It is interesting to try and predict what future library collections might be like in ten years. Personally, I don’t believe that the school library collection will be gone, but that it will have morphed into a different form. With continual changes in curriculum and technology, an astute teacher librarian should be able to maintain and organise a quality library collection that will constantly be modified to suit the current teaching and learning needs of the school’s community. There needs to be a central place in a school that digital and print resources can call home. While there is an assumption by many, that libraries will become obsolete as students can research anytime, anyplace on their computers, there still needs to be someone (the teacher librarian) who is responsible for guiding their digital research abilities and teaching students information literacy skills.
While the library collection itself will change, Juergens (2003, p.7), states that “what will not change is the need for librarians and information specialists to help consumers of information make sense of it all. As librarians, we know that our tools change, our collections change, our settings change. Our basic purposes do not change. They are the same today as they were 100 years ago.”
The purpose of a library is to provide resources, be it digital or print to support the student learning. However, the nature of the collection will need to change in order to cater for a 21st century education. The innovations that have caused the current changes should be no more complex for us than learning how to move from an index card system, to microfiche, to computers. Libraries revolve around technology because information resourcing is our job. Today, information involves technology and this requires teacher librarians to be a combination of reference librarian, web specialist and technician within the school (Lawton, & Scott, 2005, p. 30).
The digital collection is becoming a major player in the collection, but as there is so much information available, it is important to have the teacher librarian manage these resource and to make it easier for both teachers and students to access 24/7. The creation of library pathfinders which classroom teachers simply do not have the time to manage, that support a curriculum-based unit of work will increasingly become one role of the teacher librarian. Even an aging rock legend Keith Richards understands the need for libraries, “when you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer” (Schuessler, 2013).
Factors that will determine the future of school library collections include:
1) Library Budgets – This is a crucial factor in determining the future of the collection. A budget is more likely to be approved if the teacher librarian is able to effectively evaluate the current collection, assess future needs, and submit a budget that can demonstrate how the previous year’s spending has improved student learning.
2) Advances in information technology – It is vital that the teacher librarian continues professional development in order to keep abreast of transformations in information technology, as this will affect future funding requirements and changes in both print and digital resources.
3) Vision of the principal – Ensuring the school has a current technology program that is effectively resourced and taught is a vision most principals hold. By demonstrating these skills in the library, the teacher librarian can become a valuable team member of the principal’s school vision.
4) Professionalism and enthusiasm of the teacher librarian – The teacher librarian needs to be well prepared for lessons and able to adapt and implement new technology. If we stop learning new ways to connect to sources of information and give in to the inclination to ‘Google it’, who else will guide the next generation through the often erroneous information available online to discover that quality resource which provides them with that ‘light bulb’ moment?
5) Information Technology Coordinator – The ability to work in collaboration with the IT coordinator is often a driving factor in determining not only how many computers end up in a library but also how helpful s/he is in supporting and maintaining this technology.
6) Nature and quality of the information available online – One significant role of the teacher librarian is to find and evaluate quality online information that is appropriate to student learning requirements.
7) Recurring costs to online information.
One other factor that may affect the future of the school library collection is the perception of other staff members, parents and the wider school community. Teacher librarians will need to continually reiterate the importance of developing a balanced collection to support student learning and the implementation of the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2013).
I strongly believe that the school library collection will remain an essential component in all school communities, if the teacher librarian is adequately qualified and has a realistic budget. Westwood (2013) states that while students have access to “everything on the internet”, it takes a qualified teacher librarian to assist a student to actually find what is being researched.
Freeman (2005), makes the bold point that print media has not yet, nor is it likely to be, replaced by information technology. Young children are still primarily being taught to read through books. Children enjoy going to the library to read books, to discuss, to share, to learn collaboratively, and to research or to have some silent time. The library is a social centre and humans are a social being. There is a need.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, (ACARA). (2013). The Australian Curriculum v4.2. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au
Freeman, G. (2005). The Library as place: changes in learning patterns, collections, technology and use. In Council on Library and Information Resources, Library as place: rethinking roles, rethinking spaces (pp. 1-9). Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources.
Juergens, B. (2003). Ruminations about books: past, present, and future. Public Library Quarterly, 22(2), 3-9.
Lawton, F. D. & Scott, C. (2005). Integration: the glue that holds the digital library together. In A. Huthwaite (Ed.), Managing information in the digital age: The Australian technology network libraries respond (pp. 29-51). Adelaide: University of South Australia Library for Librarians of the Australian Technology Network.
Schuessler, J. (2013, May 22). Rolling Stone Gathers Library Fines. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/rolling-stone-gathers-library-fines/
Westwood, P. (2013, May 27). But what if I can’t find it on the Internet? The Canberra Times. Retrieved from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/but-what-if-i-cant-find-it-on-the-internet-20130526-2n5g5.html