackerspace instead. To me, a library is the place I go to learn the theory. It's a repository of knowledge. I go there to gather knowledge. Maybe even think on the knowledge. A library is not a place for experiments and manual work, which is the kind of thing that tends to be innovative or foster it (get kids interested in doing stuff). Unless, of course, you want innovations in mathematics or perhaps some kind of theoretical advance, in which case you want giant drawing boards, markers (or chal

  • by Tiger4 (840741) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:55PM (#46049307)

    The students presumably want to learn things. If they don't they will only go there if forced. So, first, you show them what a library is and how it is used to access information. The staff, catalog, the stacks, how to request materials, and most important What They Can Find in the Books (and recordings and videos, etc). Once they see it as a living tool that they know how to use, they will tell You how it should be better set up.

    • by Tiger4 (840741)

      You might even consider something like a Treasure Hunt, where teams of students find pieces of knowledge in the library. The winner gets whatever prize is available

    • by davecb (6526)

      Also get some selected magazines, preferably last-month's copy of some of the teachers' favourites. Grade-school kids are interested in what grown-ups think are important, and will sometimes dive into thing's you'd never expect.

      Especially articles about dinosaurs, including some stuff that grownup might think is way too hard. I didn't know I was supposed to be stupid, so I read about dinos everywhere, and just skipped over stuff I didn't understand (:-))

      A good thing to have is a back issue or two of "T

      • Dinosaurs in F16s!

        Actually, it was tyrannosaurs in F-14s. [slate.com] Yes, those are recognizable as F-14s, too. Watterson was an excellent draftsman with a good eye for detail.

        • by Xaedalus (1192463)
          And still just as funny now as 20 years ago. Dear gawd, how can something like that be so funny, awesome, and awesomely stupid all at the same time?
    • The students presumably want to learn things

      Are you sure?

  • Have at least a handful of internet enabled computers, screens facing into the room, and a clearly posted policy of no games unless other computers are sitting unused. Not no games altogether though - help make the library a place where kids want to hang out. Obviously no speakers, and a bring-your-own headphone policy is probably most hygienic - earbuds pack small and functional ones can be had for a couple bucks anymore.

    Desktop links obviously to include Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, etc.
    Possibly also P

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:58PM (#46049371) Homepage Journal

    Books! Really people their is nothing wrong with good old fashioned books! We are talking about little kids probably from the ages of 5 to 10 years old. Tools? Technology? Stories, adventure, science, and just fun books is what you need. Get the kids in love with the written word. Most of the ideas I am seeing target maybe the oldest age group but nothing for the majority of the age groups involved.

    • by swv3752 (187722)

      Yes! A standard library should b e just fine for an elementary school. Maybe have some computers which should run an educational linux system. http://www.linuxplanet.com/lin... [linuxplanet.com] has decent list. Don't bother with electronic gadgets like tablets and ebook readers, the kids will just break them.

    • by RKThoadan (89437) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:18PM (#46049645)

      Agreed. I'm reading through these and thinking that very little is applicable to my 2nd grader, who loves libraries (school and public) for the incredibly quaint reason of just checking out books. On the other hand, her school has a dedicated computer lab. She gets computer lab 1 day a week and library one day a week. She greatly prefers library day.

      As far as I am concerned a library should foster a love of reading and imagination. "innovation and technology" are alright, but they aren't the most important things in the world.

      Keep in mind that in general, half of elementary school is about learning to read. The transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" is generally around 3rd grade. There is definitely a case to be made for a more technology centered area in middle & high school, but I don't really think that is the case for elementary.

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        As far as I am concerned a library should foster a love of reading and imagination.

        So in other words something that is trivially accomplished online anymore. And far cheaper as you don't have to heat the place, replace the roof, pay people to restock the books, etc.

