Hybrid synergy – the future of school libraries

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School has been busy – and so have I. Not many blog posts – but nevertheless  I’ve been busy mulling over the future of school libraries and how they should best be integrated into the education setting that we call “schools”.

Those of us who have been in ‘schools’ for many years remember when schools had no libraries!  Now it seems that some forward thinking people prefer to return to elements of schooling that were regarded as outmoded.  Get rid of libraries? Forget the role of libraries and teacher librarians? We don’t try and go backwards in other areas of education – so what’s the deal with this myopic view?

I have been busy watching the twitter stream #iwbnet10 where three of my colleagues are listening to some of Australia’s brightest talk about schools, schooling and the digital revolution at the Seventh National Interactive Teaching and Learning Conference.

By all accounts the conference has been brim full of ideas. But what strikes me about this and other conferences, such as ISTE2010 (that I very much enjoyed in Denver earlier this year) is the decided lack of discussion of what I see as an urgent need for a ‘new’ hybrid synergy between learning and libraries.  According to Designing for the Future of Learning

the school library remains one of them most symbolic, protected, and expensive ’spaces’ on any campus. But will future designers of school libraries be recreating sacred book spaces of the past or will technology and the ‘consumer’ inspire new design strategies for the future? For many, the library is the literal information bridge to the future.

It is very discouraging indeed to have conference attendees excited by one-eyed presentations of future learning needs.  Focussing on the digital revolution and ignoring the pivotal role that a good school library can play is to achieve only a percentage of what is possible – regardless of how good it seems , it’s just not good enough!

When I focus on my role as a teacher librarian, I ask myself a few leading questions:

Should we be immersed in new media and technology in our hyperlinked library?  Definitely.

Should we be working tirelessly to identify what is needed to think in ‘future tense’ and embrace the challenge of keeping ahead?  Most certainly.

Should we be leading the  conversation about social networking and digital identities? And how!

Should we be discussing the assessment problem in these media environments?  But of course!

I have the joy (and tears) of managing a school library that is open each week day from 8 am – 10 pm.

It’s a central hub for collaboration, technology, reading and writing.  It’s a place for change and about change. But with all that, it still has a long way to go  to achieve a hybrid synergy in our school. No different from most – we are evolving and responding to change!

This is important because  in an era of fast facts and short cuts kids have to become VERY literate in multimodal forms.

There are NO short cuts to literacy, and there is no replacement for the love of reading! No amount of gaming, movie making, sport, social networking etc can replace the cognitive gains to be made by allowing our students to become deep readers and deep researchers.  Technology has so much to offer in this thirst for deep knowledge and engagement with the ebook [r]evolution! However, technology is not a replacement for reading, researching, and the value that school libraries and school librarians can bring to our multimodal digital century.

Can you read this?

So while you get excited about technology rich schools, and while you focus on immersive and multimodal technology, don’t forget to focus on reading, literacy, information fluency and deep understanding.  What we need is a hybrid synergy between teaching, learning, technology, pedagogy, and the services of a school library/information services centre of learning and innovation.

Everything is a matter of degree. We do need to redesign our learning environments to address, leverage and harness the new media technology environment of our schools. We need to start redesigning our school libraries and the work of teacher librarians for these learning environments. We need to adopt learner centred e-teaching. We need to share, co-operate and collaborate because we now have an information ecology that can be open, self-managed, fostered and conducive to knowledge flow between content and connections.

As Michael Wesch explains,

Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able

Please look for ways to create a hybrid synergy in your school or academic institution. In terms of modern information and media skills, our practice demonstrates small, uneven pockets of best practice. We have no textbook for what 21st-century school library practice looks like.

Today I found a school that has grasped the need for hybrid synergy!  Not only do they have a school library that is the centre of learning and innovation – they will have in 2011 the perfect vehicle for synergy in 21st century learning by formalising the lead structures within their school.

Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services, supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who will teach a subject, work with a faculty, as well as support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

Oh, but we can’t afford that at our school!

