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Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library? 231

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 Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:41PM (#46049073)

    Then worry about technology.

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

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:47PM (#46049163) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • 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 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 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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, Insightful)

    by as.kdjrfh sxcjvs ( 2872465 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:02AM (#46053841)

    Google is only useful after you have learned something about how to search. School librarians are good at teaching people how to search. Helping students learn how to use any index, including Google -- and judge the results they get -- is a superb goal for a school library.

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

    by sneakyimp ( 1161443 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:05AM (#46053853)
    You are mistaken. Google is great of course, but it's only a tool. I've searched for obscure things on google for weeks without any luck at all. I made a call to some librarians at an ivy league university and they found definitive information and got back to me in a couple of days. There is value in someone who specializes in the process of locating high-quality information like primary sources of authoritative works on a subject.

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper