Whatever happened to …

… taking out books from the library

I’m sure kids still do that these days? Right? Every school I’ve visited for the past couple of years have turned their library into a “community hub” which is great, but it also means less books on the shelf. I remember my middle and high school libraries were HUGE! Full of bookshelves. We even had a circle of computers in the middle and a computer lab right inside of it. But the book options were fabulous. And we do a library visit all the time with our teachers to pick out books, and start reading in the library. 

Thank to the anonymous person who left this idea on the Padlet.

I’m not sure of the source but it’s particularly relevant to those folks in Essex County who use the public libraries here.  Librarians have been on strike since June 25.  I was actually working on a post that I was tentatively calling “A Summer of Illiteracy” because of it.  So, this idea was timely.

See stories from the River Town Times here.

It’s certainly been an uncomfortable summer to be on the picket lines.  I know that I and others have purchased bottled water and dropped it off to the picketers.  It’s comforting to see the people – including kids and dogs, joining the picket lines and the honkers passing by in their cars.  The Amherstburg Public Library is right on the corner of the main intersection in town.  Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

On the other hand, those “Little Lending Libraries” that you see in communities seem to be picking up a bit of the action.

It confirms the value that people see in the library.

Which takes us back to the school library.  Over the years, they have most certainly become targets in schools as claims of insufficient funding have resulted in fewer resources and fewer people to manage them and help students with their literacy goals.  With the influx of computers into schools, the library often seems like a natural location for them – usually central and they don’t disrupt the traditional classroom organization.  When that’s the reason, I think it demonstrates a short vision for the inclusion of technology.  Of course, the library has always been the place to go for research, reference, and literacy with the best of the teacher-librarian staying on top of things so that they can be a key component.  But what happens when that teacher-librarian isn’t there?  Those who have become accustomed to their unique skills and are now without it will attest to what’s missing; if you’re fortunate enough to continue to have a teacher-librarian, just imagine life without it.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of the use of technology and the promise that it brings.  I’m also a reading fan.  We talk about technology allowing us to do things that were never possible before.  For me, that includes downloading books I’d never heard of to my tablet.  In particular, I like traditional horror reading where the horror is interpreted between your ears and not graphically on video.  My old high school had a nice selection of these in book format.

With school libraries becoming digital or community hubs, something has to give.  As the originator of the idea notes, it’s often shelves where traditional books would have been stored.  The visits to the library aren’t necessarily only for book exchange anymore – it’s a time and place for digital research.  In the beginning of networking, it made financial and integration sense to install them centrally and have a person specially prepared for their use.  We’re also seeing library acquisition money spent on digital subscriptions rather than purchasing more space consuming books.  That solves the problem of bed bugs.  Did you read the archives linked to above?

How about you chipping in with your thoughts?

  • Does a central digital hub make sense in 2016 or does it make sense to place technology throughout the school?  Or is the best scenario a combination of both?
  • Has the concept of reading from a traditional book changed?  Is an eBook a good replacement?
  • Do you prefer to read digitally or do you prefer the ability to turn pages, use physical bookmarks?
  • With declining inventories of books, do you see limited reading options as detrimental to the love of reading?
  • In the future, do you see the demise of traditional books and the closing of what we romantically think of when we think library inevitable?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. What an interesting post, Doug! I read almost exclusively on my iPad these days, but I know that many people still love books. In the classroom, I want to fill the shelves with books. Even with all of the books that we have out on our shelves, we also have a large storage cabinet and a big filing cabinet full of more. I’m thrilled to have a big class library, and I’m also happy to be at another school (the same was true for my last few) with school libraries full of books (that do book exchanges). That said, I know that libraries are often hubs for technology. I also know that many of these schools (at least the ones that I’ve taught at) have lots of tech in the classrooms as well. I do see some potential here in using libraries to show how to use digital and non-digital resources effectively when gathering and critically analyzing information for current inquiries. I wonder if in these cases, it’s less about what technology is in the space, and more about, how as educators, we show how to utilize both these low-tech and high-tech options well. Thoughts?

    Thanks for another great read!


  2. Aviva’s always way more coherent than I am in the morning. I read your post with something approaching horror. I cannot imagine a summer (either as a child or a parent) without the library. My library growing up was my safe place, my home away from home. In high school, I went to work there (and older son has just landed his first job, at our local library). I love the way libraries look and smell. In university, my best friend and I were lucky enough geographically that we could put our laundry in the washers at our neighbourhood laundromat, hoof it down the hill to an architecturally gorgeous library (on Rideau Street in Ottawa), and be back with books in time to switch the loads to the dryers, and curl up in a sunny window to read. As a parent of young kids, the summer reading and activity programs at the library kept us all sane. Add air conditioning in summer and warmth in the winter, and libraries have a special place in my heart for the safe space they allow for many of our communities’ transient populations. I hope the strike is over soon! Take some water on my behalf, okay?

    As for schools, I have been lucky to work with some remarkable teacher-librarians, and my PLN is full of them (that’s you, Alana and Diana and Jennifer and Shelley and…). In my experience, it is the teacher-librarian that makes the difference, whether in a learning commons or a traditional book-based space. If you have a facilitator in the space who has a passion for literacy and learning and collaboration, the kids and staff will love the space. If not, it may be a ghost town. I think it is very possible to create a successful passion-filled digital/analog space with the right person in the role.

    I love to read. I read e-books, listen to audiobooks, download magazines and read real books, too, all through my local library. I encourage my students to do the same.


  3. My wife is a school librarian and she lends out a lot of (paper) books. Many of her students come from families with little to no budget for books in either hard or soft copy. Without the school library many of her students would have no recreational reading at all.

    Oh and I need to return a book she borrowed from our town library soon. My wife reads almost only on paper books. I read a mix with most reading on my Kindle.


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