Sarah Elliott’s Blog

Travel with me on my voyage of learning and discovery…

Post-literate?

Posted by sarahelliott on March 9, 2010

I have just read Doug Johnson’s Libraries For a Post-Literate Society and Mal Lee’s A Library Without Books?. Both of these artilces offer interesting perspectives on the purpose of libraries in today’s society.

I agree for the most part with Doug Johnson’s opinion of what is a post-literate society, and although I still believe that print has a powerful role in our world, I think that it is the digital and the networked resources that are most relevant to students today. They are such effective users and successful collaborators with online tools, their world is for the most part a digital one and we therefore need to ensure that we are adapting to meet their changing needs.

When thinking about the idea of collection management, we think about providing access to resources that meet the needs of our students. When I read about various school libraries that are stocked with tens of thousands of books, I am actually not that impressed.  This is basically because I wonder – what are they actually doing with all of those books? Are the even being used? Is the collection in such a school relevant enough for the students? Is it engaging enough? Does it inspire them to be natural inquirers?

I don’t believe that students today are becoming illiterate because of a dependency on digital means. I think that new methods allow them to think more for themselves, encourage them to be more evaluative of resources that they are using and certainly enable them to be even more creative in the presentation of their findings. I support Johnson’s argument of post-literacy encompassing more forms of communication and think that those digital methods are ones that every teacher should try to incorporate in their classroom on a daily basis.

I think that digital tools such as the Kindle and Ipad are methods for maintaining the emphasis on reading in a digital tool. The Ipad looks like such an exciting tool, one that not only encourages reading, but connects reading to all the other interests that students like to pursue online.

Lee’s article also discusses the purpose of today’s library and whether it should be called a library at all. This is topic that I have discussed with our Principal. I believe that a library can be whatever you want it to be – in theory… but in practice the perceptions that other people hold of what constitutes a library can prevent its true functions from ever being understood. To the majority of people, a library is a collection of print resources.  A librarian is the person who manages those resources. And those people just don’t find it easy to change that mental concept. I believe that in some ways local community libraries continue to fit such a stereotype. They are quiet places where people go to borrow books or to sit and research quietly and more often than not – independently.

Therefore, even if a teacher-librarian has worked hard to change the understanding of what is a library within the school community, so long as those members of the school community are used to another concept they will continue to view the school library in the same way.

For these reasons, I think that it’s important to change the name of the library to something else. I have seen various examples such as information commons, learning commons, learning resource centre… but the one that I support the most is Learning Hub. I believe that such a title takes away the emphasis from what you find within the library and shifts it to what do you do with that information and how it plays a larger part in your learning. Hub signifies a busy centre, one from which other activity extends outwards. The library is no longer an isolated room, a resource centre, but becomes a pivotal focus for the school. In this case, the teacher-librarian is also less of a stereotyped librarian and becomes more of a facilitator of learning, a learning expert.

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