Public libraries were once revolutionary. In times of information scarcity, libraries were the original file-sharing networks that gave people access to books without having to buy them. The librarian’s function as facilitator and curator of knowledge is one that remains more relevant than ever, in different capacities.
Faced with the challenge to remain relevant in the post-internet world, many libraries are going digital. In addition to this trend, local and grade school libraries have the opportunity to evolve their role in local communities in order to build skill-sets, encourage local projects and host new learning opportunities for children. Without further ado, here are some things libraries could adopt:
- Provide e-readers and tablets for educational use. Tablets can be stored in protective and durable cases, and can be programmed to only run certain applications. Many children do not have access to expensive devices and applications at home, so libraries are a logical non-profit entity to facilitate the availability of these devices for all.
- New and renovated libraries should include a public Hackerspace. (I was in a hackerspace when I saw their rule was “Be Excellent to each other,” which was when I decided NeoParent’s slogan should be, “Be Excellent to the next generation.”)
- Non-fiction literature should have a strong focus on involving children in their local community. Examples of locally focused learning include: regional geography/gardening, wiki-groups, social issues, clubs, and local governance issues. Lack of accessibility and accountability to the entire community has long been an issue in local-level politics, and libraries have the opportunity to serve as public information access hubs so that people can gather and come up with local solutions.
- Public office space. This one is for adults, but I wanted to include it anyways. For people seeking self-employment online, having a free place to go and work is a huge value if they are either homeless or lack adequate workspace at home. Current public computers often offer extreme time limitations, with no privacy or opportunity to make phone calls. Having a public, work-friendly cubical-style computer lab, with Skype and expensive software access could potentially add a lot of value to the community.
- Operate more like Community Schools. I am on the board for a non-profit community school society, which provides educational activities, events, and classes that the public can register for, usually for free, outside of school hours. All classes have a literacy component, and seek to make learning multi-sensory and enjoyable for kids. For example, a cooking class for kids includes learning proportions and basic math calculations. For older kids there are things like homework clubs and self-esteem workshops. I recently learned that our local library is hosting a baby sign-language course. I envision that school libraries in particular could support before-school breakfast clubs by distributing morning newspapers for discussion. I would also like to see more libraries host public courses for graphic design, robotics (and/or makerspaces), and science, as well as host salons (not the hair kind,) to give platform to social issues.
Libraries have potential to create value as community-learning spaces and continue to provide an important service of curation and literacy support for children. It is my vision to see local and school libraries become innovative hives that support these values and allow more people the opportunity to gain new skills and connect with their community.
What else would you like to see in your library? Are there other ways in which community-based learning could be re-imagined? Leave us a comment here or join the discussion on our Facebook!