Maybe not – but you cannot afford to do without a library, nor can you afford not to adopt a hybrid synergy that will allow your teacher librarian to take charge of the digital revolution –  that is in danger of disenfranchising our students.

Let your students become ‘knowledge-able’ through literacy, reading and information fluency driven by teacher librarian experts embedded in your multimodal learning environments.

9 thoughts on “Hybrid synergy – the future of school libraries

  1. Pingback: Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able by Michael Wesch (ht @heyjudeonline) | Simbeck-Hampson Consultancy

  2. Pingback: Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able by Michael Wesch (ht @heyjudeonline) « Simbeck-Hampson Consultancy

  3. Judy,

    Your post has really made me think. I have read the post many times and it has truly sparked off many many questions.

    I can not agree more that School Libraries and the Teacher-Librarians can offer an enormous amount to the students in their schools.

    This is the line that has gotten me thinking.

    “Oh, but we can’t afford that at our school!

    Maybe not – but you cannot afford to do without a library, nor can you afford not to adopt a hybrid synergy that will allow your teacher librarian to take charge of the digital revolution – that is in danger of disenfranchising our students.”

    I know Riverview and understand the points you are making about budgets and costs. But Riverview like all organisations must justify their expenditure and this sort of change would require budget prioritisation, though maybe not on the same scale as a small rural school.

    But here are the questions that I just can’t stop rolling around in my mind.

    – How do Government schools implement a Hybrid Synergy model in their schools when many (probably the majority) don’t have a Teacher Librarian to start with?

    – If a school doesn’t have a TL or even the appreciation of the skills a TL can bring to the teaching program, are they locked out of the possibilities of your proposed Hybrid Synergy model?

    – Are the students in these schools locked out of the benefits that this new model can bring to their learning and discovery?

    I also really wonder about the process an organisation goes through to get to this Hybrid Synergy model. I guess a change like this takes a lot of deep thinking. This sort of thinking doesn’t come from a simple proposal and then implementation. I guess this thinking comes from an idea, then investigation through professional development, study at other institutions and probably lots of collegiate debate.

    So I wonder where this thinking happens within the Government systems around the country. Government Education departments are managed by Education Ministers that are appointed for up to 3 years. These people are most likely under huge pressure to improve NAPLAN results and what that might look like on the MySchool website. So I guess the budgetary prioritisation is hard in these 3-Year thinking cycles.

    Thank you greatly for the post, it has started my thinking.

  4. Jude, these ideas and comments are very thought provoking. As someone working in a small regional school with two separate “branches” to manage I am well aware of the things we can’t do but try to remain focused on the things we can. In my six years I have managed to convince the ptb to install an IWB in the secondary library and a mobile whiteboard of the non i type in our very small Junior Campus library. Prior to that neither were regarded as teaching spaces. Teachers now come to learn how to use digital resources including the iwb. Our school is technologically well set up but the learning and teaching advantages that should flow from the set up are still evolving. The Information Services department works hard to assist in the process as well as delivering the usual library type services. In such an information rich world people are more in need of guidance than ever. I figure that’s our job.

    • Margaret, thanks for the input. I think you hit the nail on the head using the word ‘evolving’! Most school libraries are hubs of activity, and sometimes hubs of change. If only more school leaders would recognize that we can also be the centre of innovation!

  5. Judy,

    Thank you for the extremely thoughtful post. As the Director of Secondary Curriculum in an urban district in New England, USA, I am trying to shift the conversation away from developing literate students as assessed by our standardized tests, to a broader definition of literacy including the components of hybrid synergy that you offer. School libraries must be a vehicle, a resource, and an anchor towards changing teaching and learning. I’ll be re-reading your post several times and considering how I can use some of your thinking with my team.

    • Thanks for your feedback Eric. You may find some of my slideshare presentations on these topics helpful as well. I’m very glad to be able to encourage change and development in any way I can. Good luck with your endeavors!

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  7. Pingback: The future of information-Xinhua style « READINGPOWER

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