Redesigning School Libraries for the 21st Century

Close your eyes and picture the school libraries you spent time in as a youth.

If we could take snapshots of every reader’s memories and compare them to each other, chances are they’d look pretty similar: Rows of thick wooden shelving piled high with books. Students sitting quietly at tables, reading independently or perhaps working together in hushed tones.

The school library was a place you came to check out books, or look up information in encyclopedias or other reference materials as you compiled a research report. Younger students would have story time, and older students might use the library for studying.

With a few notable exceptions, the advent of the Internet changed this picture only slightly. Banks of computers replaced some of the reference collections, but the basic design of school library spaces remained the same.

A Powerful Shift

Now, that has begun to change. Networked mobile devices have given students limitless access to information in the palm of their hands. With a world of information now just a click or finger swipe away, the teacher’s role is no longer just to impart information but to have students co-construct new knowledge—often in collaboration with each other. Learning is becoming more active and engaging, with students in charge of their own learning.

As teaching and learning have shifted in these fundamental ways, school libraries are transforming as well.

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