Libraries are becoming expanded classrooms

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Given that April 11-15 was National School Library Week, this week I’d like to highlight how our libraries are becoming expanded classroom spaces.

Gone are the days when libraries were just quiet areas set aside for students to read or study alone. Today’s school libraries are vibrant, welcoming spaces where students and staff can enjoy quiet time to themselves, collaborate with others or even socialize with friends – all at the same time!

The changing roles and functions of school libraries are made possible by the transformation of their physical spaces. By adding more flexible furniture, like tables on casters and nesting chairs, school librarians now have the freedom to move things around and create learning areas that meet the needs of all of our students, whether it’s to read quietly, work independently or collaborate in a group.

Along the same lines as flexible spaces, many of our school libraries have dedicated areas for “makerspaces.” Makerspaces encourage hands-on learning through the making and building of things. They are designed to foster curiosity, problem solving, collaboration and self-confidence in students. “Makers” are given a task to accomplish or a problem to solve, along with various supplies they can use, and are left to figure out how to connect the dots. Teachers and librarians take on the roles of moderators.

Libraries have also become “Tech Central” for their schools. Librarians share technology tools and digital resources to support teachers with instruction, and they help students use technology to learn, too. For example, some elementary students have made videos of themselves reading and talking about books that they like using smartphones and other devices. Many LISD libraries are inviting students to engage in computer coding games, and some have even launched coding clubs. These types of library-based activities are helping our students explore what it means to be digital natives.

As “Tech Central,” several librarians are asking older students to come help guide technology with younger students. The reason being that students pick it up much easier when they are learning one-on-one from another student. Our high schools have taken this a step further with student-run technology help desks, where students can help other students get assistance with their devices and school-issued laptops.

Even with all of these changes to the traditional roles of libraries, librarians still focus on helping students develop a lifelong love for reading. Their personal passion for learning and reading is evident in everything they do, from hosting fun, literacy-based activities that encourage students to read, to bringing in authors to share their writing experiences. Our librarians are the real key to what makes our libraries such fun places to be.

Even when students are away from school during the summer, our librarians are doing their part to help keep our students learning. At our middle and high schools, our librarians allow students to check out up to 10 books to read over the summer. Each summer, selected LISD libraries open for a few hours most weeks to help provide students of all ages with more access to books during the summer.

These efforts are in addition to our students’ access to Overdrive, our digital library services. Through Overdrive, our libraries provide round-the-clock virtual access to digital research as well as e-books and audiobooks for recreational enjoyment, including during summer vacation. This year, we are excited to announce that as part of mLISD, the district’s mobile learning initiative, all secondary students have the option of taking their district-provided laptops with them during the summer, allowing for easier access to Overdrive’s content all year long!

Given all of these exciting components, it should come as no surprise that we often hear that libraries are a student’s favorite place, because of the books, technology and opportunities for creative collaboration – and most notably because of our librarians! School libraries are, more than ever, places our students learn, socialize and grow.        

Have a great day!

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