Last month on NPR, I heard a preemptive elegy for the Blackberry. After another quarter of losses, many anticipate the end of Research in Motion, the maker of that groundbreaking handheld. The story recalled how the device forever changed access to digital communications and, later, data and information. In an age in which smartphones are commonplace, it is hard to recall a time when we didn’t have access to the Web, texting, and email—at the dinner table, in our beds, in the privy. On that very day in Vancouver Public Schools, we were distributing iPads to middle school students. In the same way that the Blackberry changed how adults worked, communicated, and collaborated, 1:1 projects promise to redefine how students learn. As someone who has seen firsthand the potential of mobile devices, I couldn’t be more excited. We are ushering in a new era of connectivity, flexibility, and empowerment for learners. And after reflecting on conversations at the SLJ Summit and with librarians in the nationally recognized Mooresville (NC) Graded School District, I believe that a seminal opportunity exists for school library programs.
The pivot: 1:1 programs
Like the growth of the Internet and digital content, 1:1 implementations represent disruptive—not incremental—change in schools and libraries. When students have 24/7 access to information and productivity tools, library books and programs may seem threatened. “Quality of information” can be easily trumped by the ease, convenience, and anytime access to content that mobile devices offer. In Mooresville, where 1:1 has been in place for over five years, and in Vancouver, where 1:1 is just arriving, librarians are rising to the challenge. They are redefining their roles, their leadership, and perceptions by others.
Creation vs. consumption. For years, school libraries enjoyed monopolies on access to information. Students visited the library to do research, first with books and then in computer labs. With 1:1, the consumption of information becomes decentralized, spontaneous, and volitional. Overnight, the library has become less necessary as a place to access resources and information. Additionally, students with their own devices now have unprecedented options to create and curate information themselves. According to the Mooresville librarians, the library must evolve from a place of consumption to a place of creation. Whether it becomes a maker space or simply a friendly place to work, create, and collaborate, the library must move beyond books and aging computers. The Mooresville librarians suggested several key pivots. First, scheduling must be flexible to allow both students and teachers the same “just in time” access to the library as they enjoy on their devices. Second, the library space and policies have to be conducive to collaboration, presentation, and sharing. Access to such things as interactive whiteboards, outlets, and flexible furnishings are as important as books. Finally, the librarian must be a master teacher to support effective integration of information and technology, collaborating with both instructional technology and classroom teachers.
TLs as 1:1 mavens. In Vancouver, teacher librarians are already evolving the ways they lead, teach, and support students and educators. One-to-one implementations shake the status quo in the school and classroom, necessitating a focus shift from resources to services—training, support, collaboration, and leadership. Teacher librarians in our 1:1 sites are recognizing the opportunity and rapidly adapting their roles to meet the new needs of patrons. As part of implementation teams, teacher librarians are tapping their “library sides” to develop solutions and systems in everything from device circulation to business practices. On their “teacher sides,” they are effectively complementing other professional development by learning about apps and then teaching students and educators how to use them. They are promoting digital citizenship and literacy to students, often actively collaborating with classroom teachers to support other instructional outcomes. They serve as accidental iPad geniuses, providing a first level of user support. Teacher librarians are also thinking differently about resources and how digital content might meet student needs beyond library walls and hours of operation.
Rather than viewing 1:1 as a threat, these teacher librarians are embracing an opportunity to reimagine library programs and practices to support student learning. That’s great news for principals, teachers, and students—and school libraries.