Do We Need A Library?

In a change of focus from my regular posts, I’ve decided to share with everyone the current situation at my school Boort Secondary College. The school is about to undergo a major transformation, in the form of a brand spanking new building and the merger of both existing primary and secondary schools.  This basically means that the existing secondary college will be demolished and a new school will be built, that ultimately, will need to accommodate both the primary (5-12 yr old) and secondary (13-18 yr old) students.

At this point we have been given a draft of the basic master plan that highlights the buildings we are entitled to based upon the number of students we currently have. Anyway to get to the point the buildings we have been given are all 21st century classrooms with an emphasis on open learning spaces and break out rooms.  Now this is all very exciting and I look forward to teaching in flexible rooms that aim to inspire learning, however as you would expect there are a number of people who don’t feel as comfortable with the designs as I do. This is to be expected in a change as big as what our school is about to undergo. The main problem is around the fact that the new buildings do not include a dedicated library area. The new designs call for a more flexible approach to a library that would be spread around the school. Ideally we would have the library in one room, however the problem with this is that any single room isn’t going to be big enough for the merger of two libraries. As you can imagine this is causing quite a lot of concern amongst members of both schools.


One thing I also need to mention is that the new school has been planned to last at least 50 years. This made me think about how the role of the library may be different in the future. It would be reasonable to think that the abundance of books that exist in libraries of today, would be replaced with online versions. Now I hope we never get to the point where we completely remove all printed texts, however we certainly need to recognise the shift in our reading habits. My reading has moved completely online thanks to my google reader account and RSS, which automatically brings me my new reading material from the sites I’m interested in when new content is updated. This shift is also highlighted in the Michael Wesch video ‘A vision of students today’ where one of his students mentions that they “will read 8 books a year, but over 2300 webpages”. With this being a reality for our students in the year 2009,  how much will it differ it year 2029? Let alone year 2050 when the new building will still be in operation.



So this leads to the point of all my rambling, how important will a physical library be in the future? Will it need to be as large as those of the current day? Or could we get away with a small selection of the most important physical books with most of our reading being completed in an online form? This is made all the more possible by tools such as Google Books  and Wikipedia which make acess to information free and accessible from anywhere on the earth. Add to this mobile devices and we now have the ability to read and find out anything…….. at any time.  Quite amazing when you think about it. Now I’m certain that there are quite a lot of teachers around the world who will mention how “they” prefer to read from printed texts (I also enjoy this).  Now this is well and good, but can we honestly say that student’s of the future will prefer this way of reading?  I’m not so sure …

So what should Boort Secondary College do?  Should we waste space by filling a large room with dusty books that rarely get read or borrowed? Or utilise some of the smaller spaces for a smaller more efficient library?  If we did this would this free up the larger spaces for other things and finally do you feel that students will read differently in the future?

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