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School libraries changing with move to digital resources

Schools are rethinking the idea of the “traditional school library.”

As schools across the nation move from printed textbooks to digital materials and digital learning environments, school libraries are adapting to keep pace—and new advancements are changing the very definition of school libraries and library media specialists.

Many of today’s students do not know what a card catalog is, and challenges lie not in locating information about various topics, but in narrowing it down and determining whether resources are trustworthy or not.

Abilene Christian University (ACU) has transformed its learning spaces to encourage students to collaborate and create.

Billie McConnell, director of K-12 professional development at ACU, said university leaders wanted to create technology-rich environments that meet 21st century skills. ACU educators focused on ubiquitous technology and 24/7 access to information as they worked to create a learning environment that would cater to media-literate students who are innovators, problem-solvers, and lifelong learners.

“We’re not just one-to-one—I discovered that we’re three-to-one,” McConnell said during a Consortium for School Networking webinar. “It’s not your old library. It’s a very active place.”

One of the biggest parts of the library is the learning studio, which is a place where students can go to create different digital resources such as audio and video recordings, multimedia pieces, or link up to share ideas and brainstorm. The learning studio offers facilitators and tech specialists to help students when necessary.

“People often say that the library is going away,” McConnell said. “It’s really not—it’s a critical piece. It’s a place for community, collaboration, and it’s a place to find partners to help you in whatever literacy you’re trying to increase. That may be literacy in resources, media creation—those services are all there.”

And the stereotypical librarian is evolving into someone who knows how to locate reputable online resources and can help students learn how to use those resources in their research.

“I see librarians as media specialists,” McConnell said. “We still have literacy, whether it’s reading or research…the librarian is the perfect partner for the classroom. The role of the librarian has shifted” for the digital age, he said.

McConnell said thinking about physical learning space is critical even as school districts and higher education migrate to digital resources and virtual workspaces.

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