A library … should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas. ~ Norman Cousins
Part of my current leadership portfolio (which also includes professional learning, research, pedagogy, and digital learning) is line management of the school library. This is a new space for me, but I feel at home there as an English and Literature teacher who has worked closely with libraries and librarians for years, and as a book lover who feels most at home surrounded by books, preferably accompanied by a good coffee. Some of my favourite places to be are libraries and book cafes. In some ways, this puts me at a disadvantage; I am not a distant observer, able to apply dispassionate logic to the library space. I am a romantic and an idealist when it comes to libraries.In a world often obsessed with the new, the shiny, and the technological, in some ways I am drawn to a ‘back to basics’ approach to libraries as communities filled with books and contemplative spaces. I understand, however, that libraries evolve with the world, and that information literacy encompasses digital literacy. I understand that it is highly appropriate for libraries to have noisier collaborative spaces, 3D printers, coding clubs, and makerspaces. I know some libraries are headed up, not by librarians or by teachers, but by technology specialists. I shouldn’t let my inner book nerd limit my thinking around what a library is or might be.
In order to support my collaborative work with the school library team, I reached out on social media for advice from those with more knowledge and expertise than me – librarians, especially school librarians, across the world. Many responded generously with suggestions of books, online resources, and social networks of passionate and knowledgeable librarians.
Online resources included: The Library Element blog, the American Association of School Librarians, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Librarians, the Austin Library, the Canadian International School, Toorak College, Mt Alvernia College, Scotch College, and the School Library Journal.Two of the books I was pointed in the direction of are by library theorist R. David Lankes: The New Librarianship Field Guide (2016) and The Atlas of New Librarianship (2011). It was from these books that I have drafted a kind of mission statement for the Library, for our discussion as a team as we work together on a cohesive vision for our library:
Libraries aim to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation and learning. The power of libraries and librarians is that they are agents of radical positive change that make our communities and our society a better place. While libraries’ mission and values are unchanging, the librarian’s tools are changeable.
The Library is more than the centre of resourcing for the school; it is a welcoming, respectful, vibrant, and intellectually safe place of information, knowledge, conversation, collaboration, creation, and learning. It provides an anchor and a hub for our community in which diverse, global perspectives are sought and considered; reading and learning are championed; ethical, inclusive practices are modelled and supported; and the pleasure found in continuous, lifelong learning is celebrated.
The Library team works collaboratively to build the capacity of staff and students in the key areas of reading, research, knowledge creation, information literacy, and the capabilities required for active citizenship.
I’m looking forward to continuing my thinking in this space, and working with librarians whose work is fundamental to knowledgable, inquiring, and vibrant communities. As Lankes points out in his books, libraries were named after the work of librarians, not the other way around.