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3 Secrets to Making Your School Library the Place to Be

Libraries can be the cutting-edge tech center of a school.

November 28, 2016
Miriam Klein
Media specialist/librarian
Cornell Elementary School
Coraopolis, PA
CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration

I love libraries! Everything about them -- the books, the atmosphere, the people, the organization, the great resources -- all the components of a vibrant school library. Sadly, libraries have a reputation for being old-fashioned, with outdated images of quiet places housing traditional print books. In reality, the library is an amazing place to test out new technology.

A school library should be a hub that encourages students to read, research, explore, connect, and create. At our school, we have worked hard to get rid of that outdated idea that “libraries are only for books.” Amazing libraries and librarians are making a difference and changing attitudes, proving that libraries are places for exploration. Here are a few lessons learned in our mission to make our library a technology hub that supports teachers and students.

Try everything.

The library can be a great place to try out new ideas. We’re really lucky to have an administration that allows us to test out new ideas and technology. When we first began to integrate media into our school, we brainstormed with classroom teachers to find the best practices. We learned through trial and error that it’s better to just throw the students into the action. No matter how much time is spent planning, it’s meaningless until the students are using the technology, hands-on.

To create the new media-centered library, we added exciting features like a charging station and a seating area with comfortable chairs for students to work.

To create the new media-centered library, we added exciting features like a charging station and a seating area with comfortable chairs for students to work. We turned an unused room in the library into a video recording studio, with rows of Macs with editing software, and an Apple TV to showcase student work or broadcast trainings or lessons. The new technology lets teachers, who are moving increasingly toward cloud-based and paperless learning management systems like Edmodo and Google Classroom, assign work that students can access in the library.

students using computers in the library

Accept the bumps as learning opportunities.

There are always going to be challenges when trying to implement new technology. Money and time for implementation top the list of the biggest challenges to any new project. Teacher buy-in can also be an issue. After hearing a lot, and I mean A LOT, about new practices, cool websites, changing expectations, and more databases, teachers were overloaded with the process -- and often underwhelmed by the benefits.

Not every lesson is going to be a winner. Sometimes it takes more time to learn a program than to learn the concept you’re trying to teach. 

We’ve had some big network issues from having too many people streaming on the Wi-Fi. Teachers are legitimately concerned about not having reliable Internet access and speed when integrating technology into their lessons. When teachers need to schedule access to technology, losing time can affect multiple lesson plans.

Finally, not every lesson is going to be a winner. Sometimes it takes more time to learn a program than to learn the concept you’re trying to teach. Sometimes the website or app lacks support or age-appropriate challenges. Depending on class size, there may not be enough devices, or you may have to share devices with another class, which can be challenging.

Teachers may want to give up on technology after all these setbacks, but if we help address them, everyone can learn and improve for next time.

Savor even small successes.

Collaboration was our biggest success. Having teacher-led trainings helped to make a difference. The teachers were very receptive to colleagues presenting their favorite technology to the rest of the staff during lunchtime "Lunch and Learns."

Through all the trial and error, we savored those moments when we knew we’d found something that worked. 

Through all the trial and error, we savored those moments when we knew we’d found something that worked. We celebrated when we witnessed kids learning skills and independence from working with the technology, and when teachers discovered new practices that connected classroom learning to the world outside of school. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo "All New Librarian Action Figure" by blg3. Used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

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Library