Hi 5 your school library with these 5 cool ideas
My school will have a new middle school/high school librarian next year and a number of faculty members have bounced ideas around with the incoming librarian.
One idea that came up concerned the traditional expectation for silence in the library.
Where did that concept come from? Historymagazine.com points out that, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the concept of the library was kept alive in Western Europe via Christian monastaries. And, not only did monasteries house books, the monks were active in copying them. According to Wikipedia, St. Benedict – “sometimes regarded as the founder of Western monasticism”- established a set of rules governing life in monasteries. In the list of St. Benedict’s rules posted on Wikipedia, the need for silence shows up a number of times:
- moderation in the use of speech
- do not speak until spoken to…do not laugh… speak simply and modestly
- strict silence after Compline (prayers at the end of the day)
If we want students to be emotionally engaged in ideas and learning, is absolute silence really the appropriate medium? When you learn something cool, don’t you feel like turning to a friend and making a comment? Isn’t it necessary to debate ideas and roles with your partners on a cooperative learning project? Isn’t some noise a good thing?
Yes, someone might be doing some research or writing an important paper, requiring quiet. But, maybe that’s where space redesign comes in.
A library would make a great hub for students to gather at their school and share ideas, do work and simply explore the world. So, what if the library was no longer a big space with stacks and stacks of books? What if there were many different nooks for different activities?
Five cool ideas that my peers came up with include:
- An album listening room – yes, a soundproofed room with shelves and shelves filled with old and new vinyl records, along with turntables for playing them. What a great way to explore the past – through music and old-school technology.
- A stage/performance/speaker space – like London’s old “speakers’ corner” concept, provide students with a stage on which the Drama club can deliver impromptu performances, where student government candidates can deliver speeches, where people can simply vent about homework.
- A debate area – why simply read about old and new ideas when you share them with peers and discuss their merits? Teachers can even book the space for Socratic seminars or formal class debates.
- A research center – exploring the world should still be at the heart of any library, so why not a lab of some kind, or at least a place where students can connect to the internet (and a power supply) to conduct research for essays or prepare for exams.
- A film viewing center – like the album room above, why not a place for students to view educational videos (TED Talks, YouTube content, etc.). Or, perhaps unwind with friends after school by watching a Hollywood flick.
The recent education documentary Most Likely to Succeed, pointed out that our current school system was created in the 1890s. That may be old, but, our current library model seems to be rooted in St. Benedict and the 490s! Maybe it’s time to really look at our libraries and inject some new ideas into them.
What do you think?