        I'm not saying that a library isn't needed. My city has a great library, one of the best genealogy department in the nation. Many other areas are great as well. And if you're looking for very obscure or specific information maybe an old book is

    • by multimediavt (965608) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:21PM (#46049683)

      Books! Really people their is nothing wrong with good old fashioned books! We are talking about little kids probably from the ages of 5 to 10 years old. Tools? Technology? Stories, adventure, science, and just fun books is what you need. Get the kids in love with the written word. Most of the ideas I am seeing target maybe the oldest age group but nothing for the majority of the age groups involved.

      I am also in this camp having been in Higher Ed for the past 20 years. There is still a ridiculous amount of information that is NOT available anywhere but in books, depending on the subject. I would turn it into a reading library, perhaps, rather than a research library for most of the physical space. Current science and other research information is online so you will need a few computers with web access, but books still have a lot to offer. I would agree with a post above that said to skip the Dewey Decimal system. I'd suggest implementing a categorical keyword based shelving system, with titles alphabetized within the shelves. It's kind of like an analog Google search. They will still have to sift through false positives to find what they want. There are ways to "re-imagine" a library that make the skills relevant to what they would encounter in the digital world, while building up their literacy and critical thinking skills. It might be a good idea to work with other schools in the district to spread the load of purchasing books and rotate titles through the different schools every semester so each school gets access to the same titles.

    • by ignavusinfo (883331) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:30PM (#46049775) Journal

      I was wondering when someone would mention books.

      The other must have for a library is a librarian. Honestly, at the elementary school level libraries are no less relevant than they've ever been -- research is research and learning how to do it, even with a crappy old encyclopedia and out of date dictionary is a vital skill. So if your school's library is irrelevant it's time to find a new librarian because there's your problem.

      Librarians are also pretty skilled at finding and purchasing the right materials, recommending age-appropriate books, fighting censorship, and -- at least when I was a kid -- being an non-teacher/non-parent adult confidant. Parents, even involved, educated ones, can't fill the same role.

      • The other must have for a library is a librarian.

        I agree that's important, the other thing I think would be really cool would be a few volunteer librarians also. They would act as active librarians helping other kids find things, and would get a few hours out of classes per week... they could be trained in the evening.

        Basically a semi-kid run library might well be a resource more kids would use and find interesting.

        Also I'd fold some AV resources into the library for kids to create digital media.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        I hate to say it but at the Elementary level the research part of library just does not have a high priority to me. I am thinking about reading Swiss Family Robinson when I was a kid and dreaming about living in a tree house and fighting pirates. Helping Uncle Wiggle to build a snow plow for his car, or reading the Little House books. I love technology but technology is a tool for most people not a way of life. Yes some of us are tool makers and we love our tools but this has to work for everybody. It would

    • by nbauman (624611) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:03PM (#46050273) Homepage Journal

      Good point. But you need a good librarian to run it.

      Without a librarian, all you've got is a dumpster-full of books.

      Some books are better for kids to read than others, and without a librarian, they're lost.

      I used to go into the Donnell Library teenager's room in Manhattan, go to the 500s, and find a book shelf of every good math and science book I read or wanted to read in high school.

      It takes a librarian to create a selection like that, where any book you pick up is interesting and worth reading.

      When "libraries" depend on "donations" of books other people don't want (i.e. garbage), they get best-sellers of 10 and 20 years ago, Readers' Digest collections, old inspirational books, and manuals for Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect.

      Over the last several decades, school librarians have been getting fired, and school libraries have been shut down because there was nobody to run them. The affluent neighborhoods have great libraries. The poor neighborhoods don't have them any more.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:02PM (#46049437) Homepage

    So imagine a perfectly spherical, super-conducting library of infinite density ... oh, is that not what you meant? :-P

  • NoooOOOoooo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:09PM (#46049517)

    Don't, just don't.

    You have already said these kids don't have a lot of technology available at home.

    Well, turning this library into a tech haven will make it inaccessible to kids with weak tech skills. That's a disaster.

