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“It’s just an open plan room with bean bags thrown around, right?”

If I got 10cents for every single time I get asked this question when explaining that the school I work in is an ILE, I’d be a rich woman. Head over to that link in the previous sentence if you need a bit of an update. ILEs support an inquiry-based curriculum where our students and learners are encouraged to generate their own questions, experience their learning journey within a PBL (Project Based Learning) framework, and look at school as being a space that encourages creativity and inspiration. I graduated from high school in 2006 – so 11 years ago. This makes me excited.  Though it’s taken some time… classroom learning is finally starting to look like something vastly different from my memories.

It should. Without a shadow of a doubt. Considering that we have consumer technology now that I could only dream about way back then. And there are about a hundred brand new professions that exist now, which didn’t, back in 2006.

The ILE “classroom” aka Learning Hub/Learning Commons/Learning Habitat looks like:

The possibilities are endless.

Here is one of my favorite pieces of literature, if you’ve only the time for one document to read, and it is by none other than Mark Osborne. Never heard of him? Then read this paper. I actually consumed it as bedtime reading a few months ago, and went to sleep dreaming not of what my perfect 21st Century “school Library” could look like, but what it could be like. For the first time, I looked at the concept of Library being an experience, a service and a pedagogy  beyond four walls – drum roll…

But seriously – here are some physical elements you might see in an ILE:

  • A large space, sectioned off into smaller “breakout” spaces suited for differentiated types of learning. David Thornburg’s paper, ‘Campfires in Cyberspace’ is a classic, and I love Core-Ed’s summary on his different learning hot spots: Camp Fire, Watering Hole, Mountain Top, Sandpit, Cave
  • Creative, funky, inspirational furniture. We’ve all heard about Google’s quest to provide the most creative work spaces for their employees. Creativity breeds … even more creativity, right? When I want to feast on my dream school furniture, I head straight here to the Idea Gallery on the Demco website.
  • Teachers working alongside students, be it on the floors, at the standing desks…looking more like ‘coaches’ rather than dispensers or gatekeepers of knowledge and information
  • Students collaborating, working in independent groups
  • Technology everywhere

So what does this mean for the ‘library’?

I spoke about this briefly in my last post It’s not necessarily about thrift…It’s about shift, but we’ve got to face the facts and take credit where credit it due. When I was still at school, teachers sent students to the Library to find a book for SSR, use technology, to use as a break-out space, to collaborate for group-work and to do research. Thus, you can see where I’m going…if a school has successfully implemented an ILE space, pedagogy and model that works, then this sort of replaces all those elements. School libraries hero, Joyce Valenza, is absolutely right when she ascertains that the school library inspired the concept of MLE, and now ILE. I believe so much in the concepts of ILE and PBL, that in many ways, should there be a shortage of space, I would rather effort and energy was concentrated on the learning spaces themselves. And see this as a chance to break free into those spaces to collaborate and to educate. The value of the “library” is in the service, and I absolutely believe this needs to be as flexible and fluid as the pedagogy of ILE.

The “new-school” library leader (or Information Research Enabler like myself) is:

  • NOT a book processor and archivist.
  • an education and information professional
  • a collaborator with colleagues and students. You should be in and out of learning spaces.
  • a content curator – both with your print collection and digital resources. If I sound like I’m speaking Greek, check out my blog post, Content Curation, or one of the corner-stone essays about this by the renowned Joyce Valenza
  • a specialist teacher in your own right – and your teaching subjects are information literacy, digital literacy, content curation, research navigation,
  • part of the curriculum-mapping process – and you handle the resourcing and research methods side. Let’s face it, we live in a world where there is sometimes entirely too much information available. Don’t get me wrong – we want our students, and staff for that matter, to be agile and flexible with a number of platforms, databases, research vendors, … but collaboration does require common ground. So perhaps a common ground in the resources used, in the research methods taught – so there are clear, decipher-able patterns for our students to build on.
  • part of a school-wide digital citizenship program. If you are an information professional, then you need to be up there as one of the most informed people in your educational organisation on the lowdown of what basic skills students need to make it in this increasingly digital world. More on this in future posts I hope. At ECC, we are working on a collaboration with some external partners on a Y0-13 Digital Citizenship program going across two campuses, and possibly 3 “schools” – our junior, middle and senior schools.
  • a promoter and supporter of ILE and PBL … as I said, librarians have long been the first to promote their environment as a site for collaboration, for community, for creative learning. We shouldn’t be crying off now that this dream is becoming a reality all over the rest of the school. My featured image, by the way, is a memento from a meeting a few of us sat down to with Jasmax, to look at designs for the finishing touches to the Golflands campus. Not many school principals and Leaders of Learning would include the “librarian” in such a meeting, so I felt thoroughly blessed to be there and contribute some of my ideas about how our ILE extension could look like.

The distributed library

I plan to continually blog on my thoughts about this. I have about a year and a half before our Golflands campus is complete. But in the mean time, with the middle school (Y7-10) and our Botany Campus (Y11-13) in mind, I have started to think in terms of a distributed collection. And please, however strong your feelings are, about this, please contact me as I’m keen to hear your opinions.

I’m keen to keep a punchy, retail-store-like “Reading Engagement Collection” in one or two places for my middle-schoolers. This could be in their learning area somewhere. And will consist of trendy and some classic fiction titles. The non-fiction will likewise be quite trendy and based on high-interest subjects like Extreme Sports, cook books, fashion and style books, general encylopaedia type items with fabulous graphics. But I will more than likely work with the HODs and ELT on curating “sets” which consist of fiction and non fiction materials, which can be booked by teachers in advance. And these sets will get circulated according to the curriculum schedule.

Things to consider:

  • Good self-issue and self-service education
  • Being okay with losses
  • Having a very good Collection Development Procedure in place
  • extra administration to help with the management of sets and moving the Reading Engagement collection around
  • creative and temporary storage which is easily transportable to contain the sets
  • educating staff on this paradigm shift. In terms of the print collection…we won’t have a “just in case” collection any longer, which is as search-able. For spontaneous resourcing, digital options must be considered instead

One comment on “Innovation in Schools calls for renovation in the Library

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