Guest Post by Bobbie Wooderson
People don't have to visit a library anymore to access information. As a result, successful libraries are adapting to the needs of today's students. The overarching purpose of the school library is still to support literacy and learning, but the modern approach to these goals can look very different than the libraries of yesteryear. I've described five ways we've evolved our space into a next generation library.
1. Enlist brilliance
Every new idea for the library begins with input from students. Everything from the decor, to our Bolivar HS Makerspace, to reorganizing our fiction collection by genre. My students are brilliant, and when I empower them, they come up with ideas I would've never considered. They also share responsibility to carry through the ideas they develop. It has helped create an ownership of the space and has resulted in students promoting the library to their peers. Students feel this is THEIR space! Students are fostering a library community built out of their imaginations. They have helped transform a once traditional library into a high traffic collaboration space filled with creativity. See our Genius Hour group play this out!
(oh and we play music and let them eat in here too..shhh)
2. Repurpose, Reuse, Rebudget
I repurpose everything I can! And I beg for donations. Updating our library to a more current look started with just two cans of paint, two cans of spray paint, and a handful of artsy students and parents. We looked at every white space, blank window, etc. and asked, “How can we use it to promote reading?” Even though we set out to “design on a dime,” I think we did it for pennies.
When we needed a little more money for updated furniture, I surveyed teachers and students to see what online resources they were actually using. As a result, we didn’t renew a couple of our online subscriptions, and this provided the budget to buy eight new couches and funky Ikea lights. It is now a welcome “sanctuary” as the students like to call the space. We stretched our budget by redirecting library funds based on patron feedback.
3. Focus on the customer
I encourage my students to “treat our visitors like customers.” We want them to walk in happy, and walk out happy with their “purchases.” Whether it’s helping with Chromebooks or finding the perfect book, I expect our student workers to smile, be friendly, and always be available to help. We also work diligently to promote our “products.” We are using Instagram and Twitter for book talks, shout-outs, peer-to-peer suggestions, and staff picks. We market the library and our books to our patrons enthusiastically. And it’s working. We’ve enjoyed circulation increases the last two years and our reading culture is growing stronger. We are creating an inviting atmosphere and teaching students “soft skills” for their future interpersonal interactions.
4. Bring in the SWAT team
This year our school went 1:1 with Chromebooks. You might think our library would be less busy now with the removal of desktop computers and whole class reserves. Think again! The hub for Chromebooks has become our library. Our newly established SWAT (students working to advance technology) team is helping with any Chromebook/Google needs for students and staff. They will also be learning how to do basic repairs soon. Next year, our giant over-sized circulation desk will become the “help desk." Our library is now the go-to place for learning and technology support.
5. Collaborate like a crazy person!
I love my colleagues. Every day they amaze me with their creativity and passion for making learning purposeful. Along with our students, these like minded educators are the reason our library flourishes. When we heard phrases like “I hate to read,” I collaborated with other teachers to find new ways to put the fire back into reading. Check out my literary partner in crime Amber Dlugosh to find out more about it. Through this collaboration a fun new class launched, Reading Cafe. Check it out on my very bearded buddy, Andy Love's podcast.
Last but not least….my biggest fan is my principal! He believes in our library, supports our innovations, promotes our program, understands setbacks, and guides us by example as a reader and leader.
Collaboration and feedback guides every decision, every purchase, every change in our library. Bolivar High School Library is committed to making our library outstanding for the next generation patron!
Bobbie Wooderson is Library Media Specialist at Bolivar High School. She is passionate about reading, learning, innovation, and student ownership. Although she has worked in the Bolivar district for a number of years, she is in her 2nd year at BHS. In this short time, she has made a remarkable impact. She has been a leader for Genius Hour, makerspace, and modern library design. And, of course, she has been a champion of reading and research in our building.
Question: How has your library changed to meet current needs? If there were no barriers, what would your school library be like? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below, or respond on Twitter or Facebook.