    What you want is the library to be a place where kids get the basics. An introduction to technology that they will meet as they grow up should be part of it. But at the same time they should be able to interact with the library using the skills they have.

    I betcha a lot of that will be good old fashioned books.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Except that idea is pure, idealistic nonsense.

      Look, I'm 46. I *love* books. Sure, I appreciate my kindle, but nothing beats reading a good dead-tree book. But with 4 teens (2 of whom ended up 'readers', 2 not, despite ALL being read-to constantly and growing up in a house FULL of books - take that nurture vs. nature!), I have to concede that to believe that in ANY context you will get modern teens to enter a library and pick up a book is just futile.

      A certain subset of kids will look for books. There's

  • Our Media Center has 33 desktops with internet connections. Those + the large Anime/Manga (this is limited to 9-12 graders) sections are by far the most utilized. It's also where you come to get issued a netbook (if you're eligible) or a graphing calculator or a required-for-a-class novel. Outside of these things it's used for testing, and tutoring (including after school).

    Teachers have access to a BD/DVD and even, yes, VHS video section as well as borrowing blu-ray players, getting things laminated, and

  • You just get last years tablets or e-readers or even chromebooks in bulk on clearance. That's half the work done. Now, start loading them up with screened dumps of Simple Wikipedia. You'll have alot of penis orgasm GIF's & Charles Manson pages & other weird shit to pull out yourself, but eventually you'll have a well-screened archive you can begin dumping on whatever devices you've stocked up on. This is how today's children learn. You may think it's frightening, or even wrong, but having lived
  • "Foster innovation and technology." Why is this important in an elementary school? Why not focus first on reading and writing and mathematics and the arts?

    • In a word, funding. A school district might provide iPads for every student, while many teachers curiously have to provide their own paper for making photocopies. The "technology and shit" budget for K-12 and community colleges is infinite in comparison to budgets for basic fundamentals. If you want to get sustained funding for any program, it may help to disguise it in buzzwords like "innovative" and "21st century". Unfortunately, a lot of bullshit gets in this way.
  • Not associated other then I live in the city - Haven't step foot in a library in over a decade, but with their Makerspace (3d printers, book printer, kid friendly toys to learn how circuits work, music making devices, etc), ebooks, etc I've become pretty impressed. Very forward thinking and friendly staff.

    Edmonton Public Library http://www.epl.ca/ [www.epl.ca]

  • by xanthos (73578) <xanthos@ t o ke.com> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:19PM (#46049661)

    Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles! Number puzzles, word puzzles, shape puzzles! Tangram! Origami!

    Things that make you think! Things that give you a sense of accomplishment when completed! Things that make you feel as smart as you are!

    Because...

  • Advertising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flymolo (28723) <flymolo@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:25PM (#46049721)

    Get a display space near the cafeteria or some other place where students go frequently. Put books there that are interesting to the students. Thor comics, Ender's game whatever the media is already advertising for you.

    Talk to teachers and hold classes in the library occasionally so the kids feel comfortable there.
    See if the school will add DVDs to the library's collection.

    Get them there and they'll figure out how to use it, but you have to get them there.

    If they can put meeting rooms in, so clubs can meet there that would be great as well.

  • ...if it's not too controversial. Research and find a better system, such as LOC or the like. Find some old smartphones to use as bar code readers with wifi capability connected to a Debian server running MariaDB or Postgresql. Dude! I can't wait to visit.
  • Video games. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:31PM (#46049801)
    When i think back to my elementary school, there was only one reason to visit the library other than to check out books, and that was to play games on the computers.

    We had games like Spellevator [wikipedia.org] Math Blaster [wikipedia.org] as well as some adventure game that constantly quizzed various knowledges that I can't for the life of me remember the name of.
    (I wish I did because I never beat it and I'd love to go back and do such now)

    The point is, there's many an educational game out there, and it's an easy way to get younger kids learning things they may not otherwise take interest in.
  • Libraries are so often categorized on Victorian assumptions that we are there to do serious stuff - academic pursuits, seeking knowledge, a scholarship, research and such claptrap. Nobody feels, emotes, thinks, imagines, or dreams that way. And nobody reads books that way either.

    Books should be categorized on emotions, imagination, our interests and passions, our quirks, our pursuits and hobbies. Books should also be categorized on *how* we read a book, not always on *what* we read.

    I really don't subscribe

    • Books should also be categorized on *how* we read a book, not always on *what* we read.

      That makes no sense. Given that each person reads a book differently, there is no way to categorize a book for multiple people based on *how* it is read, because no two people will agree on how it is read.

      • by asliarun (636603)

        Do you read before you go to sleep?
        Do you read on a train or a bus?
        Do you read a few pages at a time?
        Do you like to read a story end to end in one sitting?
        Do you carry your book in a handbag or a manpurse?
        Do you carry your book in your pocket?

        Maybe some of what I said may not make sense.
        However, we need to think deeper about why reading books are becoming more and more unpopular. We also need to think deeper as to why libraries are becoming more unpopular or are trying to do other things (besides being a pl

  • With the opportunity to reimagine a library, you might engage in a little 'alternate history' fiction. One option is to start with a perspective of why a library was created in the first place.

    If home Internet/LAN/WIFI pre-dated the existence of the concept of a physical space that a library currently uses, what would the 'library' be invented to provide? A few ideas:

    • reading/research collaboration space -- get together to work on school assignments
    • white noise generators specially designed to keep
  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:35PM (#46049867)

    My suggestion would be to start by renaming the library to the "center for information and learning" or similar. Then it becomes clear this is a place that provides information resources to support the educational mission. "Library" these days implies "books," which to too many people implies "dusty, old, obsolete, and useless:" a recipe for getting your budget cut. :-)

    What kinds of information resources do your kids need to support their education?

    You said yourself, they don't all have Internet access at home, so a big lab of desktop machines is a good starting point.

    Does your collection include DVDs and audio books? If not, you can start to develop that.

    My employer has a small library with a magazine rack of several current trade publications. You could do the same, put a rack of educational magazines near the door and create a place with good lighting and some comfortable chairs for reading them.

    Keep the books, of course. Books provide a depth of information that is hard to match online even today. However, do active collection management to purge the non-fiction books that are out of date. Nothing says "the library is obsolete" like a shelf full of science books from 1973.

    I would also suggest some kind of outreach effort, say a newsletter or blog pointing out some new, free enrichment resources kids can find online (including YouTube videos), what's cool on PBS this month, and what new books you've added to the collection. Maybe ask some teachers and students to write reviews of books and media they would recommend.

  • Focus on turning the library into a social center. If you have the resources, set up a game lab where kids can come in and play. Have reading competitions with GOOD prizes for winners. Focus not on classics but the books kids are into even if that means putting Harry Potter titles out in front of Catcher in the Rye. Let clubs use the library as a place to meet if you have private rooms. If there are none, asthe kids that age what they do for fun. Maybe set up a game playing lunch hour or afterschool e

  • have computers and such in a "study" area but have Yee Olde Shelves of Books

    For "fun" you may want to have a "Blackout Day" where all of the computers are turned OFF so they have to have learned how to work with actual BOOKS.

  • of materials from verifiable and curated sources. Bring relevancy back to the library by making sure students understand that just because it's "on the Internet" that doesn't necessarily make it true. That's a place where books and encyclopedias still hold relevancy. Teach your students how to curate and verify their own sources so that when they DO have access, they know the difference. That will set them apart from the students from the 'higher-income' schools who were just turned loose on Google by s
  • by Hjalmar (7270) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:56PM (#46050193)

    Speaking as a librarian, the single best thing you can do is budget for a librarian after you recreate the library as an technology explorer and innovation space, or whatever it is you have in mind.

