Recently, school library journals have been fraught with tales of gloom and despair – the libraries are closing. But dig a little deeper, scratch more than the surface, and perhaps we will find that not all school libraries are closing. In fact, the trend suggests that only libraries that are not meeting the updated needs of their students find themselves on the chopping block. Why? The traditional services offered by the traditional school library can no longer be supported under the weight of enormous financial constraints. Although traditional school libraries continue to service students’ basic needs, if libraries are not willing to diversify their services, budget cuts will force school libraries to close because they do not meet the needs of today’s student. Simply put, no one can afford to spend more and get less.
According to a recent American Library Association report (2010), even as school enrollments are increasing, funding for information resources are decreasing, with fewer libraries serving more students. So how do some school libraries continue to flourish and gain importance? By creating progressive hubs for student engagement, ingenuity, diversity, and teamwork and transitioning into media centers, learning commons, information resource centers. But what is really in a name? What is at the heart of the school library? Books? Periodicals? Videos? Yes, yes, and yes. All these resources are housed in the school library, but the library is so much more than that. Alfaro (2009) defines the school library as “…a wealth of information in print and non-print formats categorized to support the knowledge the children will learn in their classrooms, at home, and through first-hand experiences” (p. 30). So how will the library continue to serve the needs of the students and keep its doors open? Through transition, regeneration, rejuvenation; a willingness to rid the library of its “stuffy” image and, according to Foster (2008), actively seeking to “make libraries more inviting places” (p. 56) in order to serve the needs of our students.
But who are these students? And what exactly are their needs? According to the American Library Association (2006), the 21st century learner must use skills, resources, and tools to meet four standards. These standard include being able to “inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge; draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society; and pursue personal and aesthetic growth” (p. 3). Cicchetti (2010) describes today’s students in need of information on topics like “…source evaluation, advanced search skills, web-based information platforms, and fair use media.” The traditional library does not stand a chance in keeping up with this type of knowledge without significant changes.
In order to diversify, libraries must expand the format of available...