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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen Mattson

What will a school library become?

This is the question that’s been on my mind the last few days as I have started rethinking our space to better meet the needs of high school students. Right now, I am turning students out of my library because I cannot accommodate their needs – a computer to research, collaborate, and create with. In a school with almost 2300 students, 10 computers in the school library just isn’t cutting it! So, despite the cries of “slow down” and “don’t get rid of that” and “we might need that someday” from my veteran library assistants, changes are coming. Here is a little preview:


1. One half of my traditional library tables are being removed and replaced with tall, round tables and stools that will each hold three computers. Bringing in 18 additional computers will allow more students to access technology during their lunch and study hall periods.

2. The tables we are keeping will be outfitted with “charging stations” that can accommodate students who bring their own device and need a place to power up while they work. As our district continues talking about going 1:1, it will be important that students have a place for their devices to charge midday.


3. Our non-fiction collection is being weeded extensively. Out of date reference materials (like 15 year old encyclopedias and almanacs) are going out the door,and reference materials that are worthy of keeping are being re-shelved in the general collection and will be circulated. While it seems sad to say goodbye to books, we now have more room on our shelves for the fiction, graphic novels, poetry and short stories our students read for pleasure.

4. My assistants and I also spent some time weeding our technology. Ironically, we do not even have a need to replace our old cameras and video cameras because the majority of our students carry both of these (and more!) in their pocket each day. I have purchased ten iPads that teachers can check out and learn on before taking the whole cart of iPads to use in their classroom. These devices will double as my “digital cameras” and “video cameras.”

I am a proponent of change and of moving forward. If school libraries do not adapt to the needs of the students, we will become extinct and no longer be needed (or at least viewed that way). My biggest challenge now is helping those around me rethink their roles as digital docents and researchers. I want my aides to know that they are still a valuable asset, but will need to take some time to equip them with the skills they will need to be effective. As I told them today, there will always be a need for us; our toolbox is just changing a bit.

What do you think? How do you envision a twenty-first century school library? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as we work through this major renovation!

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