    You can stuff the room full of computers, but if there isn't someone there with the special expertise in dealing with this user population, all that will happen is the space will be wasted.

  • by lorinc (2470890) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:02PM (#46050255) Homepage Journal

    Design a clean API and stick to well known coding standards.

    This is /., no need to read more than the title.

  • Make them actually learn something while using the computers. Most library catalogs can be accessed with lynx anyways, and Zork will at least force them to read and write.
  • I totally agree with everyone about books, lots of books. Still a good thing, kids still read real books all over even if they have tablets.

    But if you are talking about ways to make a library better, what about more heavily helping to promote the idea of content creation rather than just consumption?

    A library is about knowledge, why should it not also be about aiding others in sharing knowledge?

    Here I'm thinking:

    1) Writing classes, either during school or after hours (or both).

    2) Book making classes, as in

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:10PM (#46050375) Homepage

    You know, I'm really old fashioned and like to browse books. Electronic browsing is not quite the same, however. What I have thought about doing:

    On laminated plastic boards, about the height and width of a standard paperback but about as thick as a piece of cardboard, print out the covers of all sorts of books front and back. Use an RFID or QR Code sticker that can retrieve the book from the digital library. Place all the "books" on a browseable shelf. As a kid, browsing the local used book store or library was one of the few pleasures I could afford. I think this would meld the convenience and cost savings of a digital library with the fun of browsing a physical item.

  • But this school has mostly low-income students who don't have the sort of high-tech resources at home that we all take for granted

    If you are as qualified as to be able to affect a library's decisions, why don't you spend more time workingearn the money to buy your charges some low-cost earlier-generation tablets? Walmart lists a 7" Android tablet for $65 [walmart.com] and you may be able to get an even better deal buying in bulk (or buying last year's cheapest). Just be sure, each family buys their own, rather

  • I remember as a kid, some of the best books I had came from purchasing books at a book fair held at the school. Do they still have them? Maybe the profits from bookfairs would help you in your other endeavors.
    You want to interest people in the world of ideas. Don't try to push them towards technology....thats the idea you have specialized on.
    Think scholars, not geeks.

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @05:26PM (#46050603) Homepage

    Most of us haven't been in a school library in years, unless we have kids who are of that age.

    There are a *lot* of librarian mailing lists out there ... if you want the geek perspective, try code4lib [code4lib.org]. They won't suggest that you try to hack together your own loan system using smartphones & barcode readers. (they'll instead tell you about the one they made that you can have a copy of)

    Most of the innovation in library spaces is happening in public & college libraries these days, adding makerspaces [nationaljournal.com] or going high-tech [dallasnews.com] ... but that's not applicable to an elementary school. I wouldn't even suggest it for a high school (where you'd have seperate computer labs, shop classes, home ec., etc.)

    I wouldn't even bother with educating them on the benefits of real, deep research vs. satisficing with the top hit from Google ... leave that for middle or high school. In elementary school, just focus on making reading accessible and fun.

    The only thing that you I think is wrong with school libraries is that they're closed in summer, so the books are sitting going to waste. I'd love to see there be better coordination between our local school & library systems, but our current library system is so disfunctional that I don't see that changing without them getting rid of the director who thought it was a good idea to fire all of the branch managers.

  • Do away with the Dewey Decimal system. For god's sakes, what a tedious waste to have to go to a card catalog and look things up. How does Barnes and Noble or ANY bookstore get by without it? The Dewey Decimal System is job security of librarians. Bah!!!
  • 1. Get something like a WD MyNet N900 Central.
    2. Set it up so that it is an open WIFI network
    3. Set it up so that guest users cannot write to the drive
    4. Load the drive to the gunnels with ebooks
    5. put a few wifi laptops or tablets around the library and set them to read the drive.
    6. Post the Guest User password in prominent place.
    7. Let them learn.

    Done. Total Cost? About $150. Get the ebooks for free. There's jillions of places to get those....

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