The future of school libraries has certainly been a topic of discussion recently. It appears that school libraries are being forced to reinvent themselves, prove their worth and some even ‘prostituting’ themselves for fear of being taken over or completely closed down through decisions made by ill-informed school executives. Schools have constantly struggled with funding and with the changing nature of libraries, school executives have taken the opportunity to redirect money that is currently spent on qualified Teacher Librarians, print resources, databases, library spaces and library programs and spending it elsewhere in the school. It is a sad state of affairs that school libraries around the world are being reduced in size, have significantly reduced budgets or closed altogether, often with Teacher Librarians replaced by clerical staff or librarians without teaching qualifications.
The IFLA Trend report outlines 5 significant areas where the information environment has changed and discusses how libraries must evolve to remain relevant in the new information landscape. (IFLA, 2013)
Trend 1: For school libraries, the emergence of technologies such as; BYOD, Apps, online learning,Learning Management Systems, blogs, wikis and eResources have changed the way our students interact, use information and create knowledge. This occurs anytime, anyplace and often using a number of devices. ‘Technology impacts powerfully on every aspect of our lives and it offers opportunities unimagined by previous generations and educators’ (Whitby, 2013)
However, more than ever our students need information literacy skills to navigate the online world that is increasingly influenced by so many different bodies. Also, the question of ownership of certain information, especially eResources has posed access issues for many schools. The ability to own a device, pay for online access, live in a country where internet access is available and then to be literate enough to read and understand the information are important when one considers a widening digital divide and even global inequality.
Trend 2: Traditional school libraries are already a thing of the past. The focus is increasingly on eResources that are up-dated regularly, easily accessed, portable on devices and often cheaper. The library environment has become more social, collaborative, flexible and vibrant with makerspaces, cafes, online learning platforms and resources available 24/7. Schools will need to compete with Online Open Education courses (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) that offer free education to everyone. Teacher Librarians need to equip students with lifelong learning skills to be able to capitalise on these technologies throughout their lives.
Trend 3: Students are increasingly having their privacy eroded as they post information online. This will lead to less information being shared on the internet, for fear of developing a negative digital footprint. The emphasis for schools and particularly, Teacher Librarians is to equip students with strong digital citizenship skills so that they are aware of what can occur online and how best to avoid this.
Trend 4: The online environment has enabled students from around the world to interact in ways they have not done previously. Opportunities to collaborate with students globally about social justice issues, the environment, different cultures, in fact any topi, will more readily engage students than a traditional lesson delivered in the classroom. The work of the Julie Lindsay and Flat Connections Global Projects (Lindsay, 2015) is an example of this in schools. Technology that drives better communication and collective action will empower our students and better prepare them for a digital world. (IFLA, 2013)
Trend 5: The increase in mobile devices, wearable technology, 3D printing and language-translation technologies are already changing the way schools, businesses and households operate. People no longer need to live in larger cities to access high paying jobs, people including students can operate from home and there is an increased access to parts of the world’s economy reducing the competitive advantage of the more developed countries.
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), (2013), Riding the waves or
caught in the tide? Navigating the evolving information environment.
Retrieved from http://trends.ifla.org/files/trends/assets/insights-from-the-ifla-trend-
Lindsay, J. (2015), Flat Connections. Retrieved from http://www.flatconnections.com
Whitby, G. (2013), Educating Gen Wi-Fi: how to make schools relevant for 21st century learners.
Sydney, NSW: Harper Collins